History of the Druze in America 1971 to 1974
American Druze Society
1971. Pipestem Park, West Virginia
The American Druze Society celebrated its 25th Anniversary Convention at the Pipestem State Park from June 27th through July 1, 1971. The president of the Society and the Convention Chairperson was Raymond Hamden, and Vice-President was Adil Najar. Officers were: Recording Secretary: Sharon Hamady, General Chairman and Treasurer: Baheej Aboul-hosn, Corresponding Secretaries: Mona Hamden and Nadine Mosrie, Sergeant-at-Arms: Kamal Aboulhosn, State Correspondence: Bobby Jaber. Advisors: Harry Hamden, Jack Hamady, Henry Flehan, Joe Hamden, Bill Hamady, Fouad Mosrie, and Hon Higinbotham. Convention Committee: Nadine Mosrie, Mrs. Jimmy Mosrie, Mrs. Jimmy Sangid, Ajaj Andary, Hussein Aboul-Hosn, Norman Hamden, Nabeel Hamden and Mrs. Harry Hamden. The 25th Convention attracted hundreds of Druze from all areas of the United States, as well as international visitors making this convention extremely successful.
The 1971 convention awareness about the need of a formal organizational structure on national level gained momentum. A special meeting of the previous convention chairpersons and founding members was called specifically to discuss two main issues. The first issue was to reorganize the American Druze under the banner of one national society and to draft a new constitution and by-laws to meet the legal requirements for its incorporation. The second issue was what steps needed to be taken to obtain tax exemption status for the same. Members who attended this historic meeting were: Nafe Katter, Jimmy Silman Sr., Jimmy Silman Jr., Fayez Bashire, Harry Hamden, Raymond Hamden, George Rafey ,Jack Hamady, Rafic Rasamny, Abdallah Najjar, Wade Hamd, Jihad Alkateeb, Ajaj Andary, Floyd Saley, Henry Flehan, Adel Najar, David Najar, B.A. Husn, Kamal Abul Hosn, Bill Hamady, Norman Shaar, Dr. Richard Baz, Dr. Ali Alley, Mickey Sangid, and Dr. Sami Sangid.
After consensus was reached on common goals and aspirations of the American Druze community, Jihad Alkateeb and Ajaj Andary were appointed to draft a new constitution of the American Druze Society and to seek the help of an attorney to qualify the ADS as a charitable and religious organization with the IRS. The members present at this meeting pledged contributions to defray costs of the attorney to ensure the incorporation and obtaining the tax exempt status with the IRS. Immediately after the 1971 convention the Alkateeb-Andary committee commenced work on the draft of the ADS constitution and by-laws. With the guidance of Jack Hamady and the advice of his personal lawyer the committee was able to draft a constitution with the acceptable substance and wording to meet the strict code of the IRS without compromising any of the basic Druze beliefs.
The “Preamble” of the new National ADS Constitution stated that “We, Americans of Druze Faith and/or of Druze descent, in the United States, and wherever else Druze people may be found, do ordain and establish this constitution of the American Druze Society.”
The National Constitution of the American Druze Society was designed to promote charitable, educational and social pursuits of the Druze community. This intent was emphasized while articulating the primary purposes of the society thus expressly stating that, “The primary purposes of the society are to perpetuate the universal teachings of the Druze faith, the enhancement of fellowship among the Druze and Druze descendants, the advancement of Druze religious, literary and cultural knowledge through education and research and the betterment of all Druze people through charitable work.”
The organizational structure was based upon establishing chapters and branches subject to the policies and guidelines set forth by the National organization with the emphasis on centralization of its policy making and decentralization and national diffusion of its activities and structured relationship between the national organization and the local chapters and branches. The final draft of the National Constitution emerged after lot of reviews and revisions. The American Druze Society was incorporated on October 27, 1971.
