Reach Out and Touch Somebody’s Hand

I had several assignments in the last two months to write about Heather Raffo’s play, Noura, for The Chaldean News. The play opened at the Detroit Public Theater earlier this month, but I initially watched it when it was being workshopped in 2016 at the Arab American National Museum.

Click the image below to read the article on Heather that I wrote for Arab America

And here’s one of the recently published Chaldean News articles you can click on to read as well.

In the process of covering her work this last month, I experienced the Detroit Public Theatre for the first time and met the wonderful people who work there. I was invited to join in a post-show discussion with Heather and a few others as a panelist (coming up on December 13 and December 18). I remembered when I was invited to do the same thing in 2008 for Heather’s play 9 Parts of Desire at the Performance Network Theatre, which unfortunately closed in 1981 after 34 years.

Meeting Heather this time around, we had a chance to spend quality one-on-one time together. I also had an unplanned meeting with Madelyn Porter, a warm, high-spirited, beautiful woman who works at the Detroit Public Theatre. Madelyn has worked as a professional storyteller/actor for the past 40 years. She and I sat at a table near the window with the sun shining over us. In this environment, the lobby area, we enjoyed a pleasant and productive conversation about various topics, including how our communities can work together. I walked away from it feeling inspired and truly happy about my work.

A few days later, Madelyn invited me as a keynote speaker at the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Prayer Breakfast held January 16, 2023. The theme is “Reach Out and Touch Somebody’s Hand.” The event is sponsored by the Concerned Women of Hamtramck in partnership with the Hamtramck Public School District. She wrote, “Your beautiful voice needs to be heard.” 

I was so honored and so touched. Minorities often feel that their stories are marginalized, and I think that for men and women from the Middle East, this feels especially true. Having a voice at all is a big challenge to begin with, given the regions we were born in. Telling our stories authentically requires a lot of courage. People who listen, who really listen, hear you because they are listening from their hearts and not just their minds. They have the wisdom to understand what it really means to reach out and touch somebody’s hand. And once they do that, they become examples for those they touch so that person can pay it forward. 

As we near the end of this year’s holidays, look at your year and ask yourself, “Who has reached out and touched my hand? What did that do for me? How can I pay it forward in the upcoming year?


You can also learn more about Heather in the 2021 interview with her on camera.


Every month, I interview remarkable individuals on a weekly basis for the Virtual Discussion Series in partnership with Unique Voices in Films, the Chaldean Cultural Center, CMN TV and U of M [Detroit Center].

Check out my YouTube channel where you can watch the interviews live and subscribe. Be sure to set reminders/alerts so you can stay updated on Live and uploaded content.

You can also now find me on Tik Tok, where I’m letting loose and sharing morsels of my life.

Upcoming Interviews for This Month


Living Tribal in a Democracy

“You’ve moved away from each other. You’ve torn apart your families, disassembled your smaller communities in favor of huge cities. In these big cities, there are more people, but fewer ‘tribes’, groups, or clans where members see their responsibility as including the responsibility for the whole. So, in effect, you have no elders. None at arm’s reach in any event.”

Neal Donald Walsh

I grew up dismissing the value of what my ancestry had to offer me, which was overshadowed by a patriarchal system that defines women from that point of view.  I was influenced by a young and modern generation that assumed they had life figured out, and as a result, tended to ignore the older generation’s way of thinking.

But shortly after I became a mother, things changed. I began searching into my personal genealogy and quickly became fascinated by what I discovered about my ancestors’ cultural identity, my “tribe” whose tribal ways date back thousands of years. Within a decade, I awoke to answers I’d been looking for: Who am I?  Who are my people? I already knew where I came from – Iraq, but the physical distance between that place and myself and the human misery associated with it, kept me from truly understanding and appreciating its ancient history, culture, and language.

