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, https://www.wcgoradio.com/, 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. 

 

Bibliography 

Aramaic Bible Translation. https://www.aramaicbible.org/ (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.

Bibliography

Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopaedia. “All-America team.” Encyclopedia Britannica, November 20, 2017. https://www.britannica.com/sports/All-America-team. (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. https://clevelandhistorical.org/index.php/files/show/1483 (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

The University of London’s Akkadian Recordings

Date: August 20, 2021

Have you ever wondered what the language of the ancient Assyrians would have sounded like? You are not alone. Scholars have been trying to determine what it sounded like for decades. Fortunately, the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies has made a public archive of Ancient Near Eastern academics reading Mesopotamian texts out loud in the original Akkadian language. By listening to these recordings, you can get a general idea of how the language may have sounded. Click here to listen to scholars reading the original texts of such works as the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Code of Hammurabi, etc.

Ancient Mesopotamians spoke Akkadian from the third to first millennium B.C. The ancient Assyrians and Babylonians both spoke different but similar forms of Akkadian; many scholars view them as two different dialects. During the sixth and seventh centuries B.C., Aramaic began to supplant Akkadian as the primary language spoken in Mesopotamia, which is why Assyrians still speak a form of Aramaic today. Both Akkadian and Aramaic are Semitic languages, meaning that they are from the same language family, which explains why it was easy for Aramaic to eventually replace Akkadian. Similarly, Arabic is also a Semitic language, explaining why it later so easily replaced Aramaic in the region.

Scholars have been working on deciphering the Akkadian language for nearly two-hundred years. One primary way that they guess how the Akkadian may have sounded is by comparing it to other Semitic languages such as Arabic, Hebrew, and different Ethiopic languages. Therefore, if you listen to the recordings, you will notice their similarities to these languages as well as to modern Assyrian (modern Aramaic). While you are listening, be sure to also check out a 20-minute film that Cambridge University’s Ancient Near Eastern students created in the Babylonian dialect of Akkadian, based on a clay tablet from 701 B.C. called The Poor Man of Nippur. It is probably the first film ever made in the Akkadian language!

Written by Esther Lang

Bibliography

“Babylonian and Assyrian Poetry and Literature: FAQs.” SOAS University of London. https://www.soas.ac.uk/baplar/faqs/ (accessed March 9, 2021).

“Babylonian and Assyrian Poetry and Literature: The Recordings.” SOAS University of London. https://www.soas.ac.uk/baplar/recordings/ (accessed March 9, 2021).

Encyclopaedia Britannica, s.v. “Akkadian.” Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2021. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Akkadian-language (accessed March 9, 2021).

The Evolution of the Assyrian Flag

Date: August 13, 2021

Did you know that the current Assyrian flag is a relatively new design?  The Assyrian Universal Alliance (AUA) proposed a competition for a new flag in 1968 and, in 1974, ultimately chose the one that we recognize today.  It was designed by George Bit Atanus of Tehran, Iran.  After that, the design quickly spread among Assyrians throughout the world. 

 


 

You can learn the history of the adoption of the Assyrian flag just by skimming through different issues of the Assyrian-American magazine, the Assyrian Star. 

 

It appears that beginning in the May/June, 1967 issue of the Assyrian Star, an ad for the Assyrian American Educational Association begins showing up on the back cover of the magazine.  However, starting with the November/December, 1970 issue, this ad begins to depict an Assyrian flag next to it.  This particular Assyrian flag was created by Assyrians in the early twentieth century, and was eventually adopted by the newly-formed Assyrian American National Federation (Assyrian National Federation at the time) in the 1930s.  The ad on the back of the Assyrian Star’s November/December, 1970 issue (depicted below) explains what the flag’s colors meant.  The three stars on the flag represented the Assyrian Church of the East, the Chaldean Catholic Church, and the Syriac Orthodox Church. 

 

 

The January/February, 1971 issue’s ad is in color, giving you a better idea of what the flag looked like. 

 

 

Starting in the January/February, 1972 issue of the Assyrian Star, the star of Shamash begins to consistently appear on the magazine’s front cover.  Since the magazine is called the Assyrian Star, this makes sense.  The star matches the one that eventually shows up on the current Assyrian flag. 

 

Beginning in May/June, 1973, the Assyrian American Educational Association’s ads on the back cover of the Assyrian Star start to offer people the option of purchasing an Assyrian flag.  Since these ads predate the current Assyrian flag, they were most likely selling flags with the older design. 

