Dr. Harry P. Packard

Date: August 30, 2022


Dr. Harry P. Packard was a medical missionary who served in Iran for over 40 years. Dr. Packard was assigned to the West Persia Mission in 1906 where he stayed until 1913. Dr. Packard expressed great interest to his medical board that he wanted to be transferred from Urmia to Meshed, as his services were greatly needed at this station. The board agreed to this and stated that he should report to the station in Meshed. When this information reached the mission in West Persia, a protest erupted. When all was said and done, the board rescinded their previous decision and Dr. Packard was to stay in West Persia. This anecdote highlights the benevolence and esteem that Dr. Packard had when in West Persia. The people in this mission were so attached to Dr. Packard and his kindness, teachings, and medical prowess that they would protest to keep him there. They were truly grateful for everything that Dr. Packard had done for them.

Ultimately, he remained there until 1919 when he was called upon to serve in the Armed Forces of his country. During his years of service in the Armed Forces, Assyrians everywhere came to know and love Dr. Packard. He was a man of great personality, bravery, and devotion to healing the wounded and ill. He was responsible for literally saving the lives of thousands of Assyrians injured in the line of duty. He even provided them shelter in church buildings.

From 1921 to 1944 he was assigned to medical work in the Kermanshah area. The people there knew him as a compassionate and warm-hearted physician who would frequently serve the needy and poor. In 1944, he was appointed as a medical attaché by the state department of the United States and assigned to the American Embassy in Teheran until his retirement in 1946.

Dr. Packard was a great man who had an even greater heart. He was known far and wide for not only his talents as a physician but for his compassion and benevolence.


Published by: Brian Banyamin

Written by: Nino Aishou



Khoobyar, S. O. (1954, November). Assyrians Mourn Loss of Dr. H.P. Packard. Assyrian Star, 3(11), 15.

A Physician Beloved. (1913). The Assembly Herald, 19, 678–679.


Easiest Instruments for Students to Learn

Date: August 26, 2022

Learning an instrument should be an exciting time for your child. The challenge of developing a new skill and concurring what they once struggled with boosts confidence and encourages them to keep going. However, if a child finds their instrument too difficult, they grow discouraged.

Children may struggle with an instrument for several reasons. Perhaps it is too big for them at this point. Perhaps they need to spend more time learning about the foundations of music. If you’d like to enroll your student in music classes, consider starting simple. The easiest instruments to learn will encourage your student to keep up with music, and maybe explore other instruments later.


There is a reason that piano is one of the most common instruments children play for a reason. All the notes on a piano are laid out in a logical, clear format directly in front of the musician. It also forces students to read in both clefs, which helps for future musical endeavors. Learning piano serves as a great foundation for a student’s music education as a whole.

The piano is also a relatively inexpensive instrument to learn to play. You don’t have to go out and purchase a several-thousand-dollar grand piano for your child. Your child can start piano lessons on a $100 keyboard.


Recorders are notorious for being the first instrument children learn to play. They’re so common in music classes due to their simplicity. There are no strings, reeds, or bows, and it’s lightweight. This makes it easy to manipulate and easy to learn for children.

Recorders are a great jumping-off point for other woodwind instruments, as they learn the basics of mouth and finger placements. It also teaches them the importance of quality breathing techniques, as they need the right type of breath to result in a pleasant sound.


While all the cymbal, snares, and bass drums might make learning to play drums intimidating, they don’t require as much music theory as many other instruments. Instead of forcing them to learn about melodies and harmonies, young drummers learn about rhythm from a young age. This sets them up for success in other instruments.

If you’re worried about the noise that comes from your student learning to play the drums, consider purchasing an electric drum kit. These allow children to plug in headphones and practice without all the noise.


Don’t forget: your body is an instrument too! Voice lessons are a great way to get your child started in music, as many children enjoy singing, and you don’t have to purchase any tools. All your child needs to start learning voice is their own voice.

In an ensemble, your child will learn more about melody, harmony, and teamwork. In individual voice lessons, your student will learn more about exercises that fit their voice and potentially more in-depth music theory.


The guitar is so popular among children because, chances are, many of their favorite songs involve the guitar. They can be purchased at just about any store for a reasonable price. Once your child knows a few cords, they can play a wide variety of songs.

The problem with the guitar, however, is the physical dexterity involved. When your child starts to learn guitar, they have to go through the process of developing callouses on their fingers. Start with nylon strings, as they aren’t as rough on your child’s fingers. If you think the guitar might be too wieldy for your child, start with the ukulele.

