The purpose of the panel is to inform the public about the Syrian Refugee Crisis’ origin and global impact. The panel will provide an opportunity for individuals and organizations to learn how they can be helpful to Syrians and others who have been displaced from their country by the ravages of war. Of special interest, will be a consideration of issues facing people who are seeking to find refuge in Orange County. The panel will emphasize the humanitarian dimensions of the crisis, rather than its geopolitical implications.
Moderator: Rabbi Arnold Rachlis, Rabbi of University Synagogue
RABBI ARNOLD RACHLIS is the spiritual leader of University Synagogue. Born in Philadelphia, Rabbi Rachlis received a BA from the University of Pennsylvania, an MA from Temple University and ordination and Doctor of Divinity degree (honoris causa) from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. Rabbi Rachlis has taught at Temple University and Spertus College, and has published scholarly articles, opinion pieces and poetry in a variety of publications. He has served in Washington, DC as a White House Fellow and as a Senior Foreign Affairs Advisor in the State Department. He has been a board member of MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger for 25 years, and served as its Chairperson.
Rabbi Rachlis was the youngest rabbi ever elected president of the Chicago Board of Rabbis and of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association. For nine years, Rabbi Rachlis hosted Of Cabbages and Kings on ABC-TV, as well as a syndicated television show on contemporary Jewish issues, Hayom. He has been a guest on National Public Radio, CBS, CNN and PBS, and has been interviewed frequently by The New York Times, Newsweek and Time. He was profiled in the award-winning documentary film, The Legacy, and has served as a Judaica consultant for Compton’s Encyclopedia.
Dania Alkhouli, Co-Founder A Country Called Syria
DANIA AYAH ALKHOULI is a Syrian American poet, writer and author. She obtained Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology at 19 and a Master’s in Public Policy and Administration at 22 from Cal State Long Beach. Dania has worked across a diverse spectrum, from youth mentorship and leadership development to event coordination and healthcare management.
In 2012, Dania co-founded A Country Called Syria, with her mother, an organization dedicated to educating on the history and culture of their homeland. Because of the Syrian crisis, Dania and her mother were eager to do something beneficial to shed light on Syria, the cradle of civilization, and its contributions to the world. Their organization has grown and expanded as an exhibition of Syrian treasures that has rotated across a variety of venues across Southern California, with the goals of touring the entire nation and soon becoming a stable nonprofit that not only educates the public, but also benefits the large number of Syrian refugees coming to the U.S. by supporting them with access to higher education.
Currently, alongside A Country Called Syria, Dania has been working as a full time Corporate Manager of Patient Experience in a California based healthcare company, while also writing a book on recognizing and overcoming domestic abuse, as well as continuously publishing posts on social and cultural issues in her blog Lady Narrator.
Kelsey Norman, UCI School of Social Sciences
KELSEY NORMAN is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Political Science at the University of California, Irvine where she researches migration and citizenship. She has spent the last three years conducting interviews for her research on migrant and refugee settlement in several locations across the Middle East and North Africa, and her dissertation is titled “Strategic Ambivalence: Migrant Engagement in Egypt, Morocco and Turkey.”
In 2013 Kelsey was a Critical Language Scholar with the Arab American Language Institute in Morocco and from 2014-2015 she was a visiting scholar with the Center for Migration and Refugee Studies at the American University in Cairo and the Center for Migration Research at Istanbul Bilgi University. Her studies are supported by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada doctoral fellowship, and also by project grants from the Project on Middle East Political Science (POMEPS), the Kugelman Center for Citizen Peacebuilding, the Center for Peace and Conflict Studies (CGPACS), and the Center for Research on Immigration, Population & Public Policy.
Her work has been published by peer-reviewed journals including the International Journal of Migration and Border Studies, the Refugee Review, Crossings: Journal of Migration & Culture and The Postcolonialist, as well as by media and policy outlets including Jadaliyya, Muftah, The Cairo Review of Global Affairs and The Washington Post.
Haroon Azar, U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Haroon Azar is the DHS Regional Director for Strategic Engagement in Los Angeles. Partnering with the City of Los Angeles in November of 2011, DHS established the first office of its kind in the nation. Mr. Azar’s primary responsibility is strengthening the department’s relationships with state and local law enforcement, government officials, faith-based organizations and community groups, academic institutions, and the private sector. His office partners with both government and nongovernment entities locally to advance the Department’s risk mitigation mission.
Previously, Mr. Azar worked as Deputy Director and Senior Policy Analyst for the Middle East, Africa, & South Asia in the Office of International Affairs at DHS Headquarters in Washington DC. His portfolio included providing the Secretary and other senior leadership with policy counsel and management of international affairs related to homeland security. Additionally, Mr. Azar was responsible for negotiating bilateral and multilateral security agreements with international partners focusing on improving immigration policy, visa security, aviation security, border security, supply chain management, and countering violent extremism efforts.
Mr. Azar received a Juris Doctor from the UCLA School of Law where he focused on the intersection of national security and international law.
Kinda Hibrawi, Director of Karam Foundation
KINDA HIBRAWI, is an internationally recognized Syrian- American painter specializing in the art of Arabic calligraphy. She has worked on various art projects with the U.S. State Department, UNRWA and UNICEF. She co-founded Zeitouna and KLP – Karam’s Innovative Education programs for displaced Syrian children. She has co-run the Zeitouna program in Atmeh, Syria in June 2013 and in Reyhanli, Turkey since December 2013. The United Nations named her a 2012 Global Thinker & Influencer at the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development. She is originally from Aleppo but grew up in Saudi Arabia and lives in Irvine, California. She has been featured on NBC News, BBC Arabic, Al Jazeera English, The Washington Report, Huffington Post and other media outlets.
Date: Tuesday, November 10, 2015
Venue: Pacifica Institute, Orange County
18022 Cowan, Ste 100, Irvine, CA 92614