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Todd Fine
Todd Fine is a co-founder of the Save Washington Street effort and is founder and director of Project Khalid, a campaign to celebrate the centennial of the first Arab-American novel and to advance author Ameen Rihani’s reputation as an important Arab-American figure.

Entries by Todd Fine

The 'Mink Building' and Discrimination in Historic Preservation: Michael Henry Adams' Urgent Effort to Save Harlem

(0) Comments | Posted November 11, 2015 | 2:36 PM

Michael Henry Adams is a singular force in the New York historic preservation community. A Columbia-trained preservationist and local historian with encyclopedic knowledge of architecture and black history, he brings a passion and urgency to work in Harlem, driving far beyond simply writing letters and reports for the

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Reconstructing New York's Syrian Colony, Person by Person: Strangers in the West by Linda Jacobs

(1) Comments | Posted September 25, 2015 | 3:46 PM

In recent years, there has been a significant growth of interest in the Syrian Colony of the Lower West Side of Manhattan, frequently also called "Little Syria." This classic multiethnic neighborhood had a dominant Arabic-speaking influence from the 1880s to 1940s, and it served as the "Mother Colony" for the...

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Remembering Renée Moorad, Remembering Kahlil Gibran: Historical Continuity and Arab-American Activism

(0) Comments | Posted September 22, 2015 | 8:41 AM

Last week the Arab-American community in the United States suffered a significant loss. Civil rights lawyer and activist Renée Moorad of Oklahoma passed away from the rare cancer of liposarcoma. Renée was part of a cohort of young Arab-American activists whose importance it may take future historians to...

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Brian Williams Scandal Grants the 9/11 Museum a Second Chance

(1) Comments | Posted April 7, 2015 | 1:01 PM

For its controversial film that defines al Qaeda's motivations, the newly opened National September 11 Memorial Museum chose a narrator they believed would offer trust and authority: NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams. After Williams' recent suspension for lying about experiences during the Iraq War, his symbol no...

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Joseph Svehlak's Advocacy for 'Little Syria' and Washington Street

(0) Comments | Posted February 26, 2015 | 11:48 AM

With a new mayor of New York City and with the start of Meenakshi Srinivasan's term as Chair of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, the long-standing effort to protect the "Little Syria" neighborhood of Downtown Manhattan has reached an important juncture. While there was initially substantial optimism that the...

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"Little Syria" Shadows St. Nicholas Shrine at the World Trade Center

(0) Comments | Posted October 22, 2014 | 2:26 PM

On Saturday, October 18, New York politicians and Greek Orthodox clergy led a "Ground Blessing Service" for the construction of "St. Nicholas Shrine at the World Trade Center." Established in 1916 within an 1830s building, the original St. Nicholas church on Cedar Street was destroyed when the towers...

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Francesco Medici Publishes Italian Translation of First Arab-American Novel

(0) Comments | Posted October 6, 2014 | 6:36 PM

The first Arab-American novel, Ameen Rihani's The Book of Khalid (1911), has grown in visibility in recent years as people have returned toward it in exploring and considering the past and present encounter between the United States and the Arab world. A philosophical work that relates the migration of two...

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Fritz Koenig's Sphere: Michael Burke's Call to the 9/11 Memorial & Museum

(2) Comments | Posted June 12, 2014 | 5:27 PM

The National September 11 Memorial & Museum foundation, with its new museum recently opened in Manhattan, often speaks of its "stakeholders": family members of victims, survivors, first responders, recovery workers, local residents, historic preservationists, and government officials. However, there is an additional possible "stakeholder" that could be conceived...

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9/11 Museum Controversy Rooted in Bypassing Government Guidelines

(2) Comments | Posted May 5, 2014 | 4:15 PM

The September 11 Memorial Museum's disregard of the advice of its Interfaith Advisory Council regarding a film in its permanent exhibition has made national and international headlines in the last two weeks, yet few reporters have asked the crucial underlying question: What official guidelines set the mission of...