1972. Pipestem Park, West Virginia
The 26th Anniversary Convention was held from June 25th through July 1st, 1972 at Pipestem State Park. The ADS President and Convention Chairman was Baheej Aboul-husn and Adel Najar was the Vice President. Officers were: Recording Secretary: Sahron Hamady, Treasurer: Raymond Hamden, General Chairman: Jouadat Aboul-hosn, Corresponding Secretaries: Najat Hamden and Nadine Mosrie, Sergeant-at-Arms, David Najar. Advisors: Harry Hamden, Joe Hamden, Bill Hamady, Norman Shaar, Jim Nassar, and Henry Flehan. Convention Committee members: Kathy Altizer, Mrs. Jimmy Sangid, Mrs. S. M. Mosrie, Mrs. Woody Aboul-hosn, Ajaj Andary, Freda Sob, Ambassador and Mrs. Baheej Aboul-Hosn.
The general assembly’s first action was the adoption of the new National Constitution and Bylaws of the ADS presented by Jihad Alkateeb and Ajaj Andary. The second resolution was the authorization of Dr. Abdallah Najar and the religious committee to seek the assistance and help of Dr. Sami Makarem to write the first English manuscript about the Druze faith. The third resolution adopted at this convention was the decision to hold the 1973 convention in Lebanon. The fourth historical event was the election of the first national officers and Board members of the American Druze Society keeping in view the 1973 Convention in Lebanon.
Officers and Board members Elected were: Baheej Aboul-Husn National President and Convention Chairman, Abdallah Najar, National Vice President, Adel Najar, Assistant Vice President for Finance, Ajaj N. Andary Secretary General, Floyd Saley, Assistant Secretary, Freda Sob, Assistant Secretary, Edna Joseph, National Treasurer, Raymond Hamden, International Relations Director, Board members: Rafic Rasamny, Ray Helal, Nancy Naim, Sami Masrie and Ghazi Aboulhosn.
Immediately following the adjournment of the 1972 convention, the National Board of Directors began to prepare for the convention in Lebanon. Baheej Aboul-Husn, National President and Convention Chairman, with his team solicited the support of the Druze community, Charter flight companies, travel agents and commercial airlines. Field investigations were conducted for the ideal convention site, hotel accommodations and convention activities.
1973. Beirut, Lebanon
The 27th Convention of the American Druze society was held at the Mirador Hotel from July 15th through July 22nd, 1973.
On July 9th, 1973, 250 members of the American Druze Society and their friends came from all over the United States and Canada and boarded the OAW flight from Detroit Metro Airport. Officials of the Lebanese Ministry of Tourism and other government agencies met the members at the plane and showered them with flowers and Lebanese flags. A committee from the Majlis Al Mazhabi (Druze Religious Congress) were also present to welcome us. In the V.I.P. Lounge Rafic Rasamny, Mack Joseph, Baheej Aboul-Husn and Ajaj Andary met Lebanese reporters for newspapers, T.V., and radio. A folklore troupe performed the dabke. The American Druze Society had finally arrived in Lebanon to be with the relatives they loved, cherished and admired.
On July 15th, the official opening ceremonies of the Convention commenced. Hundreds of immigrants, relatives, government officials and leaders of the Druze and Lebanese community attended. Fuad Nafa’a represented the President of Lebanon.
The ceremonies began with Raymond Hamden and Nancy Naim singing the Lebanese and American National Anthems. Rafic Rasamny, the Master of Ceremonies, welcomed the people and introduced the president of the ADS, Baheej Aboul-Husn, who delivered the opening speech. Ajaj Andary introduced the A.D.S. delegation and expressed their feelings as American Druze returning to Lebanon. Mr. Sam Amin (Abbas Abu Ghanim) received a standing ovation for returning to Lebanon for the first time after 55 years. Jimmy Silman and Raymond Hamden expressed the feelings of the American-born Druze. In the evening, the conventioneers were entertained by a Lebanese folklore troupe and western music.
On July 16, 1973 after the morning business meeting, the members made their first official visit to His Eminence Sheik Al- Akl Mohammed Abu Shakra at the Dar Al Taify (Druze Home). Religious sheiks, civic leaders, social and charitable organizations’ members gathered to welcome the American Druze and to share with them the honorable feeling of belonging to a great and rich heritage. This meeting with the Sheik Al-Akl gave the opportunity to convey to His Eminence the wishes and needs of the American Druze in terms of religious guidance, English books, and religious representatives to perform marriages, write wills, and pray at funerals. This historic meeting laid the foundation for the religious procedures that the Druze in the U.S.A. have today.
