Brooklyn’s proud Lebanese-Americans celebrate at Borough Hall

December 6, 2012 Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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The accomplishments of prominent Lebanese-Americans in Brooklyn were celebrated at Borough Hall during a ceremony hosted by Borough President Marty Markowitz on Nov. 28. 

“This year’s heritage celebration highlights the accomplishments of four great Lebanese New Yorkers; their devotion, love and the way they helped shape our community,” John Abi-Habib, chairman of the event committee, said in his opening remarks at the ceremony.

Three of the honorees were Dr. Ghassan Elcheikhali, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the general secretary of the Universal Muslim Association of America; Bishop Gregory John Mansour, bishop of the Eparchy of Saint Maron of Brooklyn; and entrepreneur George Altirs. The fourth, Jeanette Harouni, a famous Arabic singer, was honored posthumously. Members of her family were on hand to accept her award.

“The Heritage day in New York was founded by Borough President Marty Markowitz, myself, and a group of committed Lebanese Americans to embrace our culture, commitment to the community at large and instill our heritage in New York,” Abi-Habib said.

The reception also featured remarks by Markowitz and Majdi Ramadan, consul general of Lebanon.

Elcheikhali was born in Lebanon. His professional career has included a wide range of academic work. He was French instructor at Iona College and served as a sociology professor at the Nabatieh Institute in Beirut. He is currently the principal at the Razi School in Queens, one of the largest Islamic schools in New York.

Mansour was named to his current post by Pope John Paul II in 2004. The Eparchy of Saint Maron of Brooklyn was established in 1966.The Eparchy consists of 16 states on the east coast of the U.S. here are 70 priests, 25 deacons and subdeacons, and a communities of monks and religious women serving 40 parishes and missions.

George Altirs, is a software engineer and the co-founder of GMA Accessories Inc., a manufacturer and importer of apparel, footwear and fashion accessories for women and children.

He is also a majority shareholder in a software and construction company and is one of the founders of the Cedars Stars Academy, a professional soccer school.

Harouni, widely known as “Hanan, The Arabian Nightingale,” was often recognized during her career for her cultural and charitable contributions to the Arab-American community.

Hanan toured the world singing classical Arabic music throughout the Middle East and Africa and performed for Lebanese and Syrian immigrants scattered throughout North and South America.

She retired from her performing career in 1992. She died in 2011.

At the reception, Abi-Habib announced that the program would be dedicated to the 50th Anniversary of the founding of St Jude Research Hospital. The hospital, which treats children, was founded by the late actor and Lebanese-American Danny Thomas.

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