Follow their lead

Before enrolling your child in music classes, find out what it is they’re interested in. Choose the instrument that is most suited to their wishes to that you can be confident they’ll be happy in class, and as a result, keep up with the instrument.

Music teaches creativity and discipline to children of all ages. At the Nebu J. Issabey Music Program, our tutors light a spark in your child that encourages them to excel. Our private tutors offer lessons in piano, violin, viola, cello, woodwinds, and brass instruments.  For more information on the program, call us at 224-935-2366.

Joseph David George – An Assyrian Engineer

Date: July 5, 2022


Joseph David George, a distinguished Assyrian engineer, was born in Urmia and is the eldest son of David Shalloo George and Khatoon Sayad George. He attended school in Baghdad where he learned how to read and write in Assyrian. In 1924, he immigrated to Canada with his family and started school in North Battleford, Saskatchewan where he excelled. At North Battleford Collegiate Institute, he won four gold medals for highest class standing and won a scholarship to attend the University of Saskatchewan. During his time in college, he decided to pursue a career in civil engineering and after four years he graduated with distinction.

Shortly after finishing college, he was called to serve during World War II with the Royal Canadian Air Force as a resident engineer. After the war, he held many different engineering positions with his most notable being the Chief of Research and Development for the Metropolitan Roads Department. He held this position until his official retirement in March 1978.

Joseph was also an acclaimed inventor. He invented construction techniques and systems for municipal roads, lighting, and urban planning. One of his most famous innovations was the replacement of steel with aluminum in guardrails and lighting poles on streets and highways. This not only reduced maintenance costs but also improved the safety of citizens. The idea was that if a car struck the guardrail or light post, the material, is made of aluminum and not steel, would sheer off and break and not cause fatal injuries to the people involved. Another invention that Joseph is known for is his patented bridge expansion joint seal being sold by Good Year Tire in Canada and the United States.

Not only was Joseph a keen inventor and engineer, but he was also a writer. He wrote many papers and articles on better street lighting and reclaimed rubber on asphalt roads. He has also published a book on widening roadways to alleviate congestion and traffic.

Joseph David George was indeed a remarkable individual who lived a successful and fulfilling life. He accomplished many different feats during his lifetime and was proud to be an Assyrian. We should all strive for the same excellence as Joseph.


Published by: Brian Banyamin

Written by: Nino Aishou



Yaldaie, S. (1987, February). Joseph David George A Distinguished Assyrian . Assyrian Star, 18–18.

Art Student of the Year 2021- Tina Ebrahimi

Date: February 1, 2022

Tina Ebrahimi is chosen as the Assyrian Cultural Foundation Art Program’s Student of the year for her outstanding performance in art class. Not only does she have amazing talent and a love of art, but she is also learning piano with us. She also exhibits a tremendous amount of self-discipline and kindness for her age. Congratulations, Tina, and we are so proud of you!

Q: You were last year’s first prize winner! What made you not compete this year?
A: I had already won previous prizes, and I felt that I had plenty of supplies. I would have preferred if the prize went to someone who could have benefitted from it.

Q: Do you have a favorite color?
A: My favorite color always seems to be changing, but it’s an indigo-violet color right now. I’ve always liked saturated colors in general.

Q: What is the hardest part of creating a painting?
A: The hardest part of creating a painting is usually the middle stage for me. The middle stage is where, usually, I’m not too fond of the painting, and it can sometimes be demotivating when it doesn’t look how you expected it to.

Q: How does it feel to be a student of the year?
A: I’m honored that all these amazing students and artists chose me. It is a privilege, and I can’t thank everyone enough.

Q: Who inspires you to be an artist?
A: There isn’t any specific artist that has inspired me to create art. It’s just always been something I’ve enjoyed. There have been multiple artists that have inspired me to try different art.

Q: What do you like most about being an artist?
A: What I like most about being an artist is being able to create things that were only once an idea. It’s not always what you expect, and sometimes it’s better than what you expect.

Winners of Assyrian International Art Competition 2021

Date: January 22, 2022

First Place Winner- Nenous Thabet

The Thought behind the Artwork from the Artist:

“This painting expresses the human depth that has affected our liberated cities in the Nineveh Plain from the hands of terrorism and ISIS. The girl in her beautiful dress represents hope in construction and reconstruction and symbols of return in the body of a bird burdened by migration. Every death is a resurrection, and the resurrection of Christ is life”. - Nenous T.

