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

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. 


Published by: Brian Banyamin

Written by Esther Lang 



Edermariam, Aida. “Birth of an Empire.” The Guardian. January 12, 2008. (accessed on March 17, 2021). 


Encyclopaedia Britannica. “Hormuzd Rassam.” Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2021. (accessed on March 17, 2021). 


Grutz, Jane Waldron. “Iraq’s First Archeologist.” AramcoWorld. May/June 2018. (accessed on March 17, 2021). 


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


“Hormuzd Rassam.” Nineveh Press. September 16, 2020. (accessed on March 17, 2021). 


“Homruzd Rassam.” Wikimedia Commons (accessed on March 17, 2021). 


Rassam, Hormuzd. Asshur and the Land of Nimrod. Cincinnati: Curts & Jennings, 1897. (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. 

Milton Malek-Yonan

Date: July 2, 2021

Did you know that an Assyrian man named Milton Malek-Yonan patented a method of boiling and canning rice in the 1940s?  His invention helped feed thousands of U.S. soldiers during World War II.  Because of Malek-Yonan’s work with dehydrating rice, he became an instructor for the U.S. Army at the School of Dehydrated Foods in Fort Meade, Maryland, where he rose to the rank of sergeant during WWII.

In 1938, prior to WWII, Milton Malek-Yonan noticed millions of pounds of rice going to waste in California’s Sacramento Valley.  That was because the United States had placed an embargo on Japan after Japan invaded China in 1937.  Prior to the invasion, a large percentage of the United States’ rice production went to Japan.  After noticing the waste, Malek-Yonan decided to look for ways to preserve rice for a longer period of time.  For two years, he experimented with cooking and canning rice until he came up with a process that worked well.  During that time, he discovered that his method of cooking the rice caused the vitamins from the rice’s bran to go inside the kernel, thus making the rice more nutritious.  Named after him, Malek-Yonan’s method of preserving rice came to be known as “Malekized Rice.”

Milton Malek-Yonan was born in Urmia, Persia (Iran) in 1909.  He was from the prominent Malek family whose ancestors moved to the village of Geogtapa, in Urmia, from Jelu, in the Hakkari (an area in present-day Turkey), decades before Malek-Yonan’s birth.  Malek-Yonan’s parents were Isaac and Mary.  Reverend Isaac Malek-Yonan was a missionary who himself gained some fame by writing two books: Persian Women: A Sketch of Woman’s Life from the Cradle to the Grave, and Missionary Work among Them, with Illustrations (1898) and The Beloved Physician of Teheran: The Miracle of the Conversion of Dr. Sa’eed, Khan, Kurdistani, the Man Who Walks and Talks with God (1934).

Milton’s father, Isaac, came to the United States in the early 1890s to study theology at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri and Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, in order to obtain a Bachelor of Divinity degree and prepare himself for missionary work.  He went back to his native country of Persia soon afterwards, and had his children there.  However, he returned to the United States in 1919, bringing his family with him.  He and his family remained in the United States after that, and over the years lived in Charlotte, North Carolina; Louisville, Kentucky; Oak Park, Illinois; and San Francisco, California.

Milton Malek-Yonan passed away in California in 2004.  You can read his original rice patent from June 10, 1940 online here.  His process of dehydrating rice eventually paved the way for future versions of parboiled rice.  This dehydrated form of rice has helped feed soldiers, refugees, disaster victims, and many others.


Written by Esther Lang



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Marge of Sunrise, Mountain Farm. 1946. “Fresh from the Hills Rice Belt.” Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963), Jun 02, 1-e1. (accessed March 25, 2021).

Milton Yonan. 1920 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010. Images reproduced by FamilySearch.

Milton Yonan. 1930 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2002.

Moorhatch, Abraham. Geogtapa in Urmi, Aderbaijan, Iran: The History of a Small Christian Town in the Northwestern Part of Iran, from the Time of Zoroaster, over 2,500 Years Ago. Translated by Paul Shimmon. Modesto, CA: Commercial Printing Company, 1946.

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