Although the thoughts, ideas and dreams of many in our Arabic community date back many years ago, AABA’s true focus came about in 1974, when a group of American-Arab public-spirited citizens became aware that the needs of the American-Arab community in the Greater Boston area were not being met. These individuals, led by George Haddad, decided to form a Steering Committee, which met over the course of several months to formulate plans.
The Steering Committee, comprised of representatives from various churches, civic and fraternal organizations within the Greater Boston American-Arab community, was put in place to study the feasibility of creating an Organization, which would promote charitable, cultural, benevolent and educational endeavors within our ethnic community.
On February 12, 1974 the Steering Committee held its first meeting in the St. George Orthodox Church Rectory in West Roxbury, MA with the following individuals: Reverend Father George George, Reverend Father Joseph Lahoud, Reverend Nifon Abraham, Nicholas Abraham, John Byda, Ernest T. Chadie, Alice Easa, Emily Eknoian, George Haddad, Yvonne Hample, Judith Jabaily, Louise Jabaily, Thomas Jabaily, Louis Kfoury Jr., Monsour Laham, Dr. Jerold Owen, George Sabbag, Labeebe Saquet, Camille Sarrouf, and Dr. Samuel Thomas. This is considered to be the first formal meeting, which lead to the official formulation of AABA.
While subsequent meetings would officially approve by-laws, membership dues, committees and meeting dates, it was on March 31, 1974 that the first General Meeting was held at Our Lady of the Annunciation Cathedral. There, the organization approved the name of American Arabic Benevolent Association [AABA] and elected, as its first President, Dr. Jerold Owen.
Since the beginning there have been twenty-one(21) different Presidents of AABA, some individuals serving more than one term, but all charged with the responsibility of leading a group of volunteers to carry out the wishes of the American-Arabic community in compliance with AABA’s constitution, charter and by-laws.
AABA’s Board of Directors is made up of thirty (30) active voting members [15 elected each year for a 2-year term], as well as retired active members who served at least ten years of service to AABA and have been elected as Director Emeritus. Throughout the years Board members have come from our eight (8) supporting sister churches: Our Lady of the Annunciation Cathedral in Roslindale, Our Lady of the Cedars of Lebanon in Jamaica Plain, Saint John of Damascus Orthodox Church in Dedham, Saint George Orthodox Church in West Roxbury, Saint Matthew’s Syrian Orthodox Church in West Roxbury, Saint Mary’s Orthodox Church in Cambridge, Saint George Orthodox Church in Norwood and Saint Stephen’s United Methodist Church in West Roxbury. In addition, we have representation from our supporting sister organizations: Nicholas G. Beram Veterans Association, Nicholas G. Beram Ladies Auxiliary, Syrian-Lebanese Women’s Club, and the Lebanese-Syrian Ladies Aid Society.
AABA’s focus since 1974 is the same today and is reflected in our statement of purpose, which has never changed…to promote charitable, educational, civic, cultural and benevolent endeavors including assistance and support of needy and impoverished people; establish, assist and support homes for the aged, orphanages, schools and charitable institutions with emphasis on providing such assistance and support to the needy, elderly, and otherwise deprived who are of Arabic descent but without discrimination as to race, nationality, color or creed and to do any and all other things necessary or desirable to carry out such purposes.
The diversity of the AABA Board of Directors has allowed us to create an environment where the well-being of the community is equal to the neediest individual; where those to whom we provide services mean more than the services we provide; and, where the spirit, heart & love of what we do is outweighed by the spirit, heart & love of those we serve.
Through the years, AABA, through its dedicated Board of Directors, has continually increased assistance to the community. First and foremost, Cheriton Grove Apartments was constructed in 1985, with occupancy by our seniors in 1987. Long before AABA became an official organization, many in our community wanted a senior housing complex for our elderly. It was a motion by Louis Kfoury Jr., which passed unanimously on February 12, 1974, that designated a committee to study the feasibility of obtaining or constructing a home for the aged as the first consideration of AABA. Thirteen years later, through careful planning, hard work, and long hours by a committee originally chaired by George Sabbag, Cheriton Grove was built on land very generously donated by the Saegh brothers, George and Ted. Many in our Arabic community have taken advantage of this facility. Our second senior residence, The James M. Salah Family Housing at Cheriton Heights was built on the same parcels of land and completed in 2013 with occupancy beginning in 2014. AABA has continued its commitment to the community and today, AABA Village is one of the best operating housing complexes in the City of Boston.
AABA’s First Officers/Board of Directors
Dr. Jerald Owen
Dr. Sam Thomas
1st Vice President
Dr. Edward Sion
2nd Vice President
James Gabriel, Esq.
Halim Habib, Dr.
Louis Kfoury, Jr.
Fr. Frederic Maloof