Second Place Winner- Rima Lahdo

The Thought behind the Artwork from the Artist:

“It's a new day. Ishtar is waiting for her lover Tammuz who comes back to life. It is an imaginative abstract portrait of the goddess of love in a contemporary view. In this work, I used a lot of different techniques like acrylic, inks, pastels, etc., and the collage pieces are a work of mine, in which I was inspired by many ancient Assyrian symbols and the Assyrian alphabet.” –Rima Lahdo

Third Place Winner- Maher Minyanish

The Thought behind the Artwork from the Artist:
“In Christian theology, we believe when Jesus returns, He'll make everything new, and all high-power authorities will bow for Him. There won't be war, death, or illness anymore, no need for weapons and medications. The writings are from the book of revelation 21:4 and 5.”-Maher Minyanish

Honorable Mention- Agnes Ishak

Honorable Mention- Paul Betou

Helen Badawi

Date: May 6, 2021

Did you know that one of the Assyrian Cultural Foundation’s board members is the daughter of Malik Loco Shlimon Badawi, the last chief of the Assyrian tribe of Tkhuma?  Malik Loco Badawi’s daughter, Helen Badawi, has been volunteering as a board member for ACF since 2015.  One of Ms. Badawi’s major tasks at ACF is overseeing its Ashurbanipal Library.  For over 30 years, Ms. Badawi worked at the University of Illinois in Chicago’s science library, making her the perfect candidate for this position.


Helen Badawi was born in Syria to Malik Loco Badawi and his wife, Nimo.  However, Malik Loco soon moved his family to Lebanon and raised his children there.  Ms. Badawi eventually attended the Lebanese American University in Beirut, where she first received an Associate of Applied Science degree, and then a Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science.


In 1976, Ms. Badawi decided to move to the United States to join her family, who had already moved there.  She first became interested in libraries when she started working as a student assistant at the Lebanese American University’s library.  Shortly after beginning her job there, she was promoted to full-time employment as an assistant to the head librarian.  Therefore, once she moved to the United States, she specifically desired to find employment in a library, and successfully did so when she found a position with the University of Illinois in Chicago.


With her extensive knowledge of Assyrian history and love for libraries, ACF is thankful to have Ms. Badawi on its Board.



By Esther Lang



Badawi, Malik Loko Shlimon d’bit. Assyrian Struggle for National Survival in the 20th and 21st Centuries. Chicago: Younan ML Badawi, 2021.


Solomon, Solomon (Sawa). The Indestructible Assyrians: A Photo History of Modern Assyrians. Morrisville, NC: Lulu Press, 2010.

Ninos Nirari

Date: April 21, 2021

Since April 2, 2012, the Assyrian Cultural Foundation is fortunate to have the talented Ninos Nirari Yousif on its staff.  He was born in Mosul, Iraq in 1954, but moved around with his family to other surrounding areas as a boy.  In 1965, Ninos Nirari moved to Kirkuk, Iraq, where he entered an Assyrian school and first began his education in the Assyrian language.  He attended middle school at Al-Sharqeya and high school at Al-Hikma.  In 1976, he began his studies in math at the University of Sulaymaniyah, and became involved with the Assyrian Cultural Association there.  His activities with the Assyrian Cultural Association included teaching the Assyrian language and giving lectures in Assyrian history and literature.


Ninos Nirari left Iraq in 1979 and temporarily lived in Greece, where he helped co-found an Assyrian school in Kalamaki.  In 1980, he arrived in the United States.  He graduated from the DeVry Institute of Technology in Chicago in 1985 with a degree in Electronics.


Ninos Nirari is an expert in the Assyrian language, and uses his knowledge to the best of his ability.  Since 1980, he has released 8 cassette/CD recordings of both his nationalistic and love poems.  In 1993, he wrote a biography about Agha Patros, an Assyrian military leader during WWI, which was translated into Arabic by Fadil Pola in 1996.


Ninos Nirari recently published many of his poems into two books.  The first book is a collection of his nationalistic poems, and was published in 2019 under the title, A Spark of Poems (Bulbata D-Moshkhate).  The second was published in 2020 under the title, Harp of Night (Qitara d-Layle), and is a compilation of his love poems.  He plans to publish another book soon, which will be a mixture of both nationalistic and love poems.


In addition to his books, Ninos Nirari has also published numerous articles and poems in various Assyrian and Arabic magazines and websites.  He also makes frequent appearances on both Assyrian television and radio stations, and has served as a host for both mediums in the past.  Currently, he hosts a weekly radio program on Saturday afternoons from 3:00 to 4:30 PM (Central Standard Time) on 1590 AM in Chicago.

