Below is the official letter we sent to then Governor James McGreevy asking for his support to establish the Arab Heritage Commission. See related stories
May 20, 2004
Governor James McGreevy Trenton, NJ
Re: New Jersey Arab Heritage Commission
Dear Governor McGreevy:
I write to you today to seek your help in establishing a state commission to promote the cultural heritage of the citizens of New Jersey who trace their ancestry to the Arab world.
There are 250,000 Arabs in New Jersey, many of whom hold critical positions in business, public and private institutions. Arab American immigration to New Jersey began in the late 19th century. To our dismay, our significant contributions to New Jersey’s rich mosaic has been ignored, or at best forgotten. This, we believe must change.
We envision the commission to consist of 13 members and to become a permanent statutory body established in the Department of Education. The duties of the commission would include giving assistance to public and nonpublic schools on the positive contributions and achievement of Arabs and Arab-Americans in our society. They would also encourage recognition of those values, both cultural and historical, which are deeply rooted in the Arab heritage. The commission will be charged with the responsibility to develop and implement educational and awareness programs to educate our citizens about these important contributions. It is vital that our youth begin to understand the efforts made by other ethnic and religious groups within our society. Tolerance is born out of education and through education comes an understanding that the only way to truly be American is to recognize diversity and the advantages it affords.
Presenting many sides of diversity is imperative to giving our students a well-rounded and broad understanding of the world outside our borders. It is only through education and understanding, tolerance and acceptance that we will be able to work together toward a more peaceful and prosperous global world. I look forward to hearing from you soon.
The Commission, once established, will fulfill a much-desired dream of the Arab American community in New Jersey. We look forward to discussing this matter with you in person.
Aref Assaf, PhD
American Arab Forum of New Jersey, President
P.S. I am a member of the State’s Ethnic Advisory Commission.