History of the Druze in America 1981 to 1985
American Druze Society
1981. Washington, D.C.
The convention was held from June 30th through July 5th, 1981. The President of the Society was Ray HeLal, and Kattar Fayyad was the Vice-President. Board members: Selwa Najar, Dr. Nadim Kassem, Dr. David Najar, Salim Israwi, Dr. Raymond Hamden, Dr. Abdallah Najjar, Muneer Zaineldeen, Kamal Shouhayib and Wajdi Jaber. The Convention Chairperson was Muneer Zaineldeen.
The theme of the 1981 convention in Washington D.C. concentrated on encouraging American Druze Youth to participate in the ADS activities. Muneer Zaineldeen, Convention Chairperson, sent an appealing message to the youth and President Ray HeLal outlined the benefits and opportunities of belonging to the ADS. Ray HeLal, in his yearly message to the American Druze Community emphasized the “great pride and awareness of our young people” as they learn the tenants of the Druze faith and become knowledgeable of their history and heritage.
In 1981 the search for an executive director was finalized when the Board of Directors appointed Kathy Jaber Stevenson for this position starting after the 1981 convention. Another important event which started in 1981 was the beginning of research to document the early history of the American Druze Society by Henry Fleihan and Ajaj Andary
1982. Traverse City, Michigan
The annual convention, held in Michigan, and chaired by Emma Saley was superb. The President of the Society was Dr. Nadim Kassem and Randy Shaban as Vice President. Board members: Selwa Najar, Veda Yakzan, Mike Fayyad, Samia Fayyad, Walid Harb, Wajdi Jaber, Dr. David Najar, Emma Saley, Kamal Shouhayib, Ray HeLal.
Dr. Nadim Kassem, National President continued the efforts to address the importance of religious awareness for youth by announcing that CORA had written the first draft of material addressing religious and historical aspects of the Druze Faith. Dr. Kassem’s second goal of his administration was to establish a research committee to study and make recommendations to purchase and set up centers or homes for our various communities. It is important to note here that the Southern California Chapter established a “Housing Committee” of Salim Israwi, Casey Kasem, Raja Shaar, Ron Hamady, Showki Aboulhusn, and Akram Masrie. Also the Southern California Chapter appointed Mrs. Leila Masrie as chairperson of the Ladies Auxiliary Committee. The NBC magazine and David Brinkley noted Casey Kasem as the network’s number one voice. People magazine also called him “the most listened to voice in America”
In 1982 the ADS Director Kathy Jaber-Stevenson obtained the approval of the National Board to make the necessary improvements to change “Our Heritage from a newsletter to a magazine. In his annual address to the members, Dr. Nadim Kassem announced that the ADS had set up a special Relief Fund Committee, chaired by Sami Merhi, to aid the needy Druze who suffered because of the war in Lebanon. A relief committee was set up in every state where medicine, clothes, and money were collected and sent to Lebanon to be distributed to the needy.
The student Loan Fund chairperson, Kamal Shouhayib, announced that two more Druze students had been selected to be granted loans for college, bringing the total to five Druze Students to whom the ADS had granted loans.
Dr. Wahbah Sayegh and the Religious Committee had completed the writing of the First Book of “Tawhid Faith” which was published by the ADS. Another important accomplishment in 1982 was the revisions of the ADS Bylaws, elections of officers and board of Directors (Nomination, filing, qualification, proxies and election date and time). The 1982 ADS yearbook was dedicated to the great hero of legend, the symbol of courage, dignity, justice and hero of independence - Sultan Basha Al-Atrash, “the Lion of the Druze”.
1983. San Antonio, Texas
The President of the Society was Dr. Nadim Kassem and Randy Shaban as Vice President. Board members: Selwa Najar, Veda Yakzan, Evelyn Abraham, Mike Fayyad, Samia Fayyad, Walid Harb, Wajdi Jaber, Ralph Modad, Dr. David Najar, Emma Saley, Moustafa Moukarim, 0Khaldoun Salha. The convention Chairperson was Ray HeLal.
The 1983 Convention held in San Antonio, Texas was successful and very enjoyable. Attendance from all over the world was very noticeable. Mr. Halim Fayyad, the Governor of South Lebanon was the main speaker at the Banquet Night. Ray HeLal, convention Chairperson, experimented holding a convention where there is no Druze community concentration. The convention was almost flawless and proved that this can be done.
On January 31, 1983 the National Board of Directors and chapter presidents met with the representatives of the National Security Council to discuss the concerns about our brethren in Lebanon. Mr. Robert MacFarlane, Deputy assistant to the President of the U. S. and Mr. Geoffrey Kemp received the ADS delegation. Dr. Nadim Kassem presented the ADS position paper about the situation in Lebanon and expressed the deep concern about the fate of Druze of Lebanon. Those who attended the meeting in Washington D.C. were: Dr. Nadim Kassem, Sam Aboulhosn, Moustafa Moukarim, Randy Shaban, Samia Fayyad, Ralph Modad, Shaheen Alawan Ferris, Walid Harb Dr. David Najar.
The newly formed American Druze Public Affairs Committee(ADPAC), chaired by Muneer Zaineldeen and Dr. Raymond Hamden, issued press releases defending the position of the Druze of Lebanon and educating the American Public.On the Humanitarian issue, The ADS Relief Fund, Chaired by Sami Merhi, was able to wire $50,000 to Druze charitable institutions and hospitals in Lebanon. 1780 pounds of medicines and pharmaceutical supplies were also air freighted.
