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History of the Druze in America 1986 to 1990

Ajaj Andary

American Druze Society
1986. Seacaucus, New Jersey

 The 40th Annual Convention of the American Druze Society was held at the Meadowland Hilton from July 1st through July 5th, 1986. The president of the Society was Kamal Shouhayib and Randy Shaban as Vice President. Executive Secretary and Treasurer: Emma Saley, Past President: Sami Merhi, Board members: Dr. Moan Abul-hosn, Shaheen Feris Alawan, Hani Chtay, Dr. David Najar, Nabih Nasserdeen, and Dr. Marwan Ramadan. Dr. David Najar was the convention Chairperson and the Convention Committee of the Tri-State planned an exciting and enjoyable convention. There were many very organized social-cultural, sports events and entertainment events to celebrate the 40th Convention.
 President Kamal Shouhayib and the new board concentrated on improving communication with the chapter presidents and the general membership. They sought membership growth by explaining the benefits and goals of the ADS. This effort resulted in doubling the paid membership in 1986. Dr. Sami Abd-el-Baki addressed the Convention on behalf of the Druze Foundation of Social Welfare and Mrs. Adele Halim Takieddine delivered the Banquet Night Speech. The 1986 yearbook featured “Forty Years of a Great Idea” and included articles on the history of the ADS, Convention pictures, chapter news, CORA’s activities, and an outline of the society’s future goals. In 1986 New Bylaws were ratified to included the office of President elect and 10 other Board Members. Voting was changed to secret ballots by mail prior to the convention with the results to be announced at the annual convention.
1987. Durango, Colorado

 The 41st Annual Convention of the American Druze Society was held at Tamarron Resort from June 30th through July 5th, 1987. The President of the Society was Kamal Shouhayib and the Vice President Randy Shaban. Board members: Emma Saley, Dr. Mona Aboulhosn, Dr. David Najar, Nabil Nasserdeen, Hani Chtay, Behjat Jurdi, and Salim Israwi. The convention chairperson was Randy Shaban. This was a mountain resort and the beauty and peacefulness brought joy and satisfaction to the many conventioneers. Jihad Zuheiry, Abbas Halaby, Ziad Hamady, and Issam Makarem were our guests from Lebanon. Hafiz Abilmona was appointed Chief Editor of the publication of “Our Heritage” magazine and supported by a staff of English editors. Emma Saley continued on as Secretary and Treasurer. The Student Loan Fund had granted scholarship loans to 20 needy students. The “1000 Club” under the leadership of Jack Hamady advanced some of the donated money to help pay for executive office expenses. It is important to note that the “1000 Club” had collected $88,000 by 1986. Dr. Wahbah Sayegh announced that CORA had published Book III entitled Ethics and Morality. The California Chapter had raised $150,000 toward the purchase of an ADS Cultural Center in Southern California led by the efforts of Salim Israwi, Behjat Jurdi, Uncle Jack Hamady, Ladies Auxiliary, and YADS of Southern California. President Shouhayib and the ADS Board supported these efforts. A “housing Committee” had begun a search for a suitable location.
 On November 1, 1987, Salim Israwi submitted his resignation as National President due to health problems and irreconcilable differences with the Board of Directors interpretation of the Constitution and bylaws. A group of concerned Druze then responded to the call of Mr. Jack Hamady to meet in Florida to discuss the resignation of Mr. Israwi and to provide plans for the future to insure the continuity of the organization. The meeting, to the best of my recollection, was attended by Jack Hamady, George Rafey, Dr. Abdallah Najjar, Ajaj Andary, Salim Israwi, Kamal Shouhayib, Ray HeLal, Sami Merhi, Dr. David Najar, and Adil Najar. A vote of confidence was given in favor of Dr. David Najar, the Vice President at the time, to assume the office of presidency vacated by Mr. Israwi. Behjat Jurdi was then appointed Vice President.
 Dr. Najjar assured the community of the unity and commitment of the Board to preserve our heritage and faith in spite of the different ideologies amongst the members. The duty of every Druze is to uphold the Tawheed Faith in his/her mind and soul and to the American Druze it is to unite, to promote and strengthen the goals of the American Druze Society. Dr. David Najjar also assumed the role of Convention Chairman and invited the American Druze community members to attend the 1988 convention.

1988. Tampa, Florida

The 42nd Convention was held at Innisbrook Resort in Tappon’s Springs, Florida from June 28th to July 2nd, 1988. The president of the Society was Salim Israwi and Vice-President Dr. David Najar. Board members: Behjat Jurdi, Hani Chtay, Hafiz Abilmona, Fouad Halaby, Akram Jurdi, Muneer Zaineldeen, Raouf Richani, Eddie Smien, bobby Jaber and Ajaj Andary. The Convention Chairperson was Behjat Jurdi.

