Author Topic: A Look at Jacksonville’s Arab American Community  (Read 11488 times)

camarocane

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 269
Re: A Look at Jacksonville’s Arab American Community
« Reply #15 on: December 01, 2015, 12:49:44 PM »
A Look at Jacksonville’s Arab American Community


With Syria and the ongoing refugee crisis in the news, Metro Jacksonville turns to the history and impact of Jacksonville’s Syrian and Arab community. The River City boasts the country’s fifth-largest Syrian population, and the tenth largest overall Arab American community. From politics to business to the culinary arts, Arabs have been making their mark in all areas of life in Jacksonville for 125 years.

Read More: http://www.metrojacksonville.com/article/2015-dec-a-look-at-jacksonvilles-arab-american-community

Great read! Just found my great-grandfather in the '24 city directory, he must have been one of the 81 Syrian grocers.

spuwho

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 5104
Re: A Look at Jacksonville’s Arab American Community
« Reply #16 on: December 01, 2015, 04:37:35 PM »
I have been looking forward to an article like this for a long time. Thanks for creating this. Much appreciated

Thanks, spuwho!

Are you Bill Delaney?

I have to echo Spuwho's comments. It's an interesting aspect of Jacksonville that is one of the things that makes the city what it is.

It's one of those culturally unique things about Jax's true identify that most tend to glaze over.

I drive by the Ramallah and Salaam Clubs almost everyday.  I have always wanted to know how they came to be and what they do.

BennyKrik

  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Posts: 80
  • For me to PoupOn!
Re: A Look at Jacksonville’s Arab American Community
« Reply #17 on: December 01, 2015, 04:45:32 PM »
Was the act of stuffing pita bread with deli meat and other items invented in Jacksonville?

Can't figure it out. I had stuffed pita breads in many states and many countries but someone says the idea was invented in Jacksonville?

Tacachale

  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 7818
Re: A Look at Jacksonville’s Arab American Community
« Reply #18 on: December 01, 2015, 05:02:25 PM »
Spuwho, this is a great Times-Union article on the Salaam Club, formerly the Syrian American Club. It's not too long, so I hope they don't mind if I post the whole thing.

Quote
Jacksonville's Salaam Club to celebrate 100 years of promoting Arab-American culture
By Beth Reese Cravey Thu, May 3, 2012 @ 8:32 pm | updated Fri, May 4, 2012 @ 6:16 am

When Sylvia Yazgi's son started kindergarten in Jacksonville many years ago, he met other children with similar-sounding names and similar appearances. So he proclaimed them his cousins.
The fact that his heritage was Syrian and theirs was Palestinian or Lebanese and there was no chance of them being cousins was beside the point.

"He was convinced they were blood related because they had Arabic names," Yazgi said. "They have a kinship ... It opens up their minds to accept other people."

That kinship was nourished at the Salaam Club, the Arab American cultural hub founded in 1912 in Jacksonville as the Syrian-American Club of Florida. Among the 69 charter members was Yazgi's great-grandfather's uncle.

Subsequent generations of their family and other Arab Americans made the club their second home. Sylvia Yazgi, 63, has fond memories from her childhood of Christmas and Easter events, pageants, picnics at an area dairy farm, games and all sorts of other club-related activities — and her children have carried on the tradition.

"As long as I've been around, we've been members of the Salaam Club," she said. "It was really exciting to be around all those people. We have grown up and passed it on. ... A lot of really great memories."

On Saturday, the 119 families who are current members of the club will celebrate its 100th anniversary at the Omni Hotel. The event will feature a "hafli" — an Arabic-themed party, with music and dancing — as well as dinner and a slide presentation showcasing the club's history. About 425 people, including political and community leaders, are expected; tickets are no longer available.

The club was begun as a support group of sorts for the small but growing number of Arab immigrants who came to Jacksonville in the early 1900s seeking religious and political freedom.

In 1905, an estimated 69 Syrians had settled here; by 1920, their number had risen to 333, according to U.S. Census figures.

They were surrounded by an unfamiliar language and culture. The club helped them adjust to the new and preserve the old. And it is playing the same role in the 2000s, as new generations of Arabs seek modern-day religious and political freedom.

An estimated 7,606 people in Duval County claimed Arab ancestry in the Census Bureau's 2006-10 American Community Survey.

Now and in 1912, Arab-American children learn English in school and learn the Arabic language from their immigrant parents and grandparents, who are in turn learning English from the children.

"A lot of the parents are still learning English, the kids are learning both. It's assimilation starting all over again," Yazgi said.

That ongoing assimilation includes expanding opportunities for women.