My mother and I

My research shed light on my people, the Chaldeans, an indigenous Aramaic-speaking group whose lineage dates back to ancient Mesopotamia, and it shifted my views. In television and movies, tribal lifestyles are stereotyped as backwards or romanticized as mysterious and belonging to uncontacted tribes. I soon realized that if not documented, the rewarding side of this ancient tradition will be wasted. So in 2007, I began filming a documentary that included interviews and archival footage. I  interviewed my mother, sisters, nieces, cousins, and uncle’s wives about how it feels, as women, to live tribally in a democracy. They shared their perspectives, how, despite their assimilation to the westerner lifestyle, they continue to be connected to their instinctual tribal ways that most people repress in civilized life. They embodied an East-West wisdom that we are all in need of today. I called the documentary Living Tribal in a Democracy. 

Over a decade has passed since I began the documentary. Between raising my children, working on various creative projects, and caring for my elderly mother who lived with us, I worked on it sporadically. After my mother passed away in February 2019, I screened and discussed a ten-minute segment of my documentary at Wayne State University at an event called Creative Many. The story received positive feedback and the organizers encouraged me to continue with the project. That’s when I realized it was time to revisit and complete the work. The community’s cultural identity endangered, I felt it especially important to systematize the memories of its people and heritage.

This is when I realized that the story also needs to be written into a book that, similar to the documentary, explores the role that ancient Mesopotamia played in the birth of our contemporary culture. In this book, I show that, although women played a major role in building the cradle of civilization, the rulers of that region tried to destroy/hide that knowledge. This great loss has had consequences for the world. 

The book raises the following questions, which I myself, as someone living tribal in a democracy, struggled with for decades and went to great lengths to find the answers: Are tribal societies models for future societies? How can tribalism and democracy coexist? Would it do the world good to return to some of the old ways, with smaller communities, a higher regard for feminine sacredness, the family system, and the elderly? How can we learn from the ancients, who are often romanticized as warriors or noble savages and we assume live in faraway or remote lands, in the jungles of Peru or in restricted areas such as Indian reservations, and neglect to see their presence in our backyard? Are we aware they do live with us here today? What was the role of women in ancient Mesopotamia, where once upon a time, kings attributed their right to rule through their official marriage to the goddess?

My mother and her great grandson, Mateo

Some of this material became the topic of my book Mesopotamian Goddesses. The rest I bundled up in my upcoming book Little Baghdad: A Memoir About an Indigenous People in an American City, which will be published by the end of this year. As for the documentary, the completion and release of that project is still to be determined.  Meanwhile, it’s shelved among my umpteen projects that want to bring to memory the wisdom and importance of ancient ways which revered nature, feminine sacredness, and community. 

Once someone asked me why I felt I needed to write so many books. I thought it was a strange question. Would someone ask a surgeon why there was a need to perform operations on a regular basis or a teacher, or any other profession? Still, I reflected on that question and realized that part of the joy in writing my stories is the self-discovery that occurs in the process. How can you connect to the power of your own lineage and discover the richness, beauty and wisdom as well as the wounds and traumas that lie there? Your lineage doesn’t have to be physical heredity, but can be a spiritual lineage. Looking at your heritage will help you come to terms with and understand who you really are, what role you play in the story you’re in, and how to change, if you so desire. 


Every month, I interview remarkable individuals on a weekly basis for the Virtual Discussion Series in partnership with Unique Voices in Films, the Chaldean Cultural Center, CMN TV and U of M [Detroit Center].

Check out my YouTube channel where you can watch the interviews live and subscribe. Be sure to set reminders/alerts so you can stay updated on Live and uploaded content.

You can also now find me on Tik Tok, where I’m letting loose and sharing morsels of my life.

Official Audiobook Release of Pomegranate is Today!

We are thrilled to announce that the Pomegranate audiobook is now LIVE on Audible.com! Sandy, the Narrator, and I, the Author, worked very hard with all our hearts to make this project come to life and available for your enjoyment.

Listening to a book is a different experience than reading one. Hearing the story animates its characters and events. It activates the imagination in even more ways than reading with the eyes, soaking up the text and its nuances more effortlessly. If you think about how old storytelling is, it makes sense! The printing press was only invented just over 580 years ago, but humans have been verbally sharing stories verbally around the fire and the kitchen table for the majority of our existence.

