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Syrian Culture Resource

Heather Franks
Cohort 34
Spring 2005

Topic References
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Religions
Holidays
Education
Family Life
What Teachers Should Understand
Literature
Teacher Guidelines
The Katreeb Family: Journey to America

Religions
Majority

religion: Sunnite Muslim

Other Muslim religions: Alawites, Ismailis,


and Shiite
Non-Muslim

majority religion: Christian

Greek Orthodox and American Orthodox


Minority

religions: Druses (related to


Islam), Jewish (dwindlingmost have
moved to the US or Israel)

Majority Religion

Muslims practice the five pillars of Islam.


Shahada is the profession of faith: There is no God
but God (Allah) and Mohammed is his prophet.
Salat is the requirement to pray five times a day: at
dawn, midday, mid-afternoon, sunset and evening.
Zakat is the giving of alms to the poor.
Saum is the requirement to fast from sunrise to
sunset during the month of Ramadan.
Hajj is the pilgrimage to Mecca that Muslims must
make at least once in their lives.
May include a stop in Medina to pay respects at the
Prophets grave.
http://cp.settlement.org/english/syria/

Majority Religion

Sunnite Muslim: A member of the branch of


Islam that accepts the first four caliphs as
rightful successors to Muhammad.
Caliph: the civil and religious leader of a Muslim state
considered to be a representative of Allah on earth; "many
radical Muslims believe a Khalifah will unite all Islamic lands
and people and subjugate the rest of the world.
Khalifah: synonym of caliph
http://www.worldreference.com

Majority Religion

Muslim: A believer or follower of Islam


Islam: the monotheistic religion of Muslims founded
in Arabia in the 7th century and based on the
teachings of Muhammad as laid down in the Koran.
Koran: The sacred writings of Islam revealed by God to the
prophet Muhammad during his life at Mecca and Medina.
Muhammad: The Arab prophet who founded Islam (570-632)
Mecca: joint capital (with Riyadh) of Saudi Arabia; located in
western Saudi Arabia; as the birthplace of Muhammad it is the
holiest city of Islam.
Medina: city in western Saudi Arabia; site of the tomb of
Muhammad; the second most holy city of Islam
http://www.worldreference.com

Minority Religion

Druze: an adherent of an esoteric monotheistic


religious sect living in the relative security of
the mountains of Syria and Lebanon who
believes that Al-hakim was an incarnation of
God.
Esoteric: confined to and understandable by only an
enlightened inner circle.
Al-hakim: an Ismaili caliph of Egypt who declared
himself an incarnation of God and founded the
Druze religious sect (985-1021).
http://www.worldreference.com

Holidays
Syrian Muslim Holidays
Ramadan
Eid al-Fitr
Eid al-Adha
Muharram
Syrian

Christian Holidays

Christmas
Catholic or Orthodox Easter

Syrian Muslim Holidays


The

dates of Muslim holidays change


yearly
The Islamic religion follows the Lunar
calendar.
354 days in a year
Each year the holidays are 11 days earlier than
the previous year.

Syrian Muslim Holidays

Ramadan: Ninth month of the Islamic


calendar.

Fast from sunrise to sunset.


A time for reflection of spiritual matters.
Shows devotion to Allah and Mohammed.
Builds self-discipline and encourages compassion
for those who are less fortunate.
During Ramadan families eat their evening meal
with each other.
http://cp.settlement.org/english/syria/holidays.html

Syrian Muslim Holidays

Eid al-Fitr: The breaking of the fast at the


end of Ramadan.
People eat special foods, including sweets, and
many people stay up all night.
Visit family and wear new clothes.
Children receive gifts of money from their relatives.
There are rides for children in the streets and fireworks at
night.

The celebration is three days.


http://cp.settlement.org/english/syria/holidays.html

Syrian Muslim Holidays


Eid

al-Adha: Lasts four days and comes


at the end of the traditional season of
pilgrimage to Mecca.
Celebrates Abrahams willingness to
sacrifice his son to God.
http://cp.settlement.org/english/syria/holidays.h
tml

Syrian Muslim Holidays

Muharram: The beginning of the first month in


the Hijara (lunar) calendar.
Is the Muslim New Year.
Commemorates the day on which Mohammed and
his followers left Medina for Mecca.
Festivals held throughout the year:
Palmyra Festival: Held in the desert and features singing
and dancing as well as camel and horse races.
Latakia, Syria: A peace festival is held during the month of
August.
September, an international folk festival is held in Busra.
The festival continues every night for three weeks.
http://cp.settlement.org/english/syria/holidays.html

Syrian Christian Holidays


Christian

Syrians celebrate Christmas


and the Catholic or Orthodox Easter.
Communities celebrate these holidays.
Only a few decorations appear in
Christmas time
Christmas lights are uncommon.
http://cp.settlement.org/english/syria/holidays.html

Education

Primary education is free.