For most of its 100-year history, the club was male-dominated but began to admit women as full members in their own right — as opposed to being someone's wife — in 1981.

And in 2007, the club elected its first woman president.

beth.cravey@jacksonville.com, (904) 359-4109

http://jacksonville.com/news/metro/2012-05-03/story/jacksonvilles-salaam-club-celebrate-100-years-promoting-arab-american

As the club's former name suggests, it was founded to serve the Syrian and Lebanese community, though it has expanded. Many of the families go back to the first Arab immigration from Ottoman Syria, while others are more recent arrivals. The club provides community space and organizes social, cultural, and charity events. Early on there was also a Syrian Ladies Charity Society and Homs Women's Charity Club. Salaam Club was originally a men's club, but like most other social clubs it has become coed. Memberships are by family, and there are now several hundred members.
« Last Edit: December 01, 2015, 05:09:32 PM by Tacachale »
Do you believe that when the blue jay or another bird sings and the body is trembling, that is a signal that people are coming or something important is about to happen?

Tacachale

  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 7818
Re: A Look at Jacksonville’s Arab American Community
« Reply #19 on: December 01, 2015, 05:11:02 PM »
Similarly, the Ramallah Club was founded by people from the town of Ramallah, Palestine. These families started arriving in the second wave of Arab immigration to Jacksonville, which occurred after the Ottoman Empire collapsed in the 1920s. Like the Salaam Club, the Ramallah Club provides a community space and organizes cultural and charity events for members. There are apparently 500 families registered in Jacksonville and elsewhere. Here's the text from the club's website:

Quote
History
The History of The Ramallah-American Club of Jacksonville
By John Rukab with contributions from Joy Batteh-Freiha

The early settlers from Ramallah were young men – fathers, sons, brothers, and cousins – who started arriving in Jacksonville, Florida in the 1920s and 1930s. They found work as salesmen, and some eventually opened businesses. Later, many joined various branches of the military serving their adopted country. Many would journey back and forth to Ramallah.

Those men found life in Jacksonville to be similar to Ramallah, and encouraged relatives living in Ramallah, as well as other U.S. cities, to join them in Jacksonville – and many of them did. Just like in Ramallah, the families gathered in each other’s homes – holding meetings and activities.

As the community grew, the idea of forming a Ramallah Club where all the relatives could gather and stay in touch first surfaced in the late 1940s. But it wasn’t until in 1953, when the pioneers of our community agreed to formally constitute the “Ramallah Club.” In 1954, it was chartered as a cultural, social, educational, and charitable organization with a membership of 52 Ramallah men. Officers were chosen among the membership.

As the Ramallah community steadily grew, so did the membership and justification for a permanent home or “Club house” for its members.

In 1959, pooling their resources together, the men of various families from Ramallah purchased property with an existing structure for its first clubhouse on Atlantic Boulevard in Jacksonville. In subsequent years, a banquet/meeting hall was added and additional land adjacent to the building was purchased.

This first clubhouse was a structure we often called “home.” It afforded our community to gather and mingle, hold picnics, weddings, engagements and other social activities. Many of our first generation children grew up at this Club. It was a true testament of the drive and determination of the families of Ramallah, to uphold our traditions and preserve our culture.

Envisioning even more growth, the membership purchased 5 acres of land on Parental Home Road on Jacksonville’s Southside in 1975, with the intention to construct a new and modern facility to accommodate the growing membership.

In one of the proudest moments in our Club’s history, our devoted members gathered one evening and one-by-one, stepped up and donated more than $50,000 to begin construction on the new clubhouse.  Beaming with pride, young and old came to witness the opening dedication ceremony on October 29, 1977.

Today, nearly 60 years after our founding, the Ramallah-American Club of Jacksonville boasts a membership of almost 500 families. For decades, our Club has served as a link to our ancestral home of Ramallah. From generation to generation, our families come to “the Club” to celebrate, dedicate, and honor each other in good times and sad times.

We are thankful for the vision and insight of those early settlers. Our Club is one of the most active chapter clubs of the American Federation of Ramallah, Palestine.  And we are a community partner with many of members giving of their time and talents to benefit numerous charitable organizations.

Our Club will continue extensive renovations to accommodate even more growth.  Today, we are the visionaries for our children, and the promoters of our rich heritage.


http://www.ramallahclubjax.com/history
Do you believe that when the blue jay or another bird sings and the body is trembling, that is a signal that people are coming or something important is about to happen?

spuwho

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 5104
Re: A Look at Jacksonville’s Arab American Community
« Reply #20 on: December 01, 2015, 09:10:31 PM »
Thanks Tach for looking this up for me.

I think this stuff is cool because they embraced their new home and in a great way maintained their familial past. This is what makes Jacksonville unique in many ways.

