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Cultural Insight

News Feature

News & Events

April 17, 2012

A series of more than a dozen events held to boost awareness of issues, cultures and traditions in the Middle East culminated with BSU's third annual Passover Celebration and Seder held in the Campus Center and attended by campus and community members.

This program and those preceding it over the past two weeks -- called the Middle East Educational Weeks -- were sponsored by the university's Center for Middle East Studies (CMES) and the Center for Multicultural Affairs (CMA), with support from BSU's U.S. Ethnic Studies program and the offices of Academic Affairs and External Affairs.

Event organizer Dr. Jabbar Al-Obaidi, director of the CMES, said it was important to conclude the series of events held since the end of March with the Passover Celebration and Seder, a ritual dinner served during Passover. "It's an appropriate moment to reflect back on all that has taken place at Bridgewater in observance of our initiative to promote a better understanding of the Middle East," he said.

Speakers included Dr. Al-Obaidi and Andrea Garr-Barnes, director of the Center for Multicultural Affairs, who both delivered welcoming remarks; Dr. Howard London, provost and vice president for academic affairs; Dr, David Ostroth, vice president for student affairs; Dr. Michael Kryzanek, executive director, Center for Global Engagement; and Saleh AlOmar, president of the Muslim Students Association at BSU.

Rabbi J. Hannah Orden, of Temple B'nai Israel, located in Lebanon, N.H., led the Seder. Dr. Steven Young of the Department of Music performed on the piano.

Dr. Al-Obaidi, a native of Iraq, said Passover reminds him of the month of Ramadan, among the most sacred of Muslim traditions, because "it provides an opportunity to appreciate one's life and reexamine one's values.

"At the same time," he added, "we're offering an educational venue about the Middle East and its peoples for our students, faculty, and staff and the community-at-large."

During the past month for Middle East Educational Weeks participants in various events have included diplomats and scholars from throughout the world, as well as BSU's own faculty, staff and students.

Dr. Asmat M. Khalid, president of the University of Duhok, Kurdistan, Iraq, delivered two lectures: "Kurdistan Regional Government: Politics and the National Development and Education in Kurdistan" and "Iranian and Turkish Influence in Iraq: Conflict, or Cooperation." Drs. Vernon Domingo and James Hayes-Bohanan, faculty in BSU's Department of Geography, delivered a presentation, "Teaching Geography of the Middle East and Beyond for Middle and High School Students." A lecture by Shai Bazak, consul general of Israel to New England can be seen here.

A panel discussion, "Oil, Honey, and Arms: Searching for a Middle Ground in the Middle East," featured Professor Yoav Mehozay of Northeastern University, Professor Shahram Shadbash of Suffolk University, and Dr. Shakir Almakzomy, who is a former member of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq. It was moderated by Dr. Tahir Al-Bakaa, visiting professor at BSU and Suffolk University and former minster of higher education in Iraq.

In addition, Dr. Yahya R. Kamalipour, professor and head of the Department of Communication and Creative Arts and director of the Center for Global Studies at Purdue University, spoke on "Big Media: Dead and Buried or Live and Prospering, or Both."

"These examples offer an idea of the range of activities which took place at the university over the past weeks and I extend my deepest thanks to all who participated and who supported our efforts," said Dr. Al-Obaidi. "We live in a world where it is vital to share knowledge and build understanding for the rights, traditions and achievements of all cultures. We look forward next year to continuing this work."

There was also a workshop on Arabic musical instruments; an Arabic music and dance concert, ARABIZED; and a performance by Karim Nagi, percussionist, folk dancer, and creator of Turbo Tabla.

The primary mission of the Middle East Studies is to introduce and enhance the educational and cultural awareness of the Middle East region and its people, history and cultures, Dr. Al-Obaidi said in remarks opening the Passover celebration. "Our mission is to promote both specialized knowledge and public understanding of this crucial region of the world." (David K. Wilson, '71, University Advancement)

Dr. Jabbar Al-Obaidi speaking at the celebration

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