On July 17th, the buses left the Mirador Hotel to visit Beiteddine, Sidon, and Tyre. This trip to the historical places was very much enjoyed by both the American and Lebanese born. Some of the highlights were walking under the Arch of Triumph which was built by Alexander the Great, visiting the ruins of Tyre, learning about the historic glory of the Fortress of Sidon and tracing the tree of rulers of Lebanon in Beiteddine. Jimmy Silman Jr., after the guide finished explaining the history of the Druze Ma’any Rulers with emphasis on the role of Amir Fakhr-Eddine as the true leader who united, flourished and protected Lebanon’s destiny, turned toward us and said, “I never felt as proud as I do now!”
On July 18th, all the members visited Beit El-Yateem (Druze Orphanage) and met with the founder, Aref Bey Al Nakadi. Many of us were overwhelmed by the great accomplishments of Aref Bey, the founder the scholar and the humanitarian. As we toured through the home we met hundreds of Druze youth and infants who were not only given shelter and education, but also love, hope and ambition. For the first time the ADS youth could really understand the need to support this institution.
As a result of the extensive planning and numerous contacts by Baheej Aboul-Husn, all of the ADS convention members were invited to visit the President of Lebanon on July 19th. The caravan of buses and cars journeyed to Zgarta, where President Franjeieh welcomed everybody with warm words by stating, “Beni Ma’arouf are the original inhabitants of these mountains and have been the defenders of Lebanon’s unity and independence throughout its history. Welcome to your home country!” The members presented His Excellency with a gift of a gold tray commemorating this occasion.
From the palace of the president, the members drove to Bcherie, the birth place of Gibran Khalil Gibran. This is the same Khalil Gibran who was quoted by President JFK in his famous address the words, “Ask not what your country can do for you ...”
From Bcherie, they visited Mar Sarkis Fountain for lunch. His Excellency, the Governor of North Lebanon. Sheik Qassim Imad joined the group for lunch. After that the group reached the gigantic and famous Cedars of Lebanon. The group stopped briefly at Kafar Hareez, and were welcomed by the mayor, city council and the people of that city.
On Friday, July 20th, 1973, the election of the National Officers and Board took place. The state of Michigan was selected as the sight of the 28th convention. On July 21 the conventioneers set off on a two hour trip to Baalbek. The Ministry of Tourism and Historic Resources had arranged for English speaking guides to explain to the ADS members the history of the “City of the Sun”. After the tour the members traveled on to the Berdowni in Zahle where feasted on the variety of “maza” for which this place is famous.
The final night of the Convention, the Banquet Night was held on July 22, 1973. This was attended by ADS members, their relatives, government officials, representatives of Druze social and religious institutions, and newspaper, radio, and T.V. reporters. Due to health reasons the planned main speaker, Sheik Najeeb Alameddine was unable to attend and Dr. Abdallah Najjar delivered the main banquet speech emphasizing “The Druze’s Role and Dilemma in America.”
Although the official convention ended several receptions were held for the members in their honor during the next few weeks: Anwar Al-khalil - Carlton Hotel, Faud Najjar - Aley, Aref Al-Awar - Karneyel, Ambassador Abdallah Najjar - Beit Merry, Dr. Sami Makarem - Beirut, Druze Woman Society - Aley, Congress for Social Action - Aley, and Nabil Harfoush -Hariesa .
A committee of A.D.S. delegates visited Kamal Jumblat and Emir Majeed Arsalan and discussed with them the hopes and aspirations of all the Druze immigrants and their need to unite efforts towards perpetuating the Druze culture, history and religion. Dr. Abdallah Najjar and the Religious Committee continued the follow up on the printing of the first English copy of “The Druze Faith” by Dr. Sami Makarem and “The Druzes” by Ambassador Najjar. Rafic Rasamny printed, at his own expenses, the first ADS directory and donated it to the society.
On August 16, 1973, 250 ADS members boarded the chartered plane that would take them back to the U.S. taking with them, apart from material gifts, a sense of belonging to a great society with a rich heritage and the unforgettable memories of a brief time spent in the land of their forefathers.