I am somewhat familiar with the Church of the Nazarene - Arabic. They meet up on 2130 University Boulevard North. Many are of Syrian, Lebanese or Jordanian backgrounds. Rev. Abdo has been running that church for many years.


Tacachale

  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 7818
Re: A Look at Jacksonville’s Arab American Community
« Reply #21 on: December 02, 2015, 10:57:03 AM »
This book contains a chapter on the Arab community in Jacksonville, which has the awesome title "Jacksonville: As Salaam Aleikum Y'all". The book is Taking Root, Bearing Fruit: The Arab-American Experience, edited by James Zogby, 1992, and can be read online here: http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED361274.pdf
Do you believe that when the blue jay or another bird sings and the body is trembling, that is a signal that people are coming or something important is about to happen?

Dog Walker

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3940
Re: A Look at Jacksonville’s Arab American Community
« Reply #22 on: December 02, 2015, 04:23:00 PM »

Whether some says their family is Syrian, Lebanese or Palestinian often depends on when their family came to this country.  If before WWI they will identify as Syrian since all of those areas were part of Greater Syria.  After WWI the British split Greater Syria into the parts we are familiar with now.

All of those families have helped make Jacksonville unique and more cosmopolitan than most Southern cities. 
When all else fails hug the dog.

spuwho

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 5104
Re: A Look at Jacksonville’s Arab American Community
« Reply #23 on: December 02, 2015, 06:30:37 PM »
This book contains a chapter on the Arab community in Jacksonville, which has the awesome title "Jacksonville: As Salaam Aleikum Y'all". The book is Taking Root, Bearing Fruit: The Arab-American Experience, edited by James Zogby, 1992, and can be read online here: http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED361274.pdf

Good read. Thanks again for sharing, I enjoyed it.

Redbaron616

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 182
Re: A Look at Jacksonville’s Arab American Community
« Reply #24 on: December 02, 2015, 07:23:17 PM »
Sad that now, with lots of Syrians coming to the US, Syrian Christians have been shown the back of the bus figuratively.

Adam White

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3545
    • Facebook
Re: A Look at Jacksonville’s Arab American Community
« Reply #25 on: December 02, 2015, 07:25:57 PM »
Sad that now, with lots of Syrians coming to the US, Syrian Christians have been shown the back of the bus figuratively.

How so?
“If you're going to play it out of tune, then play it out of tune properly.”

camarocane

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 269
Re: A Look at Jacksonville’s Arab American Community
« Reply #26 on: December 02, 2015, 09:36:53 PM »
Sad that now, with lots of Syrians coming to the US, Syrian Christians have been shown the back of the bus figuratively.
Don't know what you mean by this, but I'm still at the front  ;)

Tacachale

  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 7818
Re: A Look at Jacksonville’s Arab American Community
« Reply #27 on: January 28, 2016, 05:34:22 PM »
Spuwho, I thought you might enjoy my notes on the religious organizations serving the Arab-American community locally. We have churches and mosques representing most of the faith groups of the Arab world.

Catholics:
*Latin Catholics, what people typically think of as "standard" Catholicism, as opposed to Eastern Catholics. Many if not most Catholics in Jacksonville attend Latin Catholic churches.
*Maronites, an ancient Eastern Catholic church from Lebanon, founded by St. Maron in the 4th century. Jacksonville has one Maronite church, St. Maron Catholic Church.
*Syriac Catholics, an offshoot of the Syriac Orthodox Church [see below] that entered the Catholic communion in 1662, mainly found in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Kuwait, and the diaspora. Jacksonville has one Syriac Catholic church, St. Ephrem Syriac Catholic Church.
*Melkite Greek Catholics, an offshoot of the Eastern Orthodox Church that entered the Catholic communion in 1729, mainly found in Lebanon, Syria and the diaspora. I'm not aware of a Melkite Greek Catholic congregation in Jacksonville.

The bulk of the early immigrants were Eastern Catholics. By and large, they attended Immaculate Conception downtown in the early years. In 1920, Holy Rosary Catholic Church opened, and it offered Syriac-rite masses for Arab parishioners. Several other churches have done the same, and the national Eastern Catholic hierarchies sent clergy to perform services. Eventually, the Eastern Catholic population grew to the point they could support their own congregations. In 1987, St. Ephrem Syriac Catholic Church was founded, now on Kernan Blvd. In 2001, St. Maron Catholic Church (Maronite) was founded on Bowden Road, and was expanded in 2011. Though both churches are technically part of their own diocese, they have very close relations with the Latin Catholic Diocese of St. Augustine.