 

 

On page 2 of the September, 1975 issue of the Assyrian Star, you can find a drawing of people holding a flag that looks very similar to our current flag. 

 

 

The front cover of the January, 1976 issue of the Assyrian Star officially announces the new Assyrian flag’s design. 

 

 

The front cover of the September/October, 1981 issue of the Assyrian Star depicts the 1981 Miss Assyrian winner holding a modern Assyrian flag.  Page 10 of that issue also depicts other people holding a modern Assyrian flag. 

 

 

The next two photos come from the March/April, 1982 issue of the Assyrian Star.  The two photos show many elements found in the modern Assyrian flag. 

 

 

 

 

Finally, beginning in January/February, 1983, the Assyrian Star stops placing the Assyrian American Educational Association’s ad (the one selling the old Assyrian flags) on the back of its cover.  Below is a photo of what shows up on the back of the January/February, 1983 issue instead. 

 

The back cover of the March/April, 1983 issue falls in a similar vein. 

 

 

Thus, by looking through the different issues of the Assyrian Star magazine, we can see that it did not take long for the Assyrian community to adopt the new Assyrian flag. 

 

 

By Esther Lang 

 

Bibliography 

“About Us.” Assyrian American National Federationhttps://www.aanf.org/about-us/ (accessed March 3, 2021). 

 

Ashurian, Homer. “Assyrian Flag.” Assyrian Universal Alliance. March, 1999. http://aua.net/assyrian-flag/ (accessed March 3, 2021). 

 

Assyrian Star. https://www.assyrianstar.org/ (accessed March 3, 2021). 

 

Assyrian Star, May/June 1967. 

 

Assyrian Star, November/December, 1970. 

 

Assyrian Star, January/February, 1971. 

 

Assyrian Star, January/February, 1972. 

 

Assyrian Star, May/June, 1973. 

 

Assyrian Star, September, 1975. 

 

Assyrian Star, January, 1976. 

 

Assyrian Star, September/October, 1981. 

 

Assyrian Star, March/April, 1982. 

 

Assyrian Star, January/February, 1983. 

 

Assyrian Star, March/April, 1983. 

 

“Flag of the Assyrians.” Wikimedia Commonshttps://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Flag_of_the_Assyrians.png (accessed March 3, 2021). 

Assyrian Martyr’s Day

Date: August 7, 2021

In the 1970s, Assyrians began to celebrate August 7th as Assyrian Martyrs’ Day.  This day was chosen because in August of 1933, military forces from the newly-founded country of Iraq massacred approximately 3,000 Assyrians in Simele, Iraq. 

Although historically connected to the Simele Massacre, Assyrian Martyrs’ Day also commemorates the lives of the thousands of other Assyrian martyrs who perished throughout history. 

 

Two books written by contemporaries of the Simele Massacre contain partial listings of those who died during that time.  The first list can be found in the appendices of the 1935 book, The British Betrayal of the Assyrians, which was written by the Assyrian politician, Yusuf Malek.  You can read this book online here: https://archive.org/details/britishbetrayalo0000yusu/page/n389/mode/2up?q=massacre 

The book can also be purchased here:  

https://www.lulu.com/en/us/shop/yusuf-malek/the-british-betrayal-of-the-assyrians/paperback/product-15perr.html?page=1&pageSize=4 

 

Another partial listing of those who died in the Simele Massacre can be found in the newly republished edition of Assyrian Struggle for National Survival, by the late Chief of Tkhuma, Malik Loko Shlimon D’Bit Badawi.  The previous edition of this book did not have the listing.  You can purchase this book here: 

https://www.amazon.com/Assyrian-Struggle-National-Survival-Shlimon/dp/0985972602/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=assyrian+struggle+for+survival&qid=1627570852&sr=8-1 

 

An interview of a survivor of the Simele Massacre can be found here:  

https://www.facebook.com/271663932924955/videos/1099280040163336/?__so__=channel_tab&__rv__=all_videos_card 

 

This August 7th, do not forget the memory of the martyrs in your family.

Written by Esther Lang 

Hormuzd Rassam

Date: July 30, 2021

Did you know that one of the first modern archaeologists to dig the remains of the ancient Assyrian Empire was himself an Assyrian?  Hormuzd Rassam dug at such places as Nineveh and Nimrud, and made hundreds of important finds such as the Balawat Gates, the cuneiform tablets containing portions of the Epic of Gilgamesh, and the reliefs depicting the Lion Hunt of Ashurbanipal. 

