Remembering Obelit Yadgar

Date: September 8, 2023

The Assyrian Cultural Foundation deeply mourns the passing of Obielit Yadgar, a cherished voice in the Assyrian community and an honorary guest at our recent Assyrian Renaissance Concert. His dedication to the arts and his unparalleled passion for storytelling have left an indelible mark. As we reflect on his invaluable contributions, let his legacy inspire and guide future generations.


Obielit (Obie) Yadgar’s journey began in Baghdad, Iraq, where he was born. A year later, his family moved to Tehran, Iran, where he spent the majority of his younger years. Later on, Yadgar and his brother immigrated to the United States. Though he initially settled in New York, it was in Chicago where he completed his high school education and made the decision to become a writer, inspired by his great-uncle’s legacy.


The young Obie Yadgar often observed his great-uncle, renowned Assyrian writer and historian Rabi Benyamin Arsanis, hunched over his desk writing. That same passion drove Yadgar to pursue his own writing career, in which he published two novels and a book of humor: Will’s Music, Whistling to Cairo, and Obie’s Opus, all available on Amazon. In addition, he made significant contributions to the Zinda magazine in the form of essays and short stories. In Yadgar’s own words, “These essays and short stories are slice-of-life pieces on the Assyrian world.”


Following a tour of duty as a U.S. Army combat correspondent in Vietnam, Yadgar began a distinguished career as a classical music broadcaster. He worked for many years in Chicago, though it is Milwaukee where he established his home and a name for himself. His program “Obie’s Opus” played on Sundays from 8 to 9 A.M. on WMSE Milwaukee, 91.7 FM.


He also hosted Musing with My Samovar, presented by the Assyrian Podcast.


Though he is no longer with us, both broadcasts can be streamed via one’s smart device.


Written by: Sarah Gawo & Cassandra Ledger

Published by: Brian Banyamin 

Joseph J. Durna

Date: August 16, 2022

Joseph J. Durna was born in Diarbekir, Turkey in 1889 and was brought to the United States at the age of 8. He attended local schools in Newark, New Jersey and later would study at the Newark College of Engineering and the New Jersey Law School. After he graduated from Law school in 1918, he worked as an attorney for the Prudential Insurance Company. He married the former Fareeda Dartley, who bore him two children, John W., and Mary, who married Haig Bediguian and lived with her father in Newark.

After the First World War, he became active in Assyrian affairs. As a strong advocate of Assyrian nationalism, he was a delegate to the League of Nations, and as recently as 1945, he was in San Francisco for the organization of the United Nations. Joseph was a very dedicated man and worked tirelessly towards efforts to help Assyrians everywhere. No problem concerning Assyrians ever was too big or too small for him to tackle. He had multiple correspondences with heads of government and lower case officials and he never failed to take advantage of opportunities to talk with visiting dignitaries from the Middle East. During the 40 years in which he worked towards Assyrian causes, he held audiences with most of the various leaders of Middle Eastern countries, managing to gain more insights to the problems of his people from the rulers of the countries throughout the Middle East.

Joseph has spent his time, money, and effort for the betterment and future wellbeing of his people. It is clear that the cause of Assyrians has always been close to his heart. We appreciate Joseph Durna’s valiant efforts and service towards Assyrians causes and urge others to follow in his footsteps.

Published by: Brian Banyamin

Written by: Nino Aishou



Dartley, R. (1953, March). Duna Honored by Prudential . Assyrian Star.

Sargis, J. (n.d.). Joseph J. Durna (1889-1958). Joseph Durna. Retrieved August 5, 2022, from

Sgt. Saul J. Joseph

Date: May 23, 2022

Sargent Saul J. Joseph was born on June 23, 1920, in Iran. Well respected, not only does Sgt. Joseph carries a Silver and Bronze Star; however, also carries a Purple Heart for the wounds he suffered in action. Widely decorated, Sgt. Joseph also received medals from France and Britain as well.

Sgt. had brothers, Samson and David who also served in the military in World War II. Sgt. Joseph served in the same company as his brother, Saul, through the war and was married to a woman named Olga.

Sgt. Joseph earned the Silver Star for his bravery while fighting in France on September 16, 1944. According to The Military Times, “In order to increase the effectiveness of his weapons platoon’s support of the assaulting units, Sergeant Joseph, acting platoon leader, ordered his gun crew to serve as ammunition handlers while he assumed operation of the crew’s light machine gun. In vain, the enemy attempted to silence his weapon, for although wounded by mortar fire, Sergeant Joseph tenaciously held his position until his fire was masked by the advance of his own troops. Only then did he allow himself to be evacuated. Sergeant Joseph’s gallantry in action is in accord with the military traditions of the United States”



The Silver Star is the third-highest military combat decoration that can be awarded to a member of the United States Armed Forces. It is awarded for gallantry in action:

  1. While engaged in action against an enemy of the United States;
  2. While engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force; or
  3. While serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party.