This story has made a strong impression on people. It’s funny, it’s real, and it asks important questions. To give you an idea, our first audiobook reviewer said that it was like gaining access as though “a portal into a community.” The reviewer goes on:

About the book: This book was surprisingly fun. The story progresses quickly, and covers a lot of cultural territory. Some of the details were shocking to me, in a good way. The story veraciously captures the struggle between an individual will and cultural expectations. There were a few things that I did not understand, but the galloping tempo prevented me from getting hung up there.

About the narration: I was nervous at first, as the forward was a little stiff. But within a few minutes of Chapter 1, I knew I could relax and be carried away into the story. The humor in the work is extracted beautifully. The anger is captured precisely. The protagonist’s struggle to find and express her voice makes its way deep into the voice of the narrator in an amazing way. It’s clear that the narrator has “felt these emotions, felt these stories herself”. As a result, she delivers them earnestly. The narrator does a wonderful job remaining consistent between each character voice, which makes tracking dialogue effortless. I am very impressed.

We think it’s worth your time to explore Pomegranate, whether with the audio, ebook or print version!

The neat thing is that if you aren’t an Audible.com member yet, you can get the audiobook for FREE with a 30 day Audible trial.

Just CLICK HERE TO GO TO AUDIBLE, start the trial process, and get the Pomegranate audiobook!

And, if you do decide to explore Pomegranate, we would love and appreciate if you could leave an honest review.

By the way, if you’d like to learn more about the movie, Pomegranate, which is currently in post-production, you can check it out here: https://pomegranatemovie.com/

Creating the Audiobook for “Pomegranate”

A guest blog by Sandy Naimou

The births of my children gave me less and less reasons to travel.  The pandemic helped me to embrace being home-bound.  But now, my children were two thousand miles away and so was the comfortable quiet solitude of my home.  It was time that I take the next step in my life.

It was my first trip to the Krotona Institute in Ojai, California, where a small group of us were there to take on various projects that would keep us busy for the next year.  I was going to take a series of related classic texts written in the early 1900s and produce them into audiobooks.  Audiobook narration was that “next step in my life” and I was in the middle of producing Weam Namou’s book “Pomegranate,” which had to take a back seat while on this trip.

On the Krotona campus, the first early morning was still and chilly.  The rest of the residents were tucked away in their respective adobe-styled dwellings, but the birds were actively singing and fluttering about.  Michigan’s bitter January weather was behind me, but I was grateful on this first morning in the mild winter of the Ojai Valley that I had my light winter jacket where I could hide my hands away.

I walked through the Sanctuary of Connections on the campu, a garden for contemplation.  Step by step, my eyes sensed the newness in my surroundings.  At the start of the path a statue of a Lioness stood to greet those who entered.  Weathered, but revered, various offerings were placed around her majestic stance.  The plaque on her throne read:

“Touching the forehead of the lioness

Speaking the name of one who suffers

Forming the connection to nature

Embrace healing powers.”

Then I found I was moving to a statue to symbolize a world religion, and another statue and another.  Great traditions that hope to uplift humanity:  Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, Taoism, Sufism, Indigenous traditions, Hinduism, Theosophy, Judaism, Baha’i, Zoroastrianism, Jainism, Sikhism, Confucianism, and the teachings of Krishnamurti.

As I approached the end of the path, a small shining sphere caught my attention and brought me closer to the tree from which it hung.  I felt a deep connection to the tree before I realized what I was seeing and sensed it pulling me in, rather than being pushed by my own curiosity.  The sphere glistened within its small, bare, and modest foliage, the branches of the tree thin and the leaves spare.   I walked closer, still not knowing what it was.   There it was, the smallest pomegranate I have ever seen, and the only one I have ever seen on an actual tree.  The fruit’s skin had burst open, and its seeds were exposed.

I was surprised, no, I was astonished.   There I was, experiencing a parallel path with the fruit staring at me and my own life, and that moment moved the lines to create a clear intersection.

