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Arab America Foundation Engages Over 25 Speakers and 450 Attendees at Connect Arab America: Empowerment Summit, November 4-6, 2022 in Falls Church, Virginia

posted on: Nov 9, 2022

The Arab America Foundation hosted its second in-person CONNECT Arab America: Empowerment Summit from November 4-6, 2022. During the entire Summit, the Arab America Foundation engaged over 25 speakers and more than 450 attendees.

The event featured an exciting array of speakers in public service, women’s activism, identity, community advocacy, engagement, and leadership. Moreover, participants had many networking opportunities and celebrated Arab heritage through music, entertainment, cuisine, and cultural and informational exhibits.

The Summit brought together Arab Americans from over 25 states and Canada. “Together, we are better, together we are stronger,” said Warren David, President of Arab America and Co-Founder of the Arab America Foundation.

The Arab America Foundation (AAF) is a non-profit (501c3) educational and cultural organization. The mission of AAF is to promote the Arab heritage, educate others about the Arab identity, and connect and empower Arab Americans with each other and with diverse organizations across the U.S.

Friday, November 4, 2022:


Dr. Amal David, Co-Founder of the Arab America Foundation with a team of dedicated volunteers at registration on Friday night, November 4, 2022

Nibal Malshi Concert

Nibal Malshi in concert with the New York Arab Ensemble directed by Qanunist, Firas Zreik

The festivities and Summit began on Friday night, November 4, 2022, in Falls Church, Virginia, where attendees were treated to a delicious buffet of Arab food at the Ahlan Networking and Reception Dinner at 6:00 pm. At 8:00 pm, we celebrated Arab classic music with an exciting concert performed by the New York Arab Ensemble directed by world-famous Qanun instrumentalist, Firas Zreik, and featured vocalists, Nibal Malshi and George Ziade who also accompanied Malshi on the Oud. In addition, Malshi, Ziade, and Zreik were joined by instrumentalists Zafir Tawil on Violin and Gilbert Mansour on Percussion. The attendees reveled in the opportunity to celebrate Arab classic music and their heritage by dancing the night away.

Attendees dancing during Nibal Malshi’s performance

After the concert, everyone got together to network and enjoy themselves in the hotel lobby. The attendees were even treated to an impromptu sing-along with Saturday night’s Gala/Hafla headliner, Karim Jaber, who lead the group in singing traditional Arab songs.

Saturday, November 5, 2022 (Summit):

On Saturday morning, Arab America Foundation’s guests enjoyed a traditional Arab breakfast

The exciting day of the Summit began with the Man’oushe, Foul, and Qahwa Networking Breakfast. Guests were treated to a wonderful and delicious Arab breakfast before the Summit day kicked off!

After breakfast, Org keyboardist, Abe Diab, played some tunes for the crowd to get in the mood before hearing the opening remarks given by Master of Ceremonies, Sara Shouhayib Alawar, an Emmy Award-Winning Journalist, Warren David, President of Arab America, and with Dr. Amal David, the Co-Founders of the Arab America Foundation. In addition, Issam Andoni, the Vice Chairman of the Arab America Foundation board and CEO of Zeva gave rousing and exciting remarks to open the Summit.

*Note: To view all the videos in the article, please click the play button (sideways triangle sign)

Sara Shouhayib Alawar, the Summit’s Master of Ceremonies

Morning Session:

Opening Remarks

Warren David, President of Arab America and Co-Founder of the Arab America Foundation

Issam Andoni, CEO of Zeva, Inc., and Vice Chairman of the Arab America Foundation Board

The Power of Confidence

Motivational Speaker, Nada Lena Nasserdeen, empowering and increasing the crowd’s confidence

The Summit kicked off with the first keynote speaker of the day as well as an interview segment. Nada Lena Nasserdeen, Founder and CEO of Rise Up for You, Author, Leadership, and Career Confidence Coach spoke about the importance of having “macro confidence as opposed to micro confidence.” In her talk, she described how we become experts in singular fields, but do not realize all the untapped potential we have inside to be successful that goes beyond what we trained for in life. Ameera David, WXYZ Detroit, ABC Anchor, and Emmy Award-Winning Journalist interviewed Nasserdeen about the areas that she sees Arab Americans struggle with in their professional lives, and in Nasserdeen’s words, the most widely-referenced area is self-confidence.

Arab Americans across the country have expressed their frustrations and struggles as they climb the career ladder or achieve next-level results in their personal and professional lives. Through this transformational talk, Nasserdeen dove into essential elements that are vital to building your success and confidence.

Nasserdeen’s motivational talk can be seen in two parts; her speech and then the interview portion with Ameera David.