Actions that merit the Silver Star must be of such a high degree that they are above those required for all other U.S. combat decorations but do not merit award of the meet Medal of Honor or a Service Cross (Distinguished Service Cross, the Navy Cross, or the Air Force Cross).



The Bronze Star also known as the Bronze Star Medal or BSM for short, is a military medal awarded for heroic achievement, heroic service, meritorious achievement, or meritorious service in a combat zone. Wear of a “V” device on the medal is authorized for acts of valor in combat.


The Purple Heart

To receive the Purple Heart, the Army’s current regulations require that a soldier be injured by enemy action and receive documented treatment from a medical officer. The Army’s official list of wounds that “clearly justify” the award includes, “Concussion injuries caused as a result of enemy generated explosions.”

In his later years, he later then ended up working for the Lincoln Park Zoo as a Senior Zookeeper.




On his Birthday in the year 2013, Sgt. Joseph was presented with an honorary street name in Chicago, Illinois. This was sponsored by Alderman Ameya Pawar. The honorary street can be found on the 4800 block of North Lawrence Ave at the northwest corner of Ashland and Lawrence

Sgt. Saul J. Joseph then passed away on December 25, 2012, in Chicago, Illinois.


Published & Written by: Brian Banyamin


Samuel Edward Sulliman

Date: May 17, 2022

Learn about the Assyrian man who served in the US secret service under many presidents, including John F. Kennedy.

President John F. Kennedy walks across a lawn next to Sulliman in Hyannis Port on August 26, 1963.



Samuel Edward Sulliman was born in New Britain, Connecticut on August 13th, 1930. He was the 6th child in his family, his parents were named Moses and Alma Sulliman. U.S., Find a Grave Index, 1600s-Current [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2012.

Above is pictured Sulliman serving in South Korea. In his early years, Sulliman served in the United States Military in 1948 and left in 1952.


Image Source

Special thank you to Elizabeth Sulliman, daughter of Samuel Sulliman


He then attended college at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, PA the same year.

Throughout his time at the university, Sulliman enjoyed his time playing on the baseball and football team.


Above is Sulliman pictured in Bucknell University’s yearbook, 1956.

Courtesy of Special Collections/University Archives, Ellen Clarke Bertrand Library, Bucknell University, Lewisburg, PA.
This image [Cropped & edited Image of page 87 of the L’Agenda, 1956] may be protected under US. Copyright law and may not be reproduced.


Courtesy of Special Collections/University Archives, Ellen Clarke Bertrand Library, Bucknell University, Lewisburg, PA.
This image [Cropped image of page 87 of the L’Agenda, 1956] may be protected under US. Copyright law and may not be reproduced.


Seen to the right is Sulliman with the Interfraternity Council

Courtesy of Special Collections/University Archives, Ellen Clarke Bertrand Library, Bucknell University, Lewisburg, PA.
This image [Cropped & edited Image of page 124 of the L’Agenda, 1956] may be protected under US. Copyright law and may not be reproduced.


Courtesy of Special Collections/University Archives, Ellen Clarke Bertrand Library, Bucknell University, Lewisburg, PA.
This image [Cropped Image of page 124 of the L’Agenda, 1956] may be protected under US. Copyright law and may not be reproduced.


Sulliman is seen with Bucknell University’s Baseball team, 1956

Courtesy of Special Collections/University Archives, Ellen Clarke Bertrand Library, Bucknell University, Lewisburg, PA.
This image [Cropped & edited Image of page 159 of the L’Agenda, 1956] may be protected under US. Copyright law and may not be reproduced.


Courtesy of Special Collections/University Archives, Ellen Clarke Bertrand Library, Bucknell University, Lewisburg, PA.
This image [Cropped Image of page 159 of the L’Agenda, 1956] may be protected under US. Copyright law and may not be reproduced.


He later achieved his Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and graduated in 1956. In an attempt to further his education, he went to law school for 1 year at the University of Connecticut. During this time, is when Sulliman had been recruited by the US secret service.

Sulliman’s journey with the secret was not a short one, he managed to serve for 20 years, where he worked alongside: Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Ford, Carter as well as Vice Presidents Agnew, and Rockefeller. Sulliman’s service with President Kennedy holds many documented photos in the JFK Library. Sulliman’s service is seen not only in the United States but also in Germany. Below are a series of photos of Sulliman with president John F. Kennedy.