 

Hormuzd Rassam was born in Mosul, Iraq (the Ottoman Empire at the time) in 1826.  His family was part of the Chaldean Catholic Church, but Rassam himself would eventually convert to Anglicanism.  In 1845, when the pioneering British archaeologist, Sir Austen Henry Layard, sought to begin an archaeological dig in the Mosul area, he received assistance from the British vice-consul of Mosul, Christian Rassam.  Christian assigned his younger brother, Hormuzd, who was only nineteen at the time, to assist Layard with his Arabic-speaking archaeology team.  Slowly, Hormuzd Rassam gained Layard’s respect and friendship. 

 

In 1847, Layard helped provide Rassam with an opportunity to study at Oxford University’s Magdalen College.  He studied there until rejoining Layard in Iraq in 1849.  Together, they discovered King Sennacherib’s reliefs depicting the siege of the Judean city of Lachish, which proved the historicity of the Biblical account of this event in 2 Chronicles 32:9.  They also discovered the Library of Ashurbanipal.  After Layard returned to England, Rassam continued excavating the library.  The tablets containing the Epic of Gilgamesh were ultimately discovered at the Library of Ashurbanipal. 

 

Rassam eventually married an Englishwoman named Anne Eliza Price, and purchased a home in Isleworth, near London, which he named “Nineveh House.”  However, he continued returning to Iraq throughout his life to dig at both ancient Assyrian and Babylonian archaeological sites.  Rassam also served as a British diplomat in both Aden (located in present-day Yemen) and Ethiopia.  He specifically went to Ethiopia to help persuade its Emperor, Tewodros II, to free several British missionaries that he had taken captive.  However, Emperor Tewodros did not trust the British, so eventually imprisoned Rassam as well, despite being personally fond of him.  Rassam was not freed until the British fought against Tewodros at the Battle of Magdala two years later. 

 

Sadly, during his lifetime, Rassam did not receive the full credit that he deserved for his archaeological work.  This is most likely because he was viewed as a foreigner, so never fully accepted as an Englishman.  Rassam passed away in 1910 and is buried in Hove, England.  You can read his 1897 book about his archaeological expeditions, Asshur and the Land of Nimrodonline here. 

 

 

Written by Esther Lang 

 

Bibliography 

Edermariam, Aida. “Birth of an Empire.” The Guardian. January 12, 2008. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2008/jan/12/history.biography (accessed on March 17, 2021). 

 

Encyclopaedia Britannica. “Hormuzd Rassam.” Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2021. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Hormuzd-Rassam (accessed on March 17, 2021). 

 

Grutz, Jane Waldron. “Iraq’s First Archeologist.” AramcoWorld. May/June 2018. https://www.aramcoworld.com/Articles/May-2018/Iraq-s-First-Archeologist (accessed on March 17, 2021). 

 

Hormuzd Rassam. London, England, Overseer Returns, 1863-1894 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2013. 

 

“Hormuzd Rassam.” Nineveh Press. September 16, 2020. https://www.ninevehpress.com/2020/09/16/hormuzd-rassam/ (accessed on March 17, 2021). 

 

“Homruzd Rassam.” Wikimedia Commonshttps://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hormuzd.Rassam.reclined.jpg (accessed on March 17, 2021). 

 

Rassam, Hormuzd. Asshur and the Land of Nimrod. Cincinnati: Curts & Jennings, 1897. https://archive.org/details/asshurandlandni00rogegoog/page/n10/mode/2up (accessed on March 17, 2021). 

 

Reade, Julian. “Hormuzd Rassam and His Discoveries.” Iraq 55 (1993): 39-62. Accessed March 17, 2021. doi:10.2307/4200366. 

Dr. Eprime Eshag

Date: July 23, 2021

Full Post

Did you know that there was an Assyrian economics professor at Oxford University?  Dr. Eprime Eshag worked at Oxford from 1962 until his retirement in 1986.  His specialties included Keynesian economics and development economics.  In addition to publishing articles, he published several books as well including Fiscal and Monetary Policies and Problems in Developing Countries, published by Cambridge University Press in 1984.

