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History of the Druze in America 1975 to 1980

Ajaj Andary

American Druze Society
1975. Washington, D.C.

 The 29th Annual Convention of the American Druze Society was held in the L’Enfant Plaza hotel in Washington, D.C. The President was Ajaj N. Andary, Vice President: Ray HeLal, Secretary: Freda Sob, Treasurer: Nadia Alkateeb, Parliamentarian: Samah HeLal, Newsletter Editor: Emma Saley. Board Members: Kathy Jaber Stephenson, David Najar, Janeen Silman, and Mounir Kasem. The Convention Chairperson was Nadine Silman and the Committee members were: Selam Sadak, Samia & Mohammed Fayyad, Faouzi Zaineldeen, Randy Shaban, Jim Silman, Jr., Polly Shadyac and Khaled Fayyad.
 The Silmans (Nadine, Jimmy, and Janeen) used their years of experience by planing one of the most eventful and enjoyable conventions. The Convention witnessed social activities, business meetings seminars, lectures, sports, entertainment and banquet night planning in accordance with the new constitution and by-laws format. The desire of the American Druze to unite and solidify their strength was shown during the 1975 convention. It was indeed a very healthy sign for our earlier organizational endeavors when there was a competitiveness for the next convention site and for individuals to run for national office.
1976. Pipestem Park, West Virginia

 The site for the 30th Annual Convention of the American Druze Society was Pipestem State Park from June 19th through June 23rd. The President of the Society was Floyd Saley and Hafiz Gosaynie as Vice President. The Officers were: Treasurer: Nadia Alkateeb, Parliamentarian: Samah HeLal, Newsletter Editor: Emma Saley. Board members: Janeen Silman, Henry Flehan, Fawzi Zaineldeen, and Dean HeLal. The Convention Chairperson was William Hamady and the committee members were Raymond Hamdan, Ameen Joseph, Jr., Idell Hamady, Sharon Hamady, Olga Joseph, Norman Hamden, Mr. & Mrs. Harry Hamden, Mr. & Mrs. Baheej Aboulhosn, Mr. & Mrs. Adil Najar, Mickey Sangid, David Sangid, Rufus Kannon, Simera Modad Houchins and Norman Shaar.
 The program included Early Bird Party, Breakfast, Educational Seminars on “Our Arabic Heritage Through Scripture” and “Druze Theosophy”, Business Meeting, Breakfast, Annual Banquet and Arabic and American music and entertainment.
 The re-organization process continued throughout 1976 along with the religious heritage awakening which was led by Dr. Abdallah Najjar, Mr. Samah Helal and the members of the National Board of Directors.
1977. Bay City, Michigan

 The 31st Annual Convention was held at the Bay Valley Inn from July 5th through July 9th, 1977. The President of the Society was Floyd Saley and Vice President Hafiz Ghusayni. Secretary: Freda Sob, Treasurer: Marilyn Safa, Board members: Micky Sangid, Samah HeLal, Raymond Hamden and Omar Kassem. The Convention Chairperson and Newsletter editor was Emma Saley. Convention committee: Jenny Katter, Helen Dow, Ken Katter, Mounir Kasem, Grant Hamady, Arif Sams, Helen Sams, Frank Hamady, Veda Katter and Lilly Hamady.
 Jack & Lilly Hamady from Flint Michigan became the first lifetime members according to the new Constitution and Bylaws. Dr. & Mrs. Fred O. Williams were sustaining members. All the meetings and seminars were planned to be in the mornings, leaving the afternoons free for gold, tennis, swimming, and tours.
 The most significant event in 1977 was the IRS. final approval of the ADS as a tax exempt organization. After three years of preparation, hard work and persistence another milestone in the history of the ADS was achieved thanks to Floyd and Emma Saley, Nadia and Jihad Alkateeb, Jack Hamady and Ajaj Andary. Finally all donations to the ADS were Tax deductible as a charitable contributions provided for in section 170 of the Internal Revenue Code. The Tax Exempt Identification number given to the ADS was 23-71-55194.
1978. Houston, Texas