Jerry Blaine and Sam Sulliman on the rear of a presidential car in Ireland. 1963.




Above is pictured a trip to Maine & Massachusetts: Boston, fundraising dinner at commonwealth armory, 1963 October 19, 8:13 pm


Description: President John F. Kennedy sits in the Presidential limousine (Lincoln-Mercury Continental convertible) outside the Commonwealth Armory in Boston, Massachusetts; President Kennedy attended the “All New England Salute Dinner” in his honor. Also pictured: Press Secretary, Pierre Salinger; Military Aide to the President, General Chester V. Clifton; White House Secret Service agents, Stu Stout, Bill Greer, and Sam Sulliman.


Meeting with US Ambassador to West Germany George McGhee, 1963 May 14 10:05AM


Description: President John F. Kennedy (left, in rocking chair) meets with newly-appointed United States Ambassador to West Germany, George McGhee. Standing in background (left to right): unidentified; White House correspondent for United Press International (UPI), Helen Thomas; White House Secret Service agent, Sam Sulliman; two unidentified persons. Oval Office, White House, Washington, D.C.


Above is a closer image of Sulliman

Trip to Europe: Germany, Cologne: Kölner Rathaus (City Hall), 23 June 1963 10:55 AM


Description: Director of the United States Secret Service, James J. Rowley, and members of President John F. Kennedy’s White House Secret Service detail stand outside Kölner Rathaus (City Hall) in Cologne, West Germany (Federal Republic). Left to right: agents, Jerry Blaine, Sam Sulliman, and Paul A. Burns; Director Rowley; agent, Roy Kellerman.

After his retirement, Sulliman worked for J. Robert Fluour as Head of Security for The Fluor Corporation in Southern California. After some time, Sulliman ended up heading over to Pennsylvania, carrying his Head of Security title for a healthcare company by the name of Aetna.

Sulliman passed away in 2019 and was buried in the Arlington National Cemetery.

To view all images of Sulliman with John F. Kennedy, visit the link below:

JFK Library


Written & Published by Brian Banyamin

David Barsum Perley

Date: May 9, 2022

David Barsum Perley was born in 1901 in Kharput (Modern day Turkey). He grew to be the student of famous Assyrian journalist, Ashour Yousef of Kharput. During World War I, Perley was forced to flee to the mountains of Russia shortly after his father had been killed by Turkish authorities. At this time, the mass persecution of Christians in Turkey was active. After two years, he managed to leave Russia, with his relatives and arrived in the United States in 1922.

Perley ended up residing in Massachusetts. He attended Springfield International College, and Boston University, where he later received his Bachelors of Arts in 1928. However, Perley furthered his education at New York University, where he obtained his Doctor of Jurisprudence in 1933. Unfortunately, this was the same year the beginning of the Simele massacre occurred, where thousands of Assyrians were targeted and killed. He then practiced in Law in Paterson, New Jersey, where he specialized in cases of Immigration in 1935.

Perley’s passion for writing and journalism was displayed once again when he contributed to The British Betrayal of the Assyrians in Chapters 7 and 10. Perley’s picture can also be found in pg. 102. “Whither Christian Missions?” was then later released In 1994. He produced many other articles and reviews in nationalist magazines such as; New Beth Nahreen and the Assyrian Star.

Perley ended up passing away on July 14th, 1979.


Written & Published by: Brian Banyamin



James F. Coakley , “Perley, David Barsum,” in Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage: Electronic Edition, edited by Sebastian P. Brock, Aaron M. Butts, George A. Kiraz and Lucas Van Rompay,

Donabed, Sargon, and Ninos Donabed. Essay. In Assyrians of Eastern Massachusetts, 103–103. Charleston, SC: Arcadia, 2006.

Lt. Norman Yonan

Date: May 2, 2022


Norman Joseph Yonan was born on January 3rd, New Britain, Connecticut. His parents were Joseph and Anna Yonan. Growing up, Yonan graduated high school and then attended university, to which he ended up leaving, and joining the Army.

Image Source

Above is listed Yonan’s Registration card.

Yonan served in the Pacific during World War II and became a Lieutenant. Throughout his service, he acquired many medals. Lt. Yonan finished his service in the Army in 1946. After finishing service, he worked with his father as an electrician, founding Yonan Electric. The company had later come to an end.

Yonan and his wife, Grace, ended up moving to Naples, Florida where they retired. Lt. Yonan then passed away in 2013 in Florida.