 

Dr. Eshag was born in the city of Urmia, Persia (present-day Iran) in 1918 to parents originally from the village of Qaradjalu.  Since he was born toward the end of the World War I-era Assyrian Genocide, his family had to flee to Russia soon after he was born.  He lived in Russia until 1926, which enabled him to learn the language.  The brilliant Dr. Eshag ultimately learned how to speak Assyrian, English, Persian, Russian, Spanish, and Turkish, as well as some Armenian and French.

 

Dr. Eshag continued his education once he returned to Iran in 1926.  However, in 1936, he left to study both accounting and economics at the University of London, after receiving a scholarship to go to England from Bank Melli Iran (the National Bank of Iran).  After briefly working in Iran after graduation, he eventually resumed his studies in England and earned a PhD in Economics at Cambridge University in 1952.  Following his graduation, he briefly worked for the United Nations, which sent him to both the Congo (Democratic Republic of Congo today) and Ethiopia.  However, he eventually became disillusioned with the U.N., so decided to pursue a career in academia instead.  That is what led him to a position at Oxford University’s Wadham College.

 

Although he lived in England for the majority of his life, Dr. Eshag did not forget his Assyrian heritage.  His home in Oxford was named “Urmia” after his birthplace.  Visitors to his home remember eating Assyrian dishes that he had prepared for them.  Additionally, although not directly related to Assyrians, in the 1970s, Dr. Eshag successfully managed to receive funding from the Iranian Princess, Ashraf Pahlavi, to create a Persian Studies Section in the Wadham College Library.  Today, this Persian Studies Section is called the Ferdowsi Library and has 4,500 books related to Iran, in addition to 950 Persian manuscripts and 900 early Armenian books.  A busy man throughout his life, Dr. Eshag ultimately passed away in 1998.

 

 

Written by Esther Lang

 

Bibliography

Davies, Cliff and John Gurney. “Obituaries: H. I. H. Princess Ashraf Pahlavi 1919-2016.” Wadham College Gazette 2016. April 18, 2017. https://issuu.com/ciconiltd/docs/wadham_gazette_2016/123 (accessed on April 7, 2021).

 

De Matran, Lucrece. “An Assyrian at Oxford.” Nineveh. First/Second Quarter 1997. https://www.assyrianfoundation.org/files/1997-1-2.pdf (accessed on April 7, 2021).

 

“Dr. Eprime Eshag: 1918-1998.” Zinda Magazine. April 5, 1999. http://www.zindamagazine.com/html/archives/1999/apr5_1999.htm#Anchor-THE-10888 (accessed on April 7, 2021).

 

Golestan, Ebrahim. “Biography: Eprime Eshag: 6 November 1918 – 24 November 1998.” The Iranian. https://iranian.com/Features/Dec98/Eprime/bio.html?site=archive (accessed on April 7, 2021).

 

Golestan, Ebrahim. “Eprime: In Memory of Eprime Eshag; Friend, Economist (1918-1998).” The Iranian. December 21, 1998. https://iranian.com/Features/Dec98/Eprime/index.html?site=archive&__cf_chl_jschl_tk__=22956e7226f7674456ec005c60b29b5aaec837ea-1617803495-0-AYGUR_vyqd2mlmKpu-Ekn96Ao6MILklsYvuBQi2Ee7iG5a7hwB8SRFqzULRbEEN3QEPvDKEc58gyuHNZ7WOz52wYAmiKhnZnDP9QVQ-d2o2Zrax2eo88K2xQ-EeWQSBDonNhkYR3EG8vzH6Kyk_1IcYxqqE1setAFuecmFM9XMJOAT2iFugGmemoXwXyO3zlLpdgTL5gHjLmu37QZoSFRNHdTucF9YNOHagx_V5hG0La8VbYd8LBG5qVKKN0C6j3diADJhh8irDG7ojdecUzecDj596Gxaysa_3iu9xd0iY3HJ5sHs_6IiuF9DE_DR83j96g3IYDW-_-0U9r9lx92kymfQ3xHPcrdlYbiB6sdBMtXBIvQrK5uara5-MbLnsETRuKlsHmUh0VGmyqZ0a3sy2jt-np38bZmhDfc180Nu70ozHB2l3o60qwiRIk6HmYNA (accessed on April 7, 2021).

 

“In Memoriam: Eprime Eshag.” Nineveh. First/Second Quarter 1999. https://www.assyrianfoundation.org/files/1999-1-2.pdf (accessed on April 7, 2021).

 

Joshi, Heather. “Obituary: Eprime Eshaq.” Independent. October 23, 2011. https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/obituary-eprime-eshag-1191517.html (accessed on April 7, 2021).