 The 32nd Annual Convention was held at the Astro Village Hotel from July 4th through July 8th, 1978. The President of the Society was Muneer Zaineldeen and Samah Helal as Vice President. Secretary: Sayma Kansoa, Treasurer: Mohammed Fayyad, Acting Treasurer: Marilyn Safa, Advisor: Floyd Saley. Board members: Tamie Fleihan, Dr. Nadim Kassem, Dr. Anis Makarem. Newsletter Editor: Emma Saley. The Convetnion Chairperson was Earnest S. Ameen and members were: Sheryl Ameen Saunders, Jeanne Cassem Laughlin, Billie Jean Ameen, Fedwa Israwi, Camilila saffady, Jimmie Richards, Hamza Halaway, Casey Kasem, Larry Ameen, Camille Silman, Hani Chtay, Soad Ameen, Izzat & Mofeda Dakour, Dick & Sally Waheed, Sue and Fred Hassen, Don and Terry Waheed, Ray Helal, Charlie Assad, Nana Hassen White, Fawaz Assad, and Fareed Hassen.
 The 1978 Convention was very successful in terms of attendance and activities due to the efforts of Earnest Ameen and his wife, the Houston Community and the National Board. Muneer Zaineldeen, appealed for unity of our community by encouraging people to join the ADS. Earnest Ameen’s tireless pursuit in Texas resulted in two new chapters being formed. (Killeen and Lubbock).
 Also in 1978 the ADS Relief Fund Committee was formed to help the Druze people in Lebanon. Its members are Fowzi Zaineldeen - Washington D.C., Hafez Ghusaini - Ohio, Dr. Anis Makarem - California, Rafic Rasamny - New York, Nafe Katter - Michigan, Mickey Sangin - West Virginia and Ray Helal - Texas
 The election of the 1978-79 National Board took place and Ray HeLal was elected President and Dr.Anis Makarem the 1979 Convention Chairman. Mr. Ray HeLal called for a meeting of the Board of Directors that was held October 13 through October 15, 1978. This meeting represented yet another milestone in the History of the ADS because of the proposed amendments to the Constitution, Bylaws, convention program, and relationship guidelines between the National Board and Local Chapters. Immediately following this meeting Mr. HeLal, in his determination to upgrade the organizational structure of the ADS sent letters to many Druze members requesting them to write down their proposals and visions for a viable organization to represent the American Druze current and future organization.
1979. Los Angeles, California

 The 33rd Convention held in Huntington Sheraton Hotel from July 2nd through July 7th was attended by hundreds of people from the United States, Mexico,Venezuela and Lebanon. The President of the Society was Ray HeLal and the Vice President was Emma Saley. Past President: Mouneer Zaineldeen, Secreaty: Camilla Safady Rasamny, Treasurer: Selwa Najjar. Board members: Earnest Ammen, Dr. Nadim Kassem, Dr. David Najar and Salim Israwi. Advisors: Henry Flehan, Ralph Modad, Samah HeLal, Ajaj Andary, Jihad Alkateeb, Floyd Saley, Bajeej Aboulhson and Wajde Kabor.The convneiton Chairperson was Dr. Anis Makarem and members were Casy Kasem, Safwat Israwi, Raja Zahr, Donna Halaby, Dr. Sami & Leila Masri, Shakeeb Aboulhson and Daoud Jamaledine, Fadi Saab, Samir Makarem, Bahij Abu Khzam, Akram Masri and Samir Assaf.
 The hospitality of the DruzeCommunity in Southern California was well appreciated and their committment to advance the cause of the National Society was well received when they voted in December 22, 1979 to become a chapter of the ADS National organization.
 The 1979 Convention was also important historically because it was the beginning of the establishiment of the “Thousand Club” by Uncle Jack Hamady. The aim of the “Thousand Dollar Club”was to raise $100,000 for establishing a National Office to be managed by a full time director to administer the affairs and further the aims of the ADS in an efficient and business like manner. This will assure the safe keeping and continuity of the ADS records and will also bring focus to our society, giving information on religion, origin and heritage of all of our people through ADS publications and News of the Druze people from all factors of life and the globe.”
1980. Toronto, Canada