Written & Published by: Brian Banyamin



BetGivargis-McDaniel, M., 2007. , in: Assyrians of New Britain. Arcadia Pub., Charleston, South Carolina, pp. 101–101.

10 Year Radio Anniversary

Date: September 17, 2021

This summer marks the 10-year anniversary of Ninos Nirari’s radio program.  He first began the program at the request of the late Rabi Homer Ashurian, who was then serving on the board of the Assyrian Universal Alliance Foundation (now the Assyrian Cultural Foundation).  The first episode aired in early June, 2011. 

The weekly radio program was originally called Gawneh, which means “colors” in Assyrian.  Mr. Nirari decided to give it that name because it represented the diverse number of topics that the show covered.  Topics included general education, history, news, poetry, religion, sports, etc.  Additionally, Mr. Nirari would frequently interview famous Assyrians during the program, including singers, politicians, and poets.  Initially, the show ran for one hour, on Monday evenings from 7:00 to 8:00 PM.  However, due to its immense popularity, it ran for three hours by its second year, on Tuesday nights from 7:00 to 10:00 PM.  Although the program aired on a Chicago radio station, people who did not live in the Chicago area could also access it through the internet. 

One popular segment of the program was called Morayeh, which means “competitions.”  During that portion of the show, Mr. Nirari would ask a question and then invite his listeners to call in to answer it.  The first person to answer the question correctly usually received a gift card that could be used at a local Assyrian business.  Thus, the program not only connected and educated its listeners, but also helped promote and support local Assyrian businesses. 

Today, Ninos Nirari’s radio program is called Qala Mhadyana, which translates as “The Guiding Voice.”  It airs every Saturday afternoon from 3:00 to 4:30 PM Central Standard Time on 1590 AM, a Chicago radio station.  However, the program is also available on the radio station’s website,, as well as livestreamed on the Assyrian Cultural Foundation’s Facebook page, once a month.

Although the radio program’s name has changed, its contents have not.  It continues to cover a diverse range of topics, making it a unique listening experience.  Congratulations, Ninos Nirari, on providing 10 years of wonderful content on your radio program! 

Aramaic Bible Translation Pt. I

Date: September 3, 2021


Did you know that there is currently a team working on creating a new Assyrian (modern Aramaic dialect) translation of the Bible?  Although an Assyrian translation of the Bible does already exist, the Aramaic Bible Translation team is trying to create one that is easier to read, is formatted in a clearer way, and is more accurate. 


Prior to the nineteenth century, the Syriac Peshitta was the only Bible available to Assyrians.  However, since that Bible was completed in the second-century A.D., its vocabulary and meaning became more difficult to understand as the centuries passed.  Therefore, when missionaries from the Presbyterian Church in the United States came to Urmia, Iran in the nineteenth century, they decided to create a modern Assyrian translation of the Bible.  In 1852, they completed their translation.  They used the original Hebrew text to translate the Old Testament into Assyrian, and used the Syriac Peshitta to translate the New Testament.  However, since the original New Testament was written in Greek, not Syriac, they revised their translation in 1893, making it more accurate to the original Greek text.  Since then, most Assyrians have been using this missionary Bible translation for their everyday reading. 


Although the American missionaries did a decent job with their Assyrian Bible translation, the Aramaic Bible Translation (ABT) team believes that Assyrians need a new translation.  The missionaries used many non-Assyrian words in their translation, such as Turkish or Persian words.  Additionally, the translation is over 100-years-old now, meaning that it uses outdated language.  Finally, because the missionaries created their translation in Urmia, Iran, their translation strongly reflects the dialect of Assyrians from Urmia.  ABT wants to make sure that its new translation does not favor a certain Assyrian dialect, but is more standardized. 


ABT has published the New Testament and the Psalms so far, but is still working on translating the Old Testament.  Since the Old Testament is nearly four times larger than the New Testament, the team does not project its completion until another ten years.  The Ashurbanipal Library in Chicago has the New Testament publication from 2002 as well as the combined New Testament and Psalms publication from 2014. 


Stay tuned, next week, to learn more about how the Aramaic Bible Translation project first began.  In the meantime, we wanted to let you know that ACF has been a major funder and supporter of the modern Assyrian Bible translation project.  ABT desires this project to be a team effort among Assyrians from throughout the world, so you are welcome to support this project too.  Your support does not have to be financial, but can be as simple as reading what has been translated so far, and providing your feedback to the team.  ABT is also seeking additional board members who have a heart for the Word of God in Assyrian.  Click here to learn more information about the project and how to contact ABT. 