 

“Persian Studies Section at Wadham College Library.” Wadham College. https://www.wadham.ox.ac.uk/about-wadham/library/persian-studies-section (accessed on April 7, 2021).

Alexander Oraham

Date: July 16, 2021

Did you know that an Assyrian medical doctor compiled and published an Assyrian-English dictionary with his wife during his spare time?  Dr. Alexander Oraham published Oraham’s Dictionary of the Stabilized and Enriched Assyrian Language and English in 1943.  It contains 21,000 words, is primarily in the Urmian dialect of Assyrian, and is still one of the main Assyrian-English dictionaries that Assyrians use today.  Dr. Oraham spent 26 years working on this dictionary, which ultimately helped many new Assyrian immigrants to the United States learn English over the decades. 

 

Alexander Joseph Oraham was born in Armudaghaj, a village in Urmia, Iran (Persia at the time) on February 7, 1898.  However, in 1913, he moved to the United States at the age of 15.  In 1915, he began medical school at the Jenner Medical College in Chicago, and stayed there until it closed in 1917.  After a short break, he resumed his medical studies in 1924 by attending the Physicians and Surgeons College of Microbiology, where he earned a Doctor of Microbiology degree in 1925.  Interested in the new field of radiology, he established an X-ray lab in Chicago in 1928, which he ran until he moved to California toward the end of his life. 

 

Although medicine was his primary career, Dr. Oraham helped his Assyrian community on the side.  In 1941, he started a printing press in Chicago called “The Consolidated Press,” which could print books in the Syriac typeface.  He used this printing press to publish his dictionary.  Additionally, Dr. Oraham was involved with the Assyrian National Association of Chicago (now the Assyrian American Association of Chicago).  When the organization published a book in 1944 about the Assyrians from Chicago serving in World War II, he wrote the book’s introduction. 

 

In the introduction to his dictionary, Dr. Oraham mentions how he could not have created his dictionary without the help of his wife, Almas.  Not only did she help with the editing, but she set the Assyrian type for it as well, while Dr. Oraham set its English type.  In addition to helping her husband with his dictionary, Almas also worked as a dressmaker, since she never had any children.  Almas was actually a distant relative of her husband’s, so like Dr. Oraham, she was from Armudaghaj.  Her brother, William Ibrahimi, became the first Assyrian Representative in Iran’s Parliament in 1963. 

 

Sadly, Dr. Oraham passed away at the age of 55 on July 27, 1953.  He is buried in Turlock, California.  Because he worked with X-rays, perhaps radiation exposure helped cause his early death, since people were not aware of the dangers of radiation at the time? 

 

 

Written by Esther Lang 

 

Bibliography 

Abbott, Nabia. “Martin Sprengling, 1877-1959.” Journal of Near Eastern Studies 19, no. 1 (January 1960): 54-55. https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/pdf/10.1086/371561 (accessed May 17, 2021). 

 

“Alex J Oraham.” 1930 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2002. 

 

“Alexander Oraham.” 1940 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012. 

 

“Assyrians Mourn Passing of Dr. Oraham.” Assyrian Star, August 1953. 

 

Bowman, Raymond A. “Oraham’s Dictionary of the Stabilized and Enriched Assyrian Language and English.” Journal of Near Eastern Studies 4, no. 2 (April 1945): 134-135. https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/abs/10.1086/370748 (accessed May 17, 2021). 

 

“Chicago Medical School: History.” Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Sciencehttps://www.rosalindfranklin.edu/academics/chicago-medical-school/about-the-school/history/ (accessed May 17, 2021). 

 

Ibrahimi, William. “Ibrahimi’s Biography as Given by Himself.” Assyrian Star, May-June 1966. 

 

Naby, Eden. “Oraham, Alexander Joseph.” Encyclopaedia Iranica, online edition. August 10, 2016. https://iranicaonline.org/articles/oraham-a-j (accessed May 17, 2021). 

 

Oraham, Alexander. Assyrian Americans of Chicago Who Are Serving in the Armed Forces of Their Country. Chicago: Assyrian National Association of Chicago, 1944. 

 

Oraham, Alexander Joseph. Oraham’s Dictionary of the Stabilized and Enriched Assyrian Language and English. Chicago: Consolidated Press, 1943. https://archive.org/details/ORAHAMDICTIONARY/mode/2up (accessed May 17, 2021).