After deep soul searching in 2021, I realized that I wanted to shift away from teaching Yoga full-time to narrating audiobooks.  It was very much a “mid-life crisis” experience and through deep inner listening and self-observation, I began to realize this was the next step.  Although, when do we actually truly “know” this sort of thing? All we can do is be open to continue learning about what the steps might be.  For instance, when I began, I thought I would only be able to work on non-fiction books since I don’t read fiction and I’m not a trained actor.  And then it occurred to me that I was avoiding the things I had, once upon a time, loved to immerse myself in, but stopped doing when I was prohibited from going away to college to study acting.  I was avoiding fiction and I was avoiding acting.  When Weam was impressed with my initial reading of her book in October 2021, I realized that I couldn’t, and shouldn’t, avoid either one anymore.  

And standing there in the Sanctuary of Connections, looking at the little ruby red pomegranate, I understood that the steps I have taken through the garden of my life are moving me in the direction that I am to go. 

As a second-generation Chaldean-American immigrant, Weam’s book spoke to me, a book which I know quite intimately after multiple readings, recordings, and analysis. In portraying the characters, I was eventually able to incorporate their personalities within my own being, bringing me closer to these cultural roots.  

But more than that, the book spoke to me on a spiritual level, one that goes beyond imagined lines of nation, culture, religion, and gender.  Immersing myself in it, I was able to incorporate the character’s souls in my own being.  Their desires and struggles brought me to the Sanctuary of Connections within my own heart.  Weam’s experiences and the story she shares with us, helps us to see that these desires and struggles transcend all the societal labels, these imaginary lines, that we are exposed to everyday which make us feel separate from each other.  

For ages we have been trying to teach each other that we are all One, through traditions, religions, stories, and laws.  And yet, it seems that these teaching tools, in our limited ignorance, have been used to create divisiveness in our hearts and minds.  But there is hope.  And beautiful stories like “Pomegranate,” which holds within its center the Sanctuary of Connections, will help us create a future of Unity instead.  

Author Bio: Sandy Naimou has a B.A. in psychology & M.L.A. in women’s and gender studies.  She teaches Yoga, serves on the board for The Theosophical Society in Detroit, and, as you already know, is an aspiring Audiobook Narrator.  

https://www.sandynaimou.com/


Check out my YouTube channel to learn about this week’s guest, who I’ll be interviewing live. Subscribe to my channel and set reminders/alerts so you can stay updated on Live and uploaded content.

We are exploring the effects of global war and trauma during May.

Here’s the guest line-up for May 2022:

Interview with members of WISDOM

Paula Drewek, a past president of WISDOM, is a retired professor of humanities at Macomb Community College where she taught courses in the Arts and Comparative Religions for 39 years. She was a Fulbright Scholar to China in 2005, expanding her interest in Eastern Religions. Paula has been a Baha’i since her teen years and has spoken to many types of audiences about her Faith, both here and abroad.

Sameena Basha holds a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from U. of M. and a Juris Doctorate from the U. of Chicago. She has been involved in many outreach projects in Arizona, Illinois and Detroit. She has a keen interest in interfaith work and has served on the Interfaith-Outreach Committee of the Islamic Foundation Mosque in Illinois.

Teri Weingarden is the current President of WISDOM and the treasurer of West Bloomfield Township. She formerly has sat on the boards of her local Chamber of Commerce, her temple Sisterhood, Green Hope and for victims of war and poverty. She practices Judaism and is deeply passionate about her job and her community work.

Delores Lyons is a former Social Worker at State of Michigan Department of Human Services. Previously, she worked for WDIV Local 4 / ClickOnDetroit and WBFS-TV. She studied Sociology/Psychology at Saginaw Valley State University. Born and raised a Baptist, she started practicing Buddhism in her adult life.

Interview with Dr. Yasmeen Hanoosh, Author & Prof. at Portland State University

Yasmeen Hanoosh is the author of The Chaldeans: Politics and Identity in Iraq and the American Diaspora. Here’s a link to learn more about the book: https://read.amazon.com/kp/embed?asin…

She is a literary translator, fiction writer, and Associate Professor at the department of World Languages and Literatures at Portland State University, where she directs the Arabic program. She received her Ph.D. from the Department of Near Eastern Studies at the University of Michigan in 2008. Yasmeen studies the cultural politics and literary expressions in post-2003 Iraq, especially what concerns the country’s ethno-religious minorities. Her first monograph is entitled The Chaldeans: Politics and Identity in Iraq and the American Diaspora (Bloomsbury, 2019).