Edmond Ebrahimi

Date: April 16, 2021

Did you know that one of the Assyrian Cultural Foundation’s Board Members, Edmond Ebrahimi, is also one of the Foundation’s music teachers?  He became a Board Member in 2014, but in 2019, he also began teaching group guitar classes to kids on Wednesday nights.  The classes proved to be popular and always had a large turnout.  Unfortunately, they were temporarily cancelled last spring due to COVID-19, but once the pandemic situation improves, Edmond plans to teach guitar lessons at ACF again.


Born in the city of Urmia, Iran, Edmond has always loved music.  Since both his father and grandfather used to enjoy singing, and his cousin, Albert Babagahsheh, became an opera singer in Tehran, Edmond believes that a love for music runs in the family.  However, after Iran’s Islamic Revolution of 1979, many forms of music were banned or discouraged, making it difficult to learn music there.  Nevertheless, that did not stop Edmond from pursuing it.


In 1991, after high school and military service, Edmond attended a music school in Urmia where he learned how to play the guitar, specifically in the pop music style.  Then, from 1993 to 1995, he attended a different school and focused on classical guitar.  After that, he established an Assyrian band called Edsin with three friends in 1995.  Edmond played the guitar, sang, and wrote the lyrics for the band, while his friend, Sam Madoo, composed and arranged the music.  The band performed at different graduation parties and had its first pop music concert in Urmia in 1997.  In addition to performing with his band, from 1996 to 2000, Edmond also taught guitar lessons to adults.


Edmond left Iran in 2001, stayed in Austria for five months, and then came to the United States.  During his brief stay in Austria, he continued to play music and performed at a Persian restaurant there every Friday night.  Once he arrived in the United States, he started playing guitar and singing for his church, which is something that he also did back in Iran.  Today, Edmond works on making Assyrian music videos during his spare time.  You can watch his video, Kha Khooba, on YouTube.  He hopes to continue making more music videos in the future.

Issa Benyamin

Date: April 15, 2021

In a cemetery about two-and-a-half hours away from Chicago, in Normal, Illinois, there is a headstone with Assyrian calligraphy on it.  The grave belongs to Issa Benyamin and his wife, Clara Manasserians.  Beneath Issa Benyamin’s name is the epitaph, “Father of Assyrian Calligraphy.”  Although calligraphy has been a popular form of art among many groups of people in the Middle East for centuries, Benyamin helped make it a more prominent style of art among Assyrians.


Issa Benyamin was born in Tabriz, Iran (Persia at the time) in 1924.  His father, Mirza Benyamin Kaldani, was originally from Salamas, but left that area during the genocide that occurred in Urmia during World War I.  Benyamin learned to appreciate the written word at an early age from his father, who wrote thirteen books and taught his son how to read and write Assyrian.  Benyamin furthered his studies in the Assyrian language under the Catholic Archbishop of Urmia and Salamas, Havil Zaya.


In 1957, Benyamin married Clara Manasserians, an Assyrian-Armenian woman whose family was from the village of Gulpashan in Urmia, Iran.  She, like Benyamin, also loved the written word.  She received a bachelor’s degree in English literature and taught English to high school students for twenty-seven years.


Issa Benyamin remained active in Iran’s Assyrian community until he departed to the United States in the mid-1980s.  While still in Tehran, Iran, he helped co-found Seeta Supreta D’Ulime Attoraye, also known as the Assyrian Youth Cultural Society of Tehran, which produced hundreds of Assyrian books before Iran’s Islamic Revolution of 1979.  He also published an Assyrian calendar, a biography about a high school teacher in Tehran named Louise Ourshan, and an Assyrian-Persian weekly publication called Bright Future.  Additionally, he was the Assyrian editor for a weekly Assyrian periodical called Isthar from 1981 to 1983.


Despite his many literary accomplishments, Benyamin is best known for his use of the Assyrian (Syriac) script in his artwork.  He created hundreds of different art pieces that implemented Assyrian calligraphy.  He also created 52 different types of Assyrian fonts.  During his lifetime, Benyamin’s artwork was displayed at different exhibits in both Iran and the United States until his passing in 2014.


By Esther Lang



Arsanis Arts. “The Art of Issa Benyamin.” RoxieMedia, May 6, 2009. YouTube video, 4:42. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pbmh1NvsGrA (accessed March 1, 2021).


“Clara Manasserians Benyamin.” Find A Grave. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/131152827/clara-benyamin (accessed March 1, 2021).