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The September 11 Memorial Museum's Moral Responsibility

(2) Comments | Posted April 16, 2014 | 5:57 PM

Sunday's shooting at a Jewish community center in Kansas reminds us of the violent anti-Semitism that stubbornly persists. For people of Jewish ancestry, the news activated deeply-seated anxieties and fears -- traces of the pogroms, genocide and everyday discriminations of the past. Even more troublesome for me, this disturbing event in the...

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Egypt's Fabrica to Perform U.S. Tour Through Yasmin Tayeby and Izdahar

(0) Comments | Posted January 21, 2014 | 11:56 AM

Next week, a very unique and talented group of Egyptian singers called Fabrica will be touring the northeastern United States and performing a musical theater version of Les Miserables in Arabic.

The initiative, however, is one of the launch projects of an interesting and ambitious new organization called Izdahar, founded by Yasmin Tayeby to promote artistic exchange between the United States and the Arab countries, Egypt in particular. Because of these creative purposes which blend with the visions of Ameen Rihani and the Mahjar writers of New York, I chose to interview Yasmin about her organization and the upcoming Fabrica tour.

What, in your view, makes Fabrica a unique and rewarding act for an American audience, and what is the significance of their Les Miserables performance?

While all of the performers in Fabrica are fantastic singers and musicians, there is more to the group than just their skill. These young adults are helping to enhance the arts scene in Egypt by organizing types of productions that are relatively new to Egyptian audiences. In the same vein, while the art of musical theater is very familiar to Americans, having a group perform in Arabic is a rare treat. The story of Les Miserables is well known, and the similarities between the French and Egyptian revolutions resonate even louder when the singers recite the lyrics in their native tongue. The great thing about this production, is that even though so many people have seen Les Miserables performed both on stage and on film, seeing it translated and performed by this group gives a fresh, new take to the classic.

How has the artistic scene in Egypt responded to the chaotic events of the last several years? Does art retain any role in trying to unify the country and inspire?

One of the best things that has happened since the 2011 uprising is the growth in freedom of expression. During those initial 18 days, protesters actually built a giant stage in Tahrir Square, and various singer-songwriters seized the opportunity to perform songs about oppression and human rights. Graffiti has also become a popular art form, and can be seen both on the streets and in art galleries around the country. Arabic hip hop is seeing a surge in popularity, as rappers have found a voice to express how they feel about the political and social circumstances. Through these earnest types of art, people are able to relate to one another and find commonality in belief. Many also feel that for the first time in as long as they can remember that there is a platform for them to address sensitive issues that were once too difficult to bring to light.

On the other hand, with Egypt's spiraling economy, the arts are becoming less and less supported. Annual arts festivals have had to shut down, venues are having trouble staying open, and artists are finding it difficult to support themselves doing what they love. Additionally, in the past few months, it seems that the country has started reverting back to its old ways. Freedom of expression is once again being stifled, and activists are being thrown in jail once again. Much of the country seems to be turning a blind eye to these acts, hoping for a return to security and stability.

What motivated you to initiate Izdahar and what are its core goals and objectives? What other projects do you hope to initiate?

After working for two years in concert promotions in Cairo, I decided to move to New York to work in the entertainment business. While working at a music management company, I found myself continuously drawn to Egypt and the Middle East, and felt that there was still so much that I wanted to do with artists in the region. It was actually Fabrica that gave me the final push that I needed. I saw their performance on Bassem Youssef's Al Bernameg, and decided that day to create Izdahar.

As a non-profit organization, Izdahar's main goal is to promote cultural understanding between the U.S. and the MENA region through artistic exchange. This art can come in any form -- be it music, visual art, film, or dance. Along with showcasing the artists that we work with, we also want to foster collaboration. With each project, we will always include workshops, master classes, joint events, or anything else that we feel encourages local artists and artists from abroad to work together.

For our next project, we are taking Grammy Award-winning cellist Eugene Friesen to Egypt where he will host a week's worth of workshops at the Cairo Opera House, ultimately ending in a collaborative performance. Another project that we are working on is a Middle Eastern pop-art festival. We plan on bringing over a number of artists from around the region to the United States to perform/exhibit in a multi-purpose venue. These artists include rappers, breakdancers, and graffiti artists from places like Tunisia, Egypt and Jordan.