1984. Orlando, Florida
The 38th Annual Convention of the American Druze Society was held from July 3rd through July 7th, 1984. The President of the Society was Sami Merhi and the Vice-President was Dr. David Najar. Board members: Veda Yakzan, Evelyn Abraham, Dr. Nadim Kassem, Nadim Abou-Said, Mike Fayyad, Samia Fayyad, Shaheen Ferris, Walid Harb, Moustafa Moukarim and Khakdoun Salha. The convention Chairperson as Dr. David Najar. This 38th annual convention was very enjoyable and there were young adults attending. The registered attendance was 650.
The ADS efforts to support and defend our people’s struggle to defend their existence continued. President Merhi reported that “The ADS Relief Fund Committee was able to raise $220,000 in addition to shipping over 3000 pounds of medical supplies and tons of blankets and clothing.” The Relief Fund Committee recognized the efforts of Moustafa Moukarim, Dr. Anis Obeid, Halim Zahr, Jack Aboul Husn, Sam Aboulhosn, Adel Andary, Hasib Abdulatif, Toufic Chami, Raja Aridi, and Ramsey Kaedbey and all local coordinators. On behalf of the ADS, President Sami Merhi held many T.V. and Cable news interviews and appeared on C-Span, CBS, NBC, ABC and local channels and newspapers. “
In November 1984 the ADS established the Newsline in Washington DC to bring daily news to our members around the country. Mr. Afif Khodr of the Permanent Bureau of Druze Institutes in Lebanon supplied the News and Mr. Ramiz Saab directed and broadcasted the bulletins.”
Later, in a letter to President Sami Merhi from Mr. Essam Makarem, and Board Secretary Mr. Ziad Hamadeh of the Druze Foundation for Social Welfare the following was stated: “In assessing our activities for the year 1984, we found out that the works and efforts of the American Druze Society were enormous and most fruitful in assisting the Druze Foundation at all levels. We come to you in this letter to extend to you personally and to all your associates at the Society our thanks and profound appreciation for your vigor, strength and dedication in upholding the Druze Cause”.
During this critical period of time when much of our energy and time was focused on the crisis in Lebanon we did not neglect our concern for the ADS at home. The Board of Directors during their Orlando, Florida Meeting in 1984 passed a resolution to purchase a building in Washington, DC area. Mr. Shaheen Ferris was appointed chairman of the National Home Committee. The ADS Council of Advisors was also formed and Dr. Abdallah Najjar was elected chairperson. This council was made up of experienced and long time members of our society and their advice was to be yet another tool to help achieve our goals.
In March of 1984 Mr. Merhi traveled to Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Lebanon where he met with leaders of those countries informing them of the ADS activities and our efforts to help our Lebanese brethren. In Lebanon he presented the ADS Board’s recommendation to his Eminence Sheik Mohammed Abu Shakra to appoint more representatives to perform religious rites in various geological locations. Those appointed were: Walid Farhat - Connecticut, Riad Abi Faker - New York, Dr. Ghaleb Maher - Massassutes, Aref Hatoum - Florida, and Sami Merhi - New Jersey.
After almost four years of hard work and much professionalism Kathy Jaber Stevenson tendered her resignation as the ADS Executive Director and Newsletter Editor on March 1, 1984.
1985. Los Angles, California
The 39th Annual Convention of the American Druze Society was held at the Sheraton At University City, from June 25th through June 20th, 1985. The President of the Society was Sami Merhi and Vice President Dr. David Najar. Board members: Tammie Flehan, Eveyln Abraham, Dr. Mona Aboulhosn, Shaheen Ferris, Bobby Jaber, Moustafa Moukarim, Mark Najjar, Nabih Nasserdeen, Emma Saley, Dr. Nadim Kassem and Nadim Abu Said. The convention chairperson was Dr. David Najar. The program included: Video taped message from His Eminence Sheik Al Akl Mohammed Abu Shakra, Panel discussions on the Tawhid Faith book two, International presenters and reports from the Druze Foundation for Social Welfare, Permanent Bureau of Druze Institutions, and Foreign Druze Societies. Once again Dr. David Najar organized a successful convention with the help and support of the California Druze Community.
In 1985 the tireless efforts of Sami Merhi, the Relief Fund Committee and the American Druze Community continued. The Relief Fund Committee continued to raise money, gather medical supplies, and collect clothes and send them to Lebanon on a regular basis. Other important events which occurred in 1985 were:The purchase of the American Druze Society Headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia was announced by President Sami Merhi. The house was about 3,000 sq. feet located on property approximately 51,500 sq. feet. The price was $180,000 with a down payment of $35,000. An ADS Building Fund collected $41,410. Unfortunately, this long awaited dream of the founding fathers and every American Druze did not live beyond the year 1986 due to technical zoning issue and interpretation differences amongst the board members. Emma Saley was appointed as “Our Heritage” Editor in Chief and was assisted with an Editorial Staff of Dr. Mona Aboulhosn, Dr. Nadim Kassem, Dr. Abdallah Najjar, and Dr. Wahbah Sayegh.Dr. Wahbah Sayegh and his CORA Committee completed Book Two of the Tawhid Faith. Copies were available for distribution by the 39th Annual Convention in California.