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Assyrian American Oral History Project

Hello, everyone! I hope everyone is safe and well! This is Michael from the Will Library.

I have begun an oral history project with Assyrian Americans. Ruth Kambar, the author of Assyrians of Yonkers, is interviewing Assyrian-American community members with me. She created questions that pinpoint parts of Assyrian culture that I know little about. Her help is invaluable! 

 The first interview was with Matthew Multari, an activist and scholar. I found the interview to be enlightening. I learned (and am still learning) about Assyrian culture. History, holidays, religion, rituals, and language were articulated clearly by Matthew. He recited a prayer in Syriac, which I found to be impressive. I had never heard the language before!

A part of the interview that stood out for me was when Matthew talked about how he passed a resolution through the NY State Assembly that recognized the Assyrian Genocide. In this genocide, between 150,000-300,000 Assyrians were killed. The noble work Matthew did to make this recognized cannot be overstated.

Besides Matthew’s interview, Ruth and I have interviewed five other very interesting people. Each person has provided unique information and stories about their Assyrian American experience. 

John Ameer talked about the deep bond of the Assyrian community in Yonkers and the ancient Assyrian civilizations.

David Benjamin described Assyrian customs that he learned growing up in Yonkers and Assyrian cuisine that he enjoys.

Alice Aziz David talked her family’s experience during the Assyrian genocide in Iran and the pride she feels for her culture on Assyrian flag raising in Yonkers.

George Porhat provided amusing tales about growing up in Yonkers and interesting information about being in England during World War Two.

Scott Christian Sava talked about how Assyrian artwork has inspired his own works. The movie that he directed Animal Crackers was recently added to Netflix. 

Ruth and I will be interviewing more people this week. I look forward to hearing more interesting stories and learning more about the Assyrian culture. I will keep you updated!