Her current research project focuses on the contemporary intellectual scene of southern Iraq. As a fiction writer, Yasmeen has published a short story collection, Ardh al-Khayrat al-Mal’unah (The Land of Cursed Riches, Al-Ahali Press, 2021). Her second collection, Atfal al-Jannah al-Mankubah (Children of Afflicted Paradise) has been translated and excerpted in several languages, including English, Spanish, and Italian. Her English translations of Arabic fiction have appeared in various literary journals and publications, including World literature Today, Banipal, ArabLit Quarterly, and The Iowa Review. Yasmeen’s translation Closing His Eyes (Abbas), received an NEA translation fellowship in 2010, and her translation of Scattered Crumbs (al-Ramli) won the Arkansas Arabic Translation Prize in 2002, and has been since excerpted in a number of publications and anthologized in Literature from the Axis of Evil: Writing from Iran, Iraq, North Korea and Other Enemy Nations (2006).

In addition to her scholarship, translation and writing, Yasmeen has been teaching the Arabic language and directing the Arabic program at PSU since 2010. She also teaches a wide variety of courses on Middle Eastern culture and literature, including Critical Perspectives on the Middle East (UNST), Oil Cities and the Arabic Novel (HONORS), the Arabian Nights, among many others. Before coming to PSU she taught at the University of Michigan (2002-2009), al-Akhawayn University in Morocco (2003, 2005); The American University in Lebanon (2004); The University of Virginia in VA (2003); and Wellesley College in MA (2007-2008).

Interview with Reni Stephan, Assyrian American Artist

Reni was born in Baghdad, Iraq in 1981. In hopes of a brighter future, his family decided to leave their home country when Reni was ten years old. This dream was made a reality as they entered the United States in 1993, and Reni was immediately enrolled in elementary school. At an early stage of his life, Reni discovered a profound love for drawing. His talent was undeniable and noticeable by his teachers.

During his high school years, art became Reni’s priority. Taking many classes in this field, his artistic interests swelled, and Reni began to realize that he could fuse his passion for art with the dedication he had for his ancestors’ culture he’d left behind. Reni pursued his college education in Creative Studies in 2005, where he furthered his reach and began painting and sculpting. Inspired by Western art, as well as legendary artists, Reni dedicated his life to his crafts. With each piece that Reni creates, he strives to remain true to his Assyrian and Babylonian heritage and ensure its survival through his portrayals. Not only does he seek to influence all generations of Assyrians, but he also hopes to inspire the people of the world.

In recent years, Reni has been commissioned to create several large artistic creations in places of worship, community organizations, and commercial establishments. His signature style speaks volumes about his creativity, and enforces his personal message that he echoes “I was born to re-create my ancestors’ art despite its destruction by ISIS.”

Interview with Dr. Rocco Errico, Author, Lecturer and Biblical Scholar

Dr. Rocco A. Errico is an ordained minister, international lecturer and author, spiritual counselor, and one of the nation’s leading Biblical scholars working from the original Aramaic Peshitta texts. For ten years he studied intensively with Dr. George M. Lamsa, Th.D., (1890-1975), world-renowned Assyrian biblical scholar and translator of the Holy Bible from the Ancient Eastern Text.

Dr. Errico is proficient in Aramaic and Hebrew exegesis, helping thousands of readers and seminar participants understand how the Semitic context of culture, language, idioms, symbolism, mystical style, psychology, and literary amplification—Seven Keys that unlock the Bible—are essential to understanding this ancient spiritual document. Dr. Errico’s publications include: Let There Be Light: The Seven Keys, And There Was Light, The Mysteries of Creation: The Genesis Story, The Message of Matthew, Setting a Trap for God: The Aramaic Prayer of Jesus, Sodom and Gomorrah: What Really Happened, Classical Aramaic Book 1. He is also the co-author, with Dr. Lamsa, of 13 Aramaic Light biblical commentaries (seven on the New Testament and six on the Old Testament).