Attendance is mandatory for ages 6 to 15.
Students wear a green, military-style uniform.
Taught in Arabic.
Learning a second language is mandatory at
eight years-old.
Most students study English.

Religion is taught also.

Education

Secondary education is free at state schools.


Ages 15 to 18.

Four universities.
Students pay a small tuition to attend.

Literacy rate has increased significantly over


the last 20 years.
About 71%.
86% of men and 56% of women.
http://cp.settlement.org/english/syria/

Family LifeChildren
Having

children is very important.


When a couple has a son, the parents
take the name of their first son.
i.e.: If they name their son Yassar, the
father becomes Abu Yassar or father of
Yassar and the mother becomes Umm
Yassar or mother of Yassar.
http://cp.settlement.org/english/syria/

Family LifeMarriage

Children do not leave their parents home


until marriage.
Some newlywed couples live with their parents for
a few years after marriage.

Weddings are major social events.


Arranged marriages are common in Syria.
In the city there is usually more freedom to choose
a marriage partner.
Parents of couple must OK the marriage.

The groom pays a bride-price (majr) to the brides


family.
http://cp.settlement.org/english/syria/

Family LifeStatus
Men

have a strong individual and family


honor (ird).
Women do not have equal status.
Men and women rarely socialize together
outside the home.
It is legal for Muslims to have multiple
wives.
Rare for Syrian families to divorce.
http://cp.settlement.org/english/syria/

Family LifeRelatives

The elderly are respected.


Elders live with their families their entire life.
Nursing homes are not available.
A death in the family entails three days of
mourning.
Women relatives of the deceased must wear black
months after their passing.
http://cp.settlement.org/english/syria/

Family LifeStructure
Patriarchal:

The husband or head


man is the leader of the home.
Females, beginning at a young age, are
expected to help raise[ed] younger
brothers and sistersand continue[d]
that obligation until her death
The Katreeb Family

Aspects of Culture that Teachers Should Understand

Female students may seem to be reclusive.


This can be attributed to their lack of social
standing in Syria.
Syrian students of Muslim decent will need to
pray during the school day.
Set up a special place where they can go to pray.

Syrian students of Muslim decent are not


going to eat at school during lunch while they
are observing Ramadan.
Be understanding of their religious holiday. This is
a practiced Muslims have been observing for
centuries.

Aspects of Culture that Teachers Should Understand


The

term Mohammedanism is offensive


to Muslims who believe that Allah, not
Muhammad, founded their religion.
Teachers should be careful of the
questions they ask or comments made
about a students religion.
Teachers should research the students
religion to preempt a faux pas.
http://www.worldreference.com

Aspects of Culture that Teachers Should Understand


When

you need to speak with a parent


of your Syrian student the mother may
not be allowed to make a decision
about her child without first consulting
her husband.
The most important piece of information
to keep in mind is that there is no
typical Syrian student or family, just as
there is not in the US.

Aspects of Culture that Teachers Should Understand

Some families have come here to find safety


aware from the constant war in the Middle East
that has been going on for centuries, while
others are coming for better opportunities.
Treat each family as their own unit. The way
you will handle situations regarding a student
depends a lot on the religious and social
background that student comes from in Syria
and the amount of education the parents have
had.

Aspects of Culture that Teachers Should Understand

Syria is an old country with an extensive religious and


political background.
Holy wars have been constant in Syria and
surrounding countries for a long time.
Syria used to be a larger country containing the land
of what is not Israel and Lebanon.
Because of Syrias extensive history students may
have mixed emotions regarding the US and Syria.
Take the students feelings into consideration. Be
both patient and understanding of their countrys
history.

Literature

Disney is universal!
Middle Eastern children are very familiar with
Disney. You may consider using a Disney book,
such as The Lion King, to provide the student a
comfort zone.

Cookbooks
Let the children share their Funds of Knowledge
through different cookbooks.
Believe it or not, Betty Crocker has cultural foods!