Eastern Orthodox Christians:
*Greek Orthodox Christians, the primary Orthodox body of Greece and the Greek diaspora. Historically, most Eastern Orthodox Arabs in Jacksonville attended the local Greek Orthodox churches.
*Antiochian Orthodox Christians, an Eastern Orthodox church mainly in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Iran and the diaspora. Jacksonville has one Antiochian Orthodox church, St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church.
*Orthodox Church of Jerusalem Christians, an Eastern Orthodox church mainly in Palestine, Israel and Jordan and the diaspora. Some of the early immigrants were evidently members of this church; today their descendants largely attend St. George's.

Eastern Orthodox Christians were the next largest group of early immigrants. Though there was no Orthodox Church in Jacksonville at the time, Orthodox priests periodically visited to hold services for the growing Greek and Syrian community, starting in 1907. In 1916, St. John the Divine Greek Orthodox Church was founded and became the primary Eastern Orthodox Church in the region. It is currently located on Atlantic Blvd. near St. Nicholas. There’s a second Greek Orthodox Church, St. Justin Martyr, on Old St. Augustine Road. Most Arabs of Eastern Orthodox backgrounds (including Antiochian and Orthodox Church of Jerusalem Christians) attended these churches, and in 1973 a visiting priest started Antiochian Orthodox services in local institutions. In 1974, St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church was established and has become the main Eastern Orthodox church for the local Arab community. The congregation keeps strong ties with St. John the Divine.

Syriac Orthodox Christians: Despite the name, the Syriac Church is not an Eastern Orthodox church, but is independent. Members are mostly from Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, and the diaspora, and there’s a large branch in India, of all places. Jacksonville has one of the few Syriac Orthodox churches in the U.S., Mother of God of the Zunoro Syrian Orthodox Church. It was established in the 1990s on Mandalay Road in Glynlea. The Syriac Catholic Church is an offshoot of the Syriac Orthodox Church; Jacksonville has a congregation of this church as well.

Coptic Christians: An independent Christian church from Egypt and the diaspora. More recent immigration has given Jacksonville a Coptic Christian church, St. Demiana Coptic Orthodox Church, founded in 2006 on Bernard Road in Pecan Park.

Protestant Christians
A sizable number of Jacksonville’s Arab community are Protestants. British missionaries brought Protestant faiths to Syria in the 19th and 20th century, the same time that immigration started to Jacksonville. Tommy Hazouri’s family, for instance, were (and are) Presbyterians. It’s possible that other early Arabs converted from different faiths to Protestantism after they arrived in Jacksonville. Hazouri’s uncle A.E. Hazouri founded the Jacksonville Syrian (later Mount Olive) Presbyterian Church, which served the Arab community for many years. Today, Arab Protestants attend a variety of local churches. There is a Church of the Nazarene – Arabic congregation, and possibly others.

Sunni Muslims
The largest Muslim denomination worldwide is by far the largest in Jacksonville as well. It’s likely some number of the early immigrants from Syria were Muslims, but it was several decades before there were organized Muslim congregations in Jacksonville. Muslims from across the Middle East came to Jacksonville in larger numbers starting in the 1950s and 1960s, the beginning of the third and current wave of Middle Eastern immigration to the city. In 1978, a diverse group of Muslims came together to establish the Islamic Center of Northeast Florida. After several years of fundraising it broke ground in 1984, and soon became the most prominent mosque in the city. In 2009 the building was finally completed with the addition of gold domes. The congregation is very diverse and members come from a variety of backgrounds. Most members are Sunni, though some are Shi’a. Other mosques primarily serving Sunnis include the Baymeadows Islamic Center, the Islamic Center of Orange Park, and the Islamic Center of St. Augustine.

Shi'a Muslims: The second-largest Muslim denomination. There's a smaller number of Shi'a in Jacksonville; many attend other mosques like the non-denominational Islamic Center of Northeast Florida. Recently, Shi'a Muslims founded the Al Zahra Islamic Center of Jacksonville on Arlington Road.

It's also possible that Jews and Armenian Christians from the Middle East were among the early immigrants (Jacksonville has had a vibrant Jewish community since before the Civil War, and there's now one Armenian congregation, but I don't know if any came from the Middle East specifically).
Do you believe that when the blue jay or another bird sings and the body is trembling, that is a signal that people are coming or something important is about to happen?

spuwho

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 5104
Re: A Look at Jacksonville’s Arab American Community
« Reply #28 on: January 29, 2016, 10:54:57 AM »
Thanks for the recap Tach, very helpful.

I drive by the Syriac and the Maronite churches almost daily and had to look up the Syriac backstory when they were under construction.

I love the diversity these fellowships bring to the city.