Dr. Errico is the recipient of numerous awards and academic degrees, including a Doctorate in Philosophy from the School of Christianity in Los Angeles; a Doctorate in Divinity from St. Ephrem’s Institute in Sweden; and a Doctorate in Sacred Theology from the School of Christianity in Los Angeles. In 1993, the American Apostolic University College of Seminarians awarded him a Doctorate of Letters. He also holds a special title of Teacher, Prime Exegete, Maplana d’miltha dalaha, among the Federation of St. Thomas Christians of the order of Antioch. In 2002, he was inducted into the Morehouse College Collegium of Scholars.

Under the auspices of the Noohra Foundation, he continues to lecture for colleges, civic groups and churches of various denominations in the United States, Canada, Mexico and Europe. https://noohra.com/

Interview with Dr. Susan Adelman, author of “After Saturday Comes Sunday”

A pediatric surgeon, Susan Adelman has also been an editor, a president of many medical organizations, a painter, sculptor, jeweler, and now an author. After extensive travel – including many trips to the Middle East and India – she wrote the biography of a dear friend of hers and her law professor husband. This is Ram Jethmalani, a legendary lawyer, member of the Indian parliament, former law minister, writer, mediator of the Kashmir dispute and law teacher. Adelman’s husband called him the greatest lawyer in the English language in the world.

Her second book evolved out of her friendship with a Chaldean grandmother who she met while performing a series of operations on her nephew from Iraq. This became a book about Aramaic, those who still speak it today – Chaldeans, Assyrians and Kurdish Jews – and the impending doom of the Christians in the Middle East because of ISIS and related groups. At present, Adelman is working on a book about the deep connections between Jews, Israelis and India – linguistic, cultural, and historic – and their linkage through Zoroastrianism.

Watch the interview with Dr. Adelman and read the following Q&A:

Q: What is the book After Saturday, Comes Sunday about, and what inspired you to write it?

A: The book tells the story of the Aramaic language and the last living people to still speak it, the Chaldeans, the Assyrians, and the Kurdish Jews. It then turns to the challenges the Christians have had, and still have, in the Middle East and what we need to do to help them if they ever are going to maintain Aramaic as a living language.

Q: What did you discover throughout the process of writing this book, particularly in regards to the relationship between the Jews and Chaldeans?

A: I already knew a great deal about the closeness between the Jews and Chaldeans in the old country, because I learned much from the Karim and Norma Hakim family over the last forty years, but of course my research added much more to the picture.

Q: You wrote on page 45, “The greatest Jewish community of the ancient world was in Babylonia.” Tell us about that history, and how, little by little, it became extinct in Iraq.

A: The Jews first were brought to Assyria by the Assyrians in 722 BCE and next by the Babylonians in 586 BCE.  In each of these two exiles, thousands of Jews were deported to Assyria (probably Nineveh Province), then Babylon.  After the great temple was destroyed in Jerusalem in 70 CE, Jews escaped in all directions, many of them to join their countrymen in Iraq.  For hundreds of years, 90% of all Jews in the world lived in the Middle East, especially in Iraq, under Muslim rule.  This was a highly organized community, a center of learning, and the place where all the most important Jewish literature was compiled.  Baghdad was one third Jewish up to the Second World War.  That war, and the persecutions that took place in Iraq after the formation of the State of Israel, caused the Jews to flee to Israel.

Q: What are the differences between the Aramaic spoken by the Jewish people and that spoken by Chaldeans and Assyrians?

A: Aramaic is an ancient language, perhaps dating back to 1000 BCE, and over time it has undergone many changes, evolved, spread to many countries and communities, developed new dialects and in some places undergone changes that created a new language.  Several different scripts even evolved.  Different communities – Jewish, Christian and Muslim, Samarians, Mandaeans – developed their own variations, some of which are mutually intelligible and some not.  In some towns the Christians and Jews could understand each other and converse.  In other towns, even towns that were not large, the differences were so great between, say Syriac and Jewish Aramaic, that they could not understand each other.  The grammar stays the same in all of them, and they share this grammar with Hebrew and, to some extent, with Arabic.  I speak Hebrew and some Arabic, and this enables me to understand some Chaldean, but I suspect I am largely relying on the Arabic that is mixed into it.