Dr. David Najar’s experience and Behjat Jurdi’s dedication resulted in a very successful and enjoyable convention. The convention was full of educational, social, sports activities, music, and entertainment.Dr. David Najar announced the appointment of Ray HeLal as the Executive Director effective July 15, 1988. Immediately after his appointment Ray HeLal implemented the recommendation of the Board of Directors to purchase the necessary computer and office equipment to upgrade our filing systems, update mailing addresses, and computerize the financial statements and to produce our Heritage and Newsletters by desktop publishing.

The Board of Directors was very active and met on a regular basis in different cities where ADS chapters existed. On August 20, 1988 the Board met in Mesquite, Texas and adopted the following resolutions:

The ADS was to hire a CPA to prepare the tax returns and audit the books and a detailed financial report was to be prepared and published.

Muneer Zaineldeen was appointed to represent the ADS with the Council of Presidents of National Arab American Associations.

Ajaj Andary was appointed chairperson of the constitution and by-laws Committee and was appointed the Our Heritage Arabic editor.

To make the convention more cultural, educational and religious oriented and less social.

To Ensure that all chapters are duly registered with their state governments.

To implement religious services at the chapter level.

Ray HeLal acting as the full-time Executive Director and Our Heritage editor devoted all his time to organizing the National office, communicating with the chapters, researching and compiling facts and figures regarding our accomplishments to encourage our community to join the ADS.

1989. Washington D.C.

The 43rd Annual Convention of the American Druze Society was held at the Washington Sheraton hotel from July 4th through July 8th, 1989. The president of the Society was Dr. David Najar and Vice-President Behjat Jurdi. Board members: Ajaj Andary, Hafiz Abilmona, Sara Aboulhosn, Mouneer Zaineldeen, Fouad Halaby, Akram Jurdi, Raouf Richani and Bobby Jaber. The convention Chairperson was Behjat Jurdi.

” We are shining in Washington DC,” wrote the executive director about the 1989 convention. We have recorded the largest pre-registration ever. Fellow Druze and families from the U.S.A., Canada, Mexico, Venezuela, England, Switzerland, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon attended the convention and enjoyed the Historical sites, the convention activities and Washington D.C.’s Druze community’s hospitality. The Druze community was very proud and honored to have Selwa (Shokair) Roosevelt and the honorable James Abourisk as guests of honor and main speakers. Also, Jihad Zuheiri delivered Mr. Walid Jumblatt’s message, Dr. Abdallah Najjar spoke on behalf of the Druze Foundation for Social Welfare and Sami Merhi for honoring Mr. Shakib Nakadi.

Success for this convention can be attributed to the hard work and efforts of Dr. David Najar, Jimmy and Nadine Silman, Behjat Jurdi(Chairperson), Kamal Najjar (Co-ordinator), Samia Fayyad and Ghassan Abdel Khalik. Ajaj Andary was sworn in as president along with the new board.

On July 8, 1989, Ajaj Andary conducted his first meeting as National President of the ADS. He asked the co-operation of the Board and Chairperson of every committee to help achieve the goals and ideas he established for 1989-1991. The goals and plans included:

Concentrating on Chapter re-organization was  appointing a membership chairperson to contact inactive members to rejoin the ADS and to attract new members, and to assist with an up-to-date census of the American Druze. Assign on Board member to: visit their designated chapter at least twice each year; b. work with chapter officers and the community; help CO-ordinate chapter activities with the national activities; plan Eid-al-Adha celebrations;

plan religious and educational seminars on a yearly basis; and provide assistance to the chapters as needed and report on their progress and problems to the National Board.

Establishing a youth program (educational, social and athletic); establishing a Board of Trustees to work with the Board of Directors to address and plan the social, cultural, religious and financial needs of the society; to actively support the efforts of CORA to plan and sponsor religious retreats, especially, for the young adults; to plan an exchange program for Druze young adults with other overseas countries; to actively support the efforts of COCA and encourage our members to contribute to the orphanage and other worthy Druze charities; to publicize the student loan fund contribution to the

education of needy students and to raise money and make loans available were the goals of the American Druze Society. Also, the goal includes encouraging chapter participation in the convention by sponsoring a lecture, seminar, talent show, debke, play, arts and crafts; to honor and recognize members who graduate with special achievements, who succeeded in business and who are gifted and talented. The goal is to also to include appointing a committee to contact Druze communities throughout the world for mutual exchange of ideas, talent and programs that address the common needs of our people, and to create an ADS liaison Committee to co-ordinate and play a larger role with the Arab-American community. To appoint a committee to revise and update the chapter guidelines, and to publish an outline of the duties and responsibilities of the chapter and the national convention committee chairperson is also one of the goals. Every board member is to submit a detailed list of proposals to be discussed at the next board meeting.

President Andary corresponded with the chapters and general membership of the society informing them of the goals for the following two years and appealing to everyone to join the Board of Directors and committees in contributing to the success of these objectives. A positive response to the President’s appeal came from the American Druze Youth Headed by Mazin Chami and Nezar Andary who sent an open letter to the Druze youth urging them to organize, to state their objectives and goals and discussing how they could participate and contribute to their faith, and culture.