Supported by Meridian International and the U.S. Embassy-Cairo, the performances will be free, and the venues include:

Jan. 20: Washington, D.C., Busboys and Poets (14th St Location), 10a.m.
January 24: Boston, Massachusetts, Emmanuel Church, 7:30p.m.
January 26: New York, NY, Leonard Nimoy Thalia Theater,...

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Malek Jandali: "The Voice of the Free Syrian Children" Speaks in New York

(1) Comments | Posted October 19, 2013 | 7:25 PM

On Saturday, October 26 at the Kaufman Music Center's Merkin Concert Hall in Manhattan, the well-known Syrian-American pianist Malek Jandali will perform a benefit concert to bolster aid to Syrian children through the organizations Save the Children, UNICEF and others. Seeing an Arab-American artist...

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Obama Meeting Emphasizes Need for Urban Debate in D.C. Public Schools

(0) Comments | Posted August 27, 2013 | 11:08 AM

On Monday, August 26, President Barack Obama met in the Oval Office with eight of the top high school debaters in the country that participate in "urban debate leagues." Urban debate leagues, or UDLs, are nonprofit organizations that support scholastic debate programs and organize tournaments in urban districts....

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Özge Dogan's Documentary, The Sacred, Reveals Sense of Loss in New York's "Little Syria"

(0) Comments | Posted July 30, 2013 | 6:11 PM

Inspired by the efforts of the "Friends of the Lower West Side" and the Save Washington Street coalition to protect the last traces of Manhattan's Little Syria neighborhood, Turkish director Özge Dogan completed an extraordinary documentary film called The Sacred in 2012. Pursued while she obtained a

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Washington Street Plaza in 'Little Syria' Should Be Opportunity for New York

(1) Comments | Posted May 20, 2013 | 4:54 PM

While the delays and debates associated with the World Trade Center site, and their political and real estate implications, have been chewed over to exhaustion, lesser attention is given to the impact on the surrounding historic neighborhood and the people who live there.

And the Lower West Side of Manhattan,...

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Qatar Conference on Scholastic Debate Examines Activity's Role in Empowerment

(1) Comments | Posted January 8, 2013 | 1:30 PM

With the end of the Cold War and the globalization of civil society practices, scholastic competitive debate -- both high school and college -- has become increasingly internationalized. The British parliamentary style continues to spread in global participation, and American debate minds -- rhetoric scholars, coaches, and successful debaters --...

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'Little Syria' Exhibit Opens at Arab American National Museum

(2) Comments | Posted December 7, 2012 | 5:03 PM

On December 7, the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, Michigan inaugurates an exhibit on a fascinating topic that forms the foundation of Arab-American history: the Little Syria neighborhood of Lower Manhattan. The Museum, in a few short years since its opening in 2005, has become...

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Finding the 'American' Kahlil Gibran: Renée Moorad and the ADC Commemorative Stamp Campaign

(0) Comments | Posted December 5, 2012 | 3:19 PM

Despite having lived most of his life in the United States, the worldwide memory of writer Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931) is quite disconnected from grounding in place. And given the purposefully eternal and spiritual qualities of his work that transcend petty expressions of nationalism, we might say this is fully appropriate!...

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Children's Art Exhibition Comes to Brunei: Trish Amichi's 'Big Ones Little Ones' Project

(0) Comments | Posted October 24, 2012 | 4:08 PM

When I was seven years old, I took a class at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts on masks, and on their role in traditional art and in history. As part of the curriculum, I painted a series of masks which were, fortunately, later chosen by the Institute to be displayed...

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Congress Should Pass Resolution Celebrating Arab-American Literature

(0) Comments | Posted September 25, 2012 | 1:16 PM

In the wake of the riots and killings apparently prompted by a schlocky video about the Prophet Muhammad, American officials seem either enraged or puzzled about how a symbolic cultural product could so powerfully interfere with American policy in the Middle East and North Africa.

Yet, in an era when...

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