The crowd listens to speakers at the Connect Arab America: Empowerment Summit. In the above picture, welcoming remarks are presented by Issam Andoni, Vice-Chairman of the Board of Arab America Foundation

Championing Change: Arab Americans on Identity and Community Activism

Identity and activism are two integral concepts that are important to Arab Americans. This diverse panel collectively brought decades of experience in promoting and clarifying Arab identity through education, activism, advocacy, and culture.

This “Championing Change” panel brought five esteemed speakers who are experts in their various fields. The moderator, Dr. William Lafi Youmans, is an Associate Professor of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University, Dr. Osama Abuirshaid, the Executive Director of American Muslims for Palestine, Dr. Debbie Almontaseer, Founder and CEO of Bridging Cultures Group, Inc., Maya Berry, the Executive Director of the Arab America Institute, and Abderrahim Foukara, the Washington, DC Bureau Chief at Al Jazeera.

The speakers talked about the Arab American identity and the importance of advocating for Arab rights. They also discussed the difficulties of being a minority–when you are stereotyped or generalized. The panelists also described their work with schools to promote Arab identity and increase representation in the curriculum and leadership. Finally, they described having a family without borders in the Arab culture, the importance of not conflating faith and ethnicity, and the necessity that all Arab Americans get involved with their local Arab communities.

Threa Almontaser

Threa Almontaser is an award-winning Yemeni poet, and the author of the poetry collection, The Wild Fox of Yemen. Almontaser (no relation to Dr. Debbie Almontaser) is originally from New York. She holds an MFA from North Carolina State University, where she also earned a TESOL certificate. She currently teaches English to refugees in the North Carolina area. Almontaser delighted the crowd with her exquisite poetry.

Yemeni American poet, Threa Almontaser, reads a poem at the Summit on Saturday, November 5, 2022

Recognition of Team Leaders:

The Arab America Foundation hosts advocacy teams in each state, and the amazing work would not be possible without the time and dedication to plan events, network, and engage in civic affairs of our illustrious volunteer Team Leaders who also serve as the backbone of the Arab America Foundation’s grass-roots network.

This segment was moderated by Warren and Dr. Amal David, the Co-Founders of the Arab America Foundation.

Congratulations to the following Team Leaders who were in attendance at this year’s Connect Arab America: Empowerment Summit and were recognized by board members and awarded a certificate and a medallion.

Ahmed Aly (Florida), Stefan Ateek (Texas), Maria Banou (Michigan), Khadija El Barkaoui (Maine), Naderh Elrabadi (Illinois) Yousef Elyassin (Oklahoma), Youssef Elzein (Ohio), Dr. Manal Fakhoury (Florida), Nabeleh Ghareeb (Michigan), Dr. Mahbuba Hammad (California), Hanan Ismail (Tennessee), Eynas Jarrar (New Hampshire), Aida Mady (Maryland), Hajar Moutawakkil (District of Columbia), Siroor Quhshi (New York), Mona Sadeq (Virginia), Rawan Saleh (Kentucky), Yaser Saleh (Tennessee), Osama Salous (District of Columbia), Fatmah Wasel (North Carolina), Lydia Yousief (Tennessee)

To read the bios of these team leaders, please click here.

Firas Zreik

World-famous Kanun instrumentalist, Firas Zreik, delights the crowd during his performance

The Summit crowd greatly enjoyed a segment of Firas Zreik’s performance on the Kanun.

Video Remarks from U.S. Congresswoman, Rashida Tlaib

The Arab America Foundation was pleased to accept remarks from U.S. Congresswoman, Rashida Tlaib who congratulated Arab America Foundation on its great success. She spoke about important issues that she’s dealing with nationally and in her local community. She also spoke about the importance of having Arab American representation in Congress as well as her continuous fight to protect civil and human rights in the communities she serves.

From the White House to Arab America: Issues Confronting Arab Americans

After Tlaib’s recorded remarks, the next panel, “From the White House to Arab America: Issues Facing Arab Americans,” kicked off.

This panel was made up of several Arab American advocates, hosted by Executive Director of the Arab American Institute, Maya Berry, and consisting of Johnathon Smith from DOJ, Roberto Ramirez from U.S. Census, and Fayrouz Saad from USAID.  The purpose of this panel was to advocate for issues facing the Arab American community, issues including international engagement, civil rights, civil liberties, combating hate and bias, and the addition of a MENA census category. Members of this panel were able to answer questions directly from Maya Berry as well as other members of the Arab American community, giving updates on the social research driving their initiatives and the policies they are pushing for thanks to continued advocacy. 

Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, a former student of Dr. Amal David and staunch Arab American advocate sums up the panel beautifully to preface the video. “The last few years have

The Best Among Us: Recognizing Arab American Rising Leaders

Zafeh Procession to Escort Awardees to Stage

Over the past few years, the Arab America Foundation has run contests that celebrate and recognize the achievements of young Arab Americans throughout the country. Every year, the Arab America Foundation hosts its 20 Under 20, 30 Under 30, and 40 Under 40 initiatives where young Arab Americans must apply, and then the winners are selected by an independent panel of judges. The initiative is coordinated by Nabeleh Ghareeb, Team Michigan Co-Leader, and a tireless advocate for Arab American causes.

This year, the Arab America Foundation recognized some Rising Leaders from years from 2021 as well as the current Class of 2022 for 20 Under 20, 30 Under 30, and 40 Under 40. The awardees were invited up on stage and presented with a medallion and certificate to celebrate their wins. All the awardees were celebrated with applause, cheers, and a special ceremony.

This segment was moderated by two activists: Najwa Dahdah, Founder/CEO of Empowered Child Care Consulting, Inc., and Omar Kurdi, Writer, Performing Artist, and Founding Member, Masrah Cleveland Al-Arabi.

To read the bios of the awardees, please visit the Arab America website.

Sahtein Networking Lunch

The Sahtein lunch provided opportunities to network with Arab American attendees from throughout the U.S. and tour exhibits. For lunch, the attendees were served a traditional Arab menu.

Attendees check out the exhibit hall during the lunch hour
Attendees were treated to exhibits as vast as artwork, food, mental health resources, and business/professional opportunities

Afternoon Sessions

The afternoon sessions were as informative and fun as the morning sessions.

The guests were able to engage with arts and culture, dance, business, and the recognition ceremony of the Arab America Foundation’s Trailblazers, a select special group of community members whose support, dedication, and volunteerism paved the way for our organization’s continued success.

Arab Org Keyboardist, Abe Diab

Arab Org Keyboardist, Abe Diab, provided memorable tunes for the attendees to walk back to their seats in the morning and afternoon sessions and between panels.

Yemen’s Heritage and Culture Group

Yemen’s Heritage and Culture Group

After lunch, the attendees experienced Yemeni culture through a dance performance by Yemen’s Heritage and Culture Group, a dance troupe all the way from New York.

Unleashing a New Era of Innovation: Silicon Valley’s Middle-Eastern Tech Talent

In the afternoon keynote session, Rama Chakaki, a Partner with Transform VC, discussed the transformative power of venture capital and tech by Arabs who work within Silicon Valley.

For decades our ancestors have migrated to the U.S. for prosperity, to flee war, or simply for new beginnings. As children of immigrants, we maintain a passion for our communities back home and a deep love for the U.S. and the communities who’ve embraced us. How do we give back to both? In this presentation, Rama Chakaki, of Transform VC discussed why Silicon Valley’s Middle-Eastern tech talent is unleashing a new era of innovation with the power to uplift billions of lives. As an international tech hub, Rama asserted that Silicon Valley is also an Eden of untapped technology founders who can have a transformative impact on the future.

Rola Zaarour

Comedian Rola Zaarour performed a routine that kept the audience laughing.

Empowered Women of Arab America: Arab American Women in Leadership

More than at any time in our history, Arab American women are rising in public service, professions, business, media, and the arts after decades of marginalization in mainstream America. Successful Arab American women discussed the various issues they have faced over the years in their communities and beyond.

This panel featured Iraqi journalist and broadcaster, Shameem Rassam as the moderator. The panelists included Dr. Lina AbiRafeh, Global Women’s Rights Expert and Senior Advisor for Global Women’s Rights. It also included Abrar Omeish, the At-Large Member, Fairfax County School Board, Jihan Andoni, CEO, Zeva Inc., and the President of the National Arab American Women’s Association (NAAWA), and Dr. Malek Ben Salem, a technology executive in artificial intelligence.

Iraqi American Playwright/Actress Heather Raffo Recorded Remarks

Playwright and actress, Heather Raffo, provided some insights into what it is like to be Iraqi American and some behind-the-scenes looks into her new play at the Detroit Public Theatre.

Recognition of Arab America Foundation’s Trailblazers

Arab America Foundation Co-Founders, Warren, and Dr. Amal David celebrate and recognize the “Trailblazers,” a select group of people who helped to plant the seed of the Arab America Foundation. On the right of Dr. Amal David is Board Member Linda Mansour and on her left is Board Member Dena Cranley. Present here are also Trailblazers Pierre Bejjani and Alma Korkor

Congrats to all the trailblazers who were innovators in carrying the mission of the Arab America Foundation:

Stefan Ateek (Texas), Pierre Bejjani (Ohio), Ed Chidiac (Virginia), Lily Karam (California), Reem Khaldi (Virginia), Alma Korkor (Ohio), and Fred Shwaery (Virginia).