 Toronto, Canada was the site for the 34th Annual Convention of teh American Druze Society. The president of the Society was Ray HeLal, Vice Presidetn: Khatter Fayyad, Past Presidetn: Mouneer Zaineldeen. Board members: Dr. Nadim Kassem, Salim Israwi, Dr. David Najar, Wajd Jaber, Kemal Casey Kasem and Dr. Raymond Hamdan.

The Convention Chairperson was Victor Botrie.

Ms. Julie Makarem was guest from Beirut, Lebanon representing Walid Beik Jumblat, Chairman of the World Druze Organization that was sponsored by The Druze Council for Research and Development in Beirut, Lebanon (See below.)
 1980 was active and productive year in terms of reorganizational structure, setting goals and working for their accomplishment. The main issues were: the amendment of the Constitution and Bylaws which includes revision of the preamble, setting the number of National Board Members to Eleven including the Immediate past president (not elected) and council of chapter presidents, setting election procedure and term of office for the National Board of Directors, Developing and publishing the “Chapter’s Guide” handbook by Ray HeLal, setting the terms of the chapters officers and Board members for 2 years starting in 1980, Redefining the classes and duties of memberships, and the duties and responsibilities of the Convention Chairperson, setting up the financial and accounting procedures, the council of Presidents shall nominate and elect a chairperson. Establishment of the following standing committees : Committee of Religious affairs (CORA), Scholarship Fund, Publications Committee, Committee on Charitable affairs (COCA),Youth of American Druze Society(YADS), Fund Raising Committee, Nomination and Election, Council of Elders, Membership Committee, Human Rights Committee.
 Another major event that occurred in 1980 was the appointment of Dr. Raymond Hamden and Cathy Hamden as the Editors of our newly named “Heritage” magazine (previously the ADS Newsletter).
 Also in 1980 the YADS lead by the youth of Southern California and Headed by Babette Israwi, Tammy Flehan (N.C.), Janeen Silman, (Washington D.C.), Linda Hamd (Michigan), Bobby Jaber (Georgia- and Fred Ameen Jr. (Virginia), started organizing the young adults in their respective states to participate in the various activities which would meet their needs to prepare them as the future leaders of the ADS.
 The recommendation of the religious committee Chairperson, Dr. Nadim Kassem supported by Ray HeLal that the ADS obtain the services of Shiek Mohammed Naim from Suwayda, Syria who will reside in the U.S.A. and attend the annual convention and many of their functions also became a reality in 1980.

 "The World Druze Organization,

The World Druze Organization, sponsored by Mr. Walid Beik Jumblat and the Druze Council for Research and Development of Druze history and culture, did not materialize. That year, in Lebanon, 1980, during the height of the Lebanon Civil War, the Druze planned a renaissance, and their goal was to unite the Druze of the world under one roof every year.  Thousands of Druze from abroad returned every year to Lebanon to be with their families, and the idea of a World Druze Organization was welcomed by all.  Julie Makarem and Emma Saley from Livonia, Michigan left the Toronto Convention and arrived in Beirut, Lebanon in time for the Word Druze Organization Convnetion in the Summerland Hotel.  The day before the official opening of the Convention, Julie and Emma visited the Summerland Hotel for a tour of the rooms where the activities would begin to take place the following day.  The meeting room, large enough to hold one hundred delegates, was set up as the United Nations meeting room in New York is set up. Emma Saley and Julie Makarem also registered as guests to attend the World Druze Organization Convention.  At the time, there were 600 Druzes from all over the world already registered to attend the Convention. Many of the attendees were stayiong with their families while they were in Lebanon, and they were not all guests of the Summerland Hotel. Julie and Emma had left Toronto and returned to Aytat, Lebanon, where Emma was staying with Julie and Sami Makarem, so they went to the Summerland Hotel together in the afternoon.  That evening, a meeting of the Druze in Aytat and the surrounding villages took place in Sami and Julie’s Aytat home.  The purpose of the meeting was to confirm and review the arrangements for the Welcoming Party  for all the attendees to be held the following day in Sami and Julie’s Aytat home.