Chapter presidents expressed their willingness to participate in national board meetings. They welcomed the idea of assigning one board member to work with them all year long. COCA pledged to continue their efforts to raise money for charity and the student loan foundation promised to publicize the program to reach all students in need. The amendment and ratification by the Board of the Bylaws. Dr. Wahbah Sayegh, CORA Chairman, wrote an article in Our Heritage explaining why the Druze celebrate Eid-al-Adha. It was very encouraging and CORA urged a simultaneous celebration of the Eid throughout the US. Ajaj Andary visited the Tri-State area chapter, Connecticut Chapter, Boston Chapter, Washington DC Chapter, Dallas Chapter North Carolina Chapter, and met with Virginia, Houston, Miami, Kileen, Michigan chapter presidents and discussed future goals and ways and means to improve their relationship with the national Board.

Another event which took place in the fall of 1989 was the resignation of Ray HeLal from the executive director position effective January 14, 1990. President Andary thanked Ray on behalf of the ADS for doing an excellent job that was desperately needed for the growth and progress of our society. Ray’s commitment, dedication, and professionalism for many years has set a high standard for Our Heritage Magazine and for the business procedures. The search for a new executive director came to a happy ending when President Andary announced the Board’s approval of Miss Sahar Muakasa for this position.

1990. Costa Mesa, California

The 44th Annual Convention of the American Druze Society was held at the Red Lion Inn at Costa Mesa, California from June 26th through June 30th 1990. The President of the Society was Ajaj Andary and the Vice President was Behjat Jurdi. David Najar was the Past-President. Board members: Hafez Abilmona, Sara Aboulhosn, Emad Aboulhosn, Raja Aridi, Fouad Halaby, Ghassan Khalek, Akram Jurdi, and Muneer Zaineldeen. National Treasurer: Sahar Muakasa. The National Committee Chairpersons were: Jack Hamady (C.O.E.), Dr. Wahbah Sayegh (CORA), Sami Merhi (COCA), Kamal Shouhayib (Student Loan Fund). The convention chairperson was Behjat Jurdi.

The 1990 convention in Costa Mesa, California was extremely successful. The active participation and interest in the seminars, panels and presentations were the result of considerable advance planning. The selection of topics were focused on history, heritage, faith and the role of the Arab American. The participation of our Druze scholars and educators included Dr. Anis Obeid, Dr. Abdallah Najjar, Dr. Nadim Kassem, Dr. Hayel Said, Dr. Wahbah Sayegh, Dr. Intissar Assam, Dr. Foazi El-Barouki, and Dr. Souraya Aboulhosn. Casey Kasem was introduced by Nezar Andary to address the Young American Druze on “ Growing up Arab American”. Ambassador Nassib Lahoud of Lebanon was the main speaker at “President’s Night.”

The year 1990 recorded the realization of the long awaited ADS dream. The National Board of Directors unanimously approved the purchase of property located at 2239 Merton Avenue, Eaglerock, California as the first “Druze Cultural Center” in the U.S.A. during their meeting on May 27, 1990. The dream and goal of Salim Israwi since the early sixties, the planning of Emad Aboulhosn, Behjat Jurdi, Shakeeb Aboulhosn, the dedication of Southern California Druze Community and the moral and financial support of the American Druze Community throughout the United States lead to this great accomplishment.

The National President, Ajaj Andary, in his message to the American Druze community stated “the cultural center in Southern California is a “home” for all the American Druze people. It is a symbol of our unity, pride and determination. There is now a place for our children to learn the Arabic language, their history and their faith. Our adults have a place to meet, our elderly have a Majlis to pray on Thursday nights and our community has a place to hold their functions and meet regularly.”

The 1990 convention in Costa Mesa, California was extremely successful. The active participation and interest in the seminars, panels and presentations were the result of considerable advance planning. The selection of topics were focused on history, heritage, faith and the role of the Arab American. The participation of our Druze scholars and educators included Dr. Anis Obeid, Dr. Abduallah Najjar, Dr. Nadim Kassem, Dr. Hayel Said, Dr. Wahbe Sayegh, Dr. Intissar Assam, Dr. Foazi El-Barouki, and Dr. Souraya Aboulhosn. Casey Kasem was introduced by Nezar Andary to address the Young American Druze on “ Growing up Arab American”. Representatives of the Arab American community namely ADC and NAAA also addressed the convention on issues related to the unification of the Arab American community. Ambassador Nassib Lahoud of Lebanon was the main speaker at “President’s Night.”

Another organization, the American Druze Foundation (ADF), was established with tax-exemption status. The ADF’s main goal is to raise funds to sponsor programs designed to introduce and preserve the richness of the Druze culture and religious traditions amongst American Druze and other Americans. Dr. Wahbe Sayegh and the Committee on Religious Affairs published Book Four of the Tawhid Faith titled “Pioneers and their Shrines.”