Experiences in Leadership: How to Rise as a Leader

With the recent global pandemic and issues such as racial injustice affecting the United States, the task of being an empowered and engaging leader could not be more vital. During Arab America’s Connect Empowerment Summit, the Experiences in Leadership: How to Rise as a Leader Panel discussed the idea of leadership and what that means in today’s increasingly complex world. 

The panel consisted of Nada Lena Nasserdeen, motivational speaker and Founder/CEO of Rise Up for You, Rania Hoteit, Founder and Former CEO of ID4A Technologies, Raed Masri, Founding Partner of Transform VC and Co-Founder of Aixplain, Inc., Dr. Manal Fakhoury, Founder and CEO of Fakhoury Leadership, and Naheda Zayyad-Hussien, Prosecutor and Assistant State’s Attorney in Cook County, Illinois.

This esteemed panel discussed the changing role of leadership and emphasized the importance of purpose, communication, and connection. They also discussed their own personal leadership methods and how they keep their teams empowered and engaged. 

Strategy Meeting with Cousins and Yemeni Leaders Meeting

At the end of the summit, Cousins (paid members) of the Arab America Foundation and leaders in the Yemeni community gathered for two separate special interest meetings.

Saturday Evening Al-Rabitah Gala/Hafla

Arab pop vocalists Karim Jaber and Abir

At the event of the year, Arab America Foundation hosted a celebration featuring Arab cuisine, special recognition, live Arab music, and dabke dance. This Saturday Evening Gala/Hafla was a rousing success. Our guests enjoyed prolific speakers and an amazing performance from renowned Arab vocalist, Karim Jaber of Florida.

*Unfortunately, the iconic Moroccan pop star, Abir, was unable to perform at the Gala/Hafla due to illness.

Our guests then danced the night away on the Dance floor. In addition, the guests were entertained by Faris El-Layl Folkloric Dance Troupe, an expert Dabke group that performs routines at major local and national special events.

Faris El-Layl Folkloric Dance Troupe

Faris El-Layl Folkloric Dance Troupe

Featured Speakers: Dr. Fahed Hakim, Director of Nazareth Hospital, Dr. Adel Korkor, Chairman of the Arab America Foundation Board, and Rashad (Rush) Darwish, President of the Arab American Business & Professional Association of Chicago.

Program and Remarks

Warren David, President of Arab America and Co-Founder of the Arab America Foundation

Warren David, President of Arab America, and Co-Founder of the Arab America Foundation makes remarks, Saturday, November 5, 2022

Dr. Adel Korkor, Physician, and Chairman of the Arab America Foundation Board

Dr. Adel Korkor, chairman of the Arab America Foundation makes remarks at the Gala Hafla.

Dr. Fahed Hakim, Physician, and Medical Director of Nazareth Hospital

Dr. Fahed Hakim speaking at the Gala/Hafla at the Connect Arab America: Empowerment Summit on Saturday, November 5, 2022

Rashad (Rush) Darwish, President of the Arab-American Business & Professional Association

Rush Darwish, President of the Arab American Business & Professional Association makes remarks at the Gala/Hafla on Saturday, November 5, 2022

Summit Highlight

MVP Awardee Presentation to Mona Sadeq-Omar MVP (Most Valuable Person) 2022 presented by Nabeleh Ghareeb, MVP 2021

Last year’s MVP, Nabeleh Ghareeb, presents this year’s MVP award to Team Virginia Leader, Mona Sadeq-Omar

Mona Sadeq-Omar, Sadeq-Omar currently leads a team of over 60 Arab Americans promoting the organization’s goals and objectives in Virginia and nationally. Team Virginia was the host team for this year’s Connect Arab America: Empowerment Summit. She received her B.A. from Lebanese American University in 1980 and her MPA from George Mason University in 2002. She has extensive experience working for private and public sectors in finance and accounting. In addition to her activism with the Arab America Foundation, Sadeq-Omar has been actively involved and supportive of several non-profit organizations. In 2020, she became the executive director of the American Palestinian Women’s Association-APWA. In 2015, she helped co-found the National Arab American Women’s Association-NAAWA as treasurer and then president. She is a current board member of the Muslim Women’s Association. A proud Arab American of Palestinian heritage, and a long-time activist, Sadeq-Omar received the 2022 MVP Award on Saturday, November 5, 2022, at the Al Rabitah Gala Hafla. The award was presented to her by Nabeleh Ghareeb, 2021 MVP and Michigan Co-Team Leader.

Karim Jaber

Sponsors and Exhibitors

A huge thank you goes out to all our wonderful sponsors and exhibitors! Please click here to review our sponsors.

To view the photos from the Summit, please visit our Facebook page

Check out Arab America’s blog here!