By Esther Lang 

I want to give a special thanks to the Assyrian Bible translator, Demsin Lachin, for providing me with the information that I needed to write this post. 



Aramaic Bible Translation. (accessed February 16, 2021). 

Alex Agase Part II

Date: August 27, 2021

Perhaps you may remember that we posted about the Assyrian football player and coach, Alex Agase, back in June? We are excited to announce that since then, we have discovered several documents donated by Agase’s family in our storage.

Item #1: Cartoon of Alex Agase

This cartoon that we found mentions how Alex Agase was a Guard with the “Fighting Illini.” Since the “Fighting Illini” is what the sports teams of the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign are called, we know that this poster was created while he was still playing football for that University. From the cartoon’s reference to Agase’s Purple Heart, we can further determine that this poster was created after he rejoined the team following World War II, rather than when he was on the team prior to the War. Therefore, it dates to approximately 1946. Additionally, note that the poster references Alex Agase’s brother, Lou, who also played on the University of Illinois’ football team.

Item # 2: Certificate from the Illinois Senate

This certificate was awarded to Alex Agase in early 1947 by the Senate of the State of Illinois. In summation, the certificate states its desire to honor the University of Illinois’ 1946 football team, since the team won the Rose Bowl on January 1, 1947. The certificate specifically mentions how the University of Illinois’ football team was especially impressive that year, not only because of its victory, but also because most of its team members were WWII veterans who had only recently returned home from overseas. Not only did Alex Agase receive this certificate from the Illinois Senate, but so did each of his teammates and coaches that year.

Item # 3: Paramount News’ All America Certificate of Award

Throughout the twentieth century, various news outlets selected different football players and football teams as the best players or teams of the year, subsequently giving them the title “All America.” In 1946, Paramount News awarded Alex Agase this “All America” certificate.

Item #4: Cleveland Browns 1950 World Champions Photo

In 1948, Alex Agase joined Ohio’s Cleveland Browns NFL football team. Two years later, while Agase was still on the team, the Cleveland Browns defeated the Los Angeles Rams, winning the 1950 NFL Championship. This photograph is of the winning team. Agase is in the front row, third from the right.


Published by: Brian Banyamin

Written by: Esther Lang



Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopaedia. “All-America team.” Encyclopedia Britannica, November 20, 2017. (accessed August 10, 20210.

“Browns Get Agase in Trade for Lund.” Cleveland Plain Dealer. May 22, 1948.

Rotman, Michael. “Browns Win 1950 NFL Championship.” Cleveland Historical. (accessed August 11, 2021).

Esther Lang

Date: August 23, 2021

Esther Lang has been a librarian at the Assyrian Cultural Foundation’s Ashurbanipal Library since July, 2018. Because of her appearance and last name, visitors to the library rarely assume that she understands their Assyrian conversations. However, she usually does, because, although her father is not Assyrian, her mother is an Assyrian from Iran.

Esther was born in Chicago, but grew up in the neighboring suburb of Skokie, Illinois. She graduated from Taylor University in Indiana in 2012, where she majored in history and minored in Biblical languages. It was while trying to write several research papers about Assyrians for her history classes that she first came to realize how, compared to many other history topics, resources about modern Assyrians are heavily lacking.

After graduation, Esther was a Collections Intern at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Skokie, where she worked in the museum’s archives. Afterwards, she decided to become a librarian, and graduated with a Master’s degree in Library and Information Science from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign in 2015. She has worked at two other libraries prior to coming to the Ashurbanipal Library.

Esther believes that her arrival at the Ashurbanipal Library was not a coincidence. In the summer of 2018, she wanted to see the library’s new location, since it had moved from Chicago to a suburb called Lincolnwood a few years earlier. Upon arrival, she ran into the ACF’s music teacher, Rasson Betyonan, who was a friend of the family. From him, she learned that ACF was searching for someone to organize its library. What were the chances that she happened to visit ACF at that particular time, and that she was an Assyrian, a librarian, and already had experience cataloging books? She had been searching for ways to become more connected with the Assyrian community, and then this opportunity came to her without having even looked for it.

In December, 2020, Esther finished cataloging the Ashurbanipal Library’s 6,500 books. Hopefully, people will soon be able to search and see what book titles are available at the Ashurbanipal Library. Esther hopes that this cataloging project will help make people more aware of what resources about Assyrians currently exist, and assist researchers in creating more academic material about Assyrians in the future. Eventually, the Ashurbanipal Library hopes to make its older books, newspapers, and magazines (which do not fall under copyright laws) available for free online