“Integrity and Dedication.” Assyrian Star, Fall 2002. http://www.calligram.com/Exhibits/Article3/article3.html (accessed March 1, 2021).


“Issa Benyamin.” Find A Grave. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/123461076/issa-benyamin (accessed March 1, 2021).


“Issa Benyamin, Calligraphist.” Calligram. http://www.calligram.com/Biography/biography.html (accessed March 1, 2021).


“Issa Benyamin: Calligraphist, 1924-2014.” Nineveh, Second Quarter 2013.


Naby, Eden. “A Tribute to a Living Legend: Rabi Issa Benyamin.” Mesopotamian Night. May 5, 2009.





Elmer “Mousey” Alexander

Date: March 24, 2021

Elmer “Mousey” (sometimes spelled “Mousie”) Alexander was an American jazz drummer who performed with musicians such as the jazz clarinetist, Benny Goodman, and the jazz singer, Billie Holiday.  He also happened to be Assyrian.


Elmer Alexander was born in Gary, Indiana in 1922 to Assyrian parents from Urmia, Persia (Iran).  Soon afterwards, the family moved to Chicago, where Alexander grew up.  During the first half of the twentieth century, Chicago became an important hub for jazz musicians in the United States, so Alexander began playing the drums for different jazz clubs in the area.  At five feet, four inches, Alexander was not a tall man.  He, therefore, received the nickname, “Mousey,” because of his tiny appearance behind the drums.


Once World War II began, Alexander went off to serve in the U.S. Navy.  After the War, he found himself playing the drums for Billie Holiday during a performance that she did in Chicago in 1948.  That performance helped launch his career, causing him to eventually move to New York City in 1952.  From the 1950s to the 1970s, Alexander often played drums with the famous jazz clarinetist, Benny Goodman, and his band.  They even appeared on television on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1957.  Other jazz musicians that Alexander performed with throughout his career include Sy Oliver, Zoot Sims, and Doc Severinsen.  He also accompanied the singer, Pearl Bailey, at the White House in 1972 where they performed for President Richard Nixon.


In the 1970s, Alexander’s health began to decline after he experienced a series of heart attacks and heart surgeries.  He also suffered a massive stroke in 1980.  However, he was a fighter, and successfully managed to play the drums again, ever after half of his body was initially paralyzed as a result of the stroke.  After somewhat recovering from the stroke, he received the nickname “Miracle Mouse” and put on different performances for stroke victims, in order to motivate them in their recovery process.  Unfortunately, Alexander could not battle his poor health for long, so passed away in 1988 at the age of 66.


Stay tuned next week for a post about a current Assyrian drummer.



Written by Esther Lang



Alexander, Alvin. “My Last Name Isn’t Really Alexander.” Alvin Alexander. June 4, 2016. https://alvinalexander.com/personal/my-last-name-isnt-alexander-ellis-island/ (accessed March 8, 2021).


Chadbourne, Eugene. “Mousie Alexander.” All Music. https://www.allmusic.com/artist/mousie-alexander-mn0000940194/biography (accessed March 8, 2021).


Duffy, Thom. “Mousey Alexander, Jazz Drummer, Dies.” Orlando Sentinel. October 11, 1988. https://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/os-xpm-1988-10-11-0070330182-story.html (accessed March 8, 2021).


Elmer Alexander. 1930 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2002.


“Elmer (Mousey) Alexander: Drummer, 66.” The New York Times. October 12, 1988. https://www.nytimes.com/1988/10/12/obituaries/elmer-mousey-alexander-drummer-66.html (accessed March 8, 2021).


“Elmer (Mousie) Alexander; Jazz Drummer.” Los Angeles Times. October 14, 1988. https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1988-10-14-mn-3762-story.html (accessed March 8, 2021).


“Famous Assyrian Drum[m]er Appearing at 1960 Chicago Convention.” Assyrian Star. July/August, 1970.


McLeod, Michael. “The Beat Goes On…Jazz Drummer Mousey Alexander Has Had So Many Heart Attacks that Many Musicians Have Given Him up for Dead. But Sit in on His Sunday Night Jam Sessions, and You’ll See – And Hear – That He’s Very Much Alive. And He’s One of the Greats.” Orlando Sentinel. August 7, 1988. https://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/os-xpm-1988-08-07-0060100020-story.html (accessed March 8, 2021).


“Mousie Alexander with Benny Goodman on The Ed Sullivan Show 1957.” Tracy Alexander. November 18, 2016. YouTube video, 4:30. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=moVaywCO2f8 (accessed March 8, 2021).