Literature
Concept

Books

Concept books tend to be filled with


pictures. Students can learn the English
terms and share the Arabic terms in the
concept book with the class.

Literature

Use these titles in your classroom as a


reference for you, as a learning experience
for your native students, and as a familiar
experience for your Syrian student(s):
Ahsan, M.M. Muslim Festivals. Illustrated by
M.M. Ahsan. Vero Beach, FL: Rourke Enterprises,
1987.
Bloom, Jonathan, and Sheila S. Blair. Islamic
Arts. Art and Ideas. London: Phaidon Press,
1997.

Literature
Bloom, Jonathan and Sheila S. Blair.
Islam : A Thousand Years of Faith and
Power. New Haven, CT and London: Yale
University Press, 2002.
Burns, Khephra. Mansa Musa. Illustrated
by Leo & Diane Dillon. San Francisco:
Harcourt Brace, 2001.
Chalfonte, Jessica. I Am Muslim. New York
: PowerKids Press, 1996.

Literature

Ellis, Deborah. The Breadwinner. Toronto,


CA: Groundwood, 2000.
Goodwin, Jan. Price of Honor: Muslim
Women Lift the Veil of Silence on the
Islamic World. New York: Plume, 1995.
Kessler, Cristina. One Night: A Story from
the Desert. Illustrated by Ian Schoenherr.
New York: Philomel Books, 1995.

Literature

Naff, Alixa. The Arab Americans. New York:


Chelsea House, 1988.
Nye, Naomi Shihab. The Flag of Childhood:
Poems from the Middle East. New York:
Aladdin Paperbacks, 2002.
Nye, Naomi Shihab. The Space Between
Our Footsteps: Poems and Paintings from
the Middle East. New York: Simon &
Schuster, 1998.

Literature
Weiss-Armush,

Anne Marie. Arabian


Cuisine. Illustrated by John Berry.
Beirut, Lebanon : Dar An-nafas, 1984.
Wprmser, Richard. American Islam:
Growing Up Muslim in America. New
York: Walker & Co., 1994.

Guidelines for Teachers


Know

that females may not have the


same amount of education as males the
same age because women do not have
the same rights as men.
When probing the class, do not put
students on the spot unless they are
comfortabletheir education has been
more formal that what is in the US.

Guidelines for Teachers


For

counselorsNote that religion plays


a major role in most Syrian families.
You must respect the rules those
families follow.
Some towns do not have electricity or
indoor plumbingthere may be cultural
bias that you will have to overcome or
work around.

Guidelines for Teachers


Though

these students have been


educated, many times the schools are
overcrowded, on double session and
without up-to-date information.
You may have build an entirely new
foundation of knowledge for that student
and overcome their misconceptions or outof-date conceptions regarding academics.

The Katreeb Family: Journey to America


1894Elias

Thanaus Katreeb begins


his journey to America.
Burj Safita, Syriaby donkey to Beirut,
Syria (now Beirut, Lebanon)
Boarded at a house in town for a few
weeksStop in Marsilles, FranceEllis
Island
Processed and sent to Pennsylvania with
many other Syrians.

The Katreeb Family: Journey to America


1894-1896Elias

begins his living

Established a local grocery in Southside


Pittsburgh
Returns to Syria in 1986 to marry Sarah
Libbos Katreeb.
Sarah and Elias returned to the US taking
the same long journey.

The Katreeb Family: Journey to America


1897-few

years

Elias and Sarah were able to afford to bring


Elias sister and husband to the US, and
Sarahs two brothers.
Ann and her husband moved to McKeesport.
Sarahs brothers moved to West Newton.
The majority of Syrian immigrants from Burj Safita
were living in West Newton at that time.

The Katreeb Family: Journey to America


Not

all of the Katreeb-Libbos family was


able to enter the US because of quota
reasons.
Many members of my family immigrated to
Brazil, where that part of the family still is
today.

Resources and References


http://www.worldalmanacforkids.com/ex

plore/nations/syria.html
http://www.scils.rutgers.edu/
%7Ekvander/ChildrenLit/islamicliteratur
e.htm
http://www.scils.rutgers.edu/
%7Ekvander/ChildrenLit/index.html

Resources and References


http://cp.settlement.org/english/syria/hol

idays.html
http://www.worldreference.com
Katreeb, Charles. The Katreeb Family.
Florida, 1995.

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