 Q: After Saturday, Comes Sunday was your second book, and it’s very well researched. So is your first book Rebel: A Biography of Ram Jethmalani. What challenges did you face writing your books, given that your career was previously dedicated to the medical field?

A: The first book drew heavily on the many trips we have made to India and the over 40- year close friendship we have had with Ram Jethmalani.  I had heard many of his stories in real time, and what I had to do was research the details, the background and the legal cases.  The next book drew on the over 40-year friendship I have had with Norma Hakim and her family, and it also drew on my many trips to Israel plus my previous knowledge of Jewish history.  What I had to do, again, was to research all our respective histories, the differences between the different communities, the important people, and the major events.

Q: What message do you want your readers to take from your book?

A: In the last chapter I go through the needs of the Chaldean community if they want to settle again in their historic villages in Iraq, speak their language and keep their culture alive.  To do that, they need help from a superpower, and that power must be us.  They have done a great deal of work in putting together their issues and needs; now we need to follow their lead.

Q: Based on your research and observation, your intimate relationship with the Chaldean community, and your interest in world affairs, what future do you see for the Christians in the Middle East?

A: While I know that some of my Chaldean friends say that all that needs to be done is to turn out the lights, I am more hopeful.  I even am hopeful as I watch what has happened to the poor Maronites in Lebanon.  I even maintain hope when I see how the Kurds have been betrayed, and how they see themselves as competing with the Chaldeans for the same land. I think it will take a massive effort to reestablish a Chaldean community back in Iraq, and I think the diaspora will have to step up in an effective way.  Remember though, the Jews did it. In the end it may be hard to attract a lot of people to villages, but if there are places to go to, some may retire there, young people may visit, even stay, educational centers may be built, and tourism may develop.

Q: What future do you see for the Aramaic language?

A: The language lives on in the Jewish Babylonian Talmud, many Jewish prayers and in the Jewish religious schools all over the world.  I am pleased to see that the Chaldean churches are getting interested in teaching Chaldean and that there are websites and courses in Aramaic available now.  If Chaldeans and Assyrians continue to push this education, they plus the Jews can keep their respective versions of Aramaic alive.  Remember, Hebrew almost died as a spoken language until the State of Israel was recreated. Then the language was revived, words added from Arabic, English, French, German and Russian, and the grammar modernized.  If the Chaldeans could keep their community intact, they can do the same thing.

Q: Are you currently writing a book, and if so, what is it about?

A: Yes, drawing from my experience writing about India and about the Middle East, I am writing about what draws so many Israelis, and Jews in general, to India.  What are the deep and historic connections between us?  Do they go through Iran? Yes.  How are our Jewish, Hindi and Buddhist religions connected through the historic religion of Iran, Zoroastrianism?

Interview with Samira Cholagh, Author and Chef

Samira Cholagh’s childhood was spent in Baghdad, Iraq, learning to cook from the women of her family, growing her fascination and love of the culinary arts with each passing day. Drawn to cooking as young as age 10, she has been giving the gift of her extraordinary food to her family for years. She has also shared these talents with her community, and has begun building upon the establishment of a culinary empire – as an author, TV and radio cooking host and beloved member of her community – built on traditional, delicious recipes and foods crafted with an open heart.

Far removed from her time experimenting with her mother’s cooking utensils as a child, Samira’s degree in engineering – more specifically in soil testing – may sound like a far cry from the typical background of a chef, but the basics of both jobs mirror each other more than you’d think. Recipes require an attention to detail – much like engineering – and after penning three cookbooks, her talents and culinary abilities are more than proven. “Accuracy in following recipes from cookbooks can make a huge difference in cooking and baking,” says Samira. “When following a recipe – spending all that money to buy the ingredients, the time that is spent in the kitchen – you want to end up having a delicious dish.”