In October 1973 the Druze of Michigan unanimously voted to adopt the new Constitution and Bylaws and thereby became the first chapter of the national organization. This supportive move by the Michigan Druze paved the way for the national organization to function within a wide spectrum of interest under the National Constitution. The aim of the new organizational structure was to adopt a dynamic program of activities which would meet the demands of the young generation by providing them with an educational substance to strengthen the roots of their heritage and unite their efforts to carry the torch of Tawhid faith into their future. The following major actions were taken by the national officers:
English version of “The Druze Faith” by Dr. Sami Makarem and “The Druzes” by Ambassador Abdallah Najjar, translated to English by Fred Massey, were distributed to Druze Families and were placed in the Library of Congress and libraries of major universities.
His Eminence Sheik Al-Akl Mohammed Abu Shakra appointed three representatives: David El Jawhary, Michigan and Ohio; Sheik Suleiman Abilmona, Greater Washington DC. area, and Dr. Ghaleb Maher of Massachusetts.
A documentary under the name and style “Druzes of Lebanon” filmed in Lebanon by Kathy Jaber Stephenson and Dr. Sami Makarem was completed. The ADS National Board of Directors decided to purchase a copy of the film for the Druze in United States and Canada. This film was very informative and provided a visual aid which added to the educational process of the American Druze.
Commemoration of Prince Fakhr El-Din Al-Maani II - The government and Druze of Lebanon decided to commemorate the Great Maanid Prince’s 400th anniversary by forming a committee to build a monument in Baakline honoring the great leader who “combined legendary courage with wisdom, shrewdness and sincerity.” The ADS participated in the project by donating one thousand dollars.
ADS’s relationship with the Arab-American Community- The emphasis was also on an organizational participation in the Arab American community by ADS. To strengthen and foster this new approach, Arab consulates, religious institutions and non-profit organizations were contacted and handed a written notice informing them of the ADS aims and purposes and included the names and addresses of the National officers.
1974. Boyne Mountain, Michigan
The 28th Annual Convention of the American Druze Society was held from July 1st through July 7th at Boyne Mountain Lodge. The National President and Convention Chairperson: Ajaj N. Andary, Vice President: Ray Helal, Secretary: Freda Sob, Treasurer: Nadia Alkateeb, Parliamentarian: Samah Helal. Board members: Nancy Naim, Jimmy Silman Jr., Raymond Hamden, Dr. Abdallah Najjar. Advisors: Harry Hamdan, Jack Hamady, Henry Flehan, Nafe Katter, Riad Al-Awar, Enda Joseph, Rafic Rasamny, Charles Wahbey, Wade Hamd, Fawzi Zaineldeen, Jimmy Silman, Sr., and Adil Najar. Convention Committee: Baheej Aboulhosn, Dr. Wahbey Sayegh, Nora Wahbey, Veda Katter, Mounir Kasem, Kalil Wahbey, Melhim Dow, Freda Hamd, Joe, linda, Najwa and Adal Solomon, Kamal Shouhayib, Salma Carter, Helen Dow, Salman Dahouk and Asma Hamd, Nawal Saley, and Adel Andary. The following decisions were taken at this 28th convention:
The establishment of a Newsletter to be published once every two months under the auspices of the National Board of Directors and to be distributed to all American and Canadian Druze on the mailing list for a period of one year. Mrs. Emma Saley was appointed editor of the ADS Newsletter. The first issue was published and mailed to members by October 1974.
The Bylaws were amended to include three new classes of membership: Charter, Sustained, and Life.
Miss Freda Sobe was appointed as the ADS Historian to collect all news items, stories, pictures, social , cultural and charitable activities and achievements of the Druze in the U.S.A. and Canada since the first Druze immigrant arrived. It was hoped that this valuable information could be collected in a booklet, published and distributed on a yearly basis.
Creation and appointment of new committees:
Religious & Culture: Floyd Saley, and Dr. Adil Abou-Assi as Co-chairperson. Hafiz Ghousayni, Henry Flehan as Co-chairpersons of Charitable Affairs. Chairperson of the Youth Committee was Samia Kansoa, and Chairperson of Student affairs was Riad Al-Awar.
A scholarship fund started under the auspicious of the Educational Committee to help Druze Students in the U.S.A. who need financial help to continue their education. The Charitable Committee was instructed to set up a plan to raise money to help the Druze Charitable institutions.