The meeting was in progress when Julie was called away to answer a phone call from Beirut.  The call was from Mr. Samir Mujahid, the secretary of the Druze Council for Research and Development who, under the auspices of Mr. Walid Beik Jumblat, were sponsoring the World Druze Organization Convention to be held in the Summerland Hotel in Khaldie, Lebanon beginning the following day. Mr. Samir Mujahid told Julie that the Convention to be held at the Summerland Hotel the following was to be immediately cancelled at the threat of death to Mr. Walid Beik Jumblat, Mr. Anwar Khalil, and Dr. Sami Makarem. Julie told Mr. Samir Mujahid that she wanted to discuss the reason for the telephone call before she told Dr. Sami Makarem or any others who were at the meeting, so she went to a house across from her home to call back Mr. Samir Mujahid.  Emma Saley accompanied Julie Makarem to the Timani home across the road from her home where they placed the call to Mr. Mujahid.  Mr. Samir Mujhaid confirmed the information he had given Julie, and he also told her that she was to relay to the organizers that there must not to be any large congregation of Druzes during the period the Convention was to be held. Following the information regarding the Convention, Mr. Sami Mujahid told Julie that the attendees were to be told that due to security in the country, the Convention would be cancelled.  He also told Julie that all she and Dr. Makarem were to tell the people at the meeting in their home was to go home and listen to the news on Channel 7 by Mr. Arafat Hijazi, the anchor man.  Julie did that !!  Of course, there was bedlam after the people attending the meeting had been told about the cancellation of the Convention.  The Convention organizers and all the Druze in Lebanon had been working and anticipating the Convention for almost a year. Many, many hours and days had been spent in preparation, so this new turn of events was not taken lightly. However, we ended the meeting, and all the people at the meeting went to their homes to listen to the news.

That evening, when we listened to the news, we were shocked beyond comprehension.  The cancellation of the Convention was the first item on the broadcast, and the anchorman, Mr. Arafat Hijizi on Channel 7 from the TV Station in Tallet El-Khayat, said that due to the lack of organization by the organizers of the World Druze Organization Convention, the Convention was cancelled.  PERIOD!!  That was it !
None of us, however, was fooled !  The instructions were from the Syrian Mukhabarat, and no one dared to defy their orders.  So much had happened in Lebanon throughout the entire Civil War at the hands of the Syrian Mukhabarat; we all knew the consequences, and no one wanted to enter the world of “Syrian” tactics to accomplish their aims. As you can imagine, I was livid, and so I became defiant, as well.  I had already planned a huge reception at our Aytat home for one of the activities during the Convention, and I planned to keep it.  The invitations were prepared, the food had been ordered, and the preparations were all in progress. I WAS ORGANIZED !  So, the Makarems, had a gala event, and more than four hundred guests attended the party.  You can imagine the disappointment of the Druze, many of whom had traveled from their countries to Lebanon just for the Convention. The time, the cost, the energy – all had gone because of the Syrian Mukhabarat. I had to get the “word” out to the people, and I did not hesitate to do so.  The event at our home was one of the few events that there was.  There were a few others that also extended invitations to the people who had come from abroad, but these events were minimal. I was so pleased that Ms. Emma Saley from the American Druze Society, and a National officer had been with me and witnessed the entire debacle. She left for America soon after the Convention was to be finished, and she told all the Druzes she could reach in the United States the “Story of the World Druze Organization Convention.” She even had her registration badge to show the people that there was complete intent to hold the Convention, and it had been completely organized.