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Outreach News

The Center has been commended by the Department of Education for its Outreach Program, which works with schools and colleges, community and religious groups, government and military institutions, and the general public to raise awareness and understanding of issues in the Middle East and their importance to our communities.

Al-Bustan's percussion instruction and music appreciation program, featuring Simon Shaheen

On November 19, 2008, the Middle East Center, in partnership with Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture, co-sponsored a teacher's workshop with internationally renowned 'ud and violin virtuoso Simon Shaheen. The workshop was held from 1-3 PM at the Kimmel Center at 260 S. Broad St. This event was followed by a series of master workshops with several youth ensembles in January 2009. For more information on Al-Bustan's music program, click here to visit their website.

PaCIE Conference - on Oct. 2-4, 2008, the Middle East Center co-sponsored the Pennsylvania Council for International Education (PaCIE) annual conference in State College PA.  The center's staff attended and participated in panels on the Globalizing the K-12 Classroom and Building an International Education.  PaCIE has provided vital professional development and networking opportunities to the state's international educators and has been a constant voice to advocate for international education in the Commonwealth for 40 years. For more information please visit

“City Year Training Day " at The Mastery Charter School-Shoemaker Campus

On September 23, 2008, the Middle East Center, in partnership with three other National Resource Centers at Penn (African Studies Center, Center for East Asian Studies, and South Asian Studies Center) offered a teacher's training day for 230 City Year staff members. The training focused on the significance of global education and its impact on solidarity. The training also provided members with resources to use in their own classrooms and after-school programs. This half-day program was partially funded by the Schol of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania.

“The New Mediterranean" at Dickinson College

The Middle East Center continues to expand its circle of outreach partners in the state of Pennsylvania.  In April 2008, the Center co-sponsored Dickinson College’s Clarke Forum for Contemporary Issues a day-long symposium on “The New Mediterranean.”  This special event addressed new ways of understanding diaspora identity, cultural, political boundaries and exchanges between Europe and North Africa through critical discussions and performances by writers, cultural critics, and musicians. The discussions concluded with an improvisational and participatory Culture Jam and concert by the world music and Afro-Nord group, Cafe Mira. Click here for more information.

World-renowned Arab Ethnomusicologist Dr. Ali Jihad Racy and Mideast Ensemble Perform

In March 2008 the Middle East Center's Outreach Program co-sponsored with its partner, Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture, and Swarthmore College a free public concert featuring a collaboration between the world-renowned Arab ethnomusicologist Dr. Ali Jihad Racy and Philadelphia's own Middle East Ensemble, featuring Joseph Tayoun, Roger Mgrdichian, Adeeb Refela, Hafez El Ali, and William Tayoun at the Lang Performing Arts Center at Swarthmore College, in Media, Pennsylvania.

The concert, "Music and Memory: Legacy in a New World" featured a repertoire of traditional, folk, and popular Arab music as well as original compositions. It also incorporated improvisations on a variety of instruments, including the nay (reed flute), buzuq (long-necked lute), and 'ud (short-necked lute). This concert showcased the exquisite musicianship of Dr. Racy (on nay, buzuq, and ‘ud) and members of MidEast Ensemble: Joseph Tayoun (percussion), Roger Mgrdichian (‘ud), Adeeb Refela (violin), Hafez El Ali (percussion/vocals), and William Tayoun (percussion).

The Middle East Center and Al-Bustan will also co-sponsor a free Arab music demonstration workshop by Dr. Racy in West Philadelphia while in our great city.

Professional Development Training for Executives from Telecom Egypt

The Center’s outreach program was instrumental in arranging a unique professional development training for 30 executives from Telecom Egypt, to take place at the new international headquarters of COMCAST in downtown Philadelphia in February 2008.  The group is being sponsored by MEC's partner in the business community, the Global Interdependence Center, and will receive extensive training in best practices in business and personnel management from top managers and executives at COMCAST.  A reception will be held at the Pyramid Club following the training, and will feature Dr. Ashraf El Rabiey, Minister Plenipotentiary and Head of the Economic and Commercial Bureau of the Embassy of Egypt and other diplomatic and commercial representatives from the Middle East.  The reception is co-sponsored by the Center, the African Studies Center and the Lauder Institute of Management and International Studies at Penn.

Research in Community Arts Course with Temple University

This spring the Middle East Center partnered with Dr. Billy Yalowitz, co-director of the cross-disciplinary Arts in Community Program at Temple University, to sponsor an innovative new course, "Research in Community Arts."  In this community-based arts course, students will work in partnership with two community organizations, the Jewish Dialogue Group and Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture, to help create Un/Settled, two separate but linked community-based art works that examine conflicts within the Arab American and American Jewish and communities in Philadelphia.  Students will conduct community-based research, gathering stories on each community’s history of immigration, and their development in the contemporary U.S context.   The history of Arab and Jewish of co-existence in medieval Spain will serve as another point of reference in the creation of the project.  This course will serve as a common forum between the two communities, engaging artists and community leaders through field trips, guest speakers, and community cultural events.

Interactive Middle East Dance and Music Assemblies

The Middle East Center, in partnership with the Spice Route Ensemble and Musicopia, will be sponsoring three interactive Middle East dance and music assemblies in spring 2008 targeting underserved communities in the Delaware Valley.  Programs will be held at the licensed child care center of Doylestown Children's Hospital for pre-school and kindergarten children with special needs and their guardians as part of Family Appreciation Week; the Latino Leadership Alliance, an after-school program in the low-income Bristol Borough of Bucks County; and Woods Services in Langhorne, a school that serves students with mental and physical developmental disabilities.

Introduction to Islam with the Rabbinical Reconstructionist College in Wyncote, PA

The Middle East Center has partnered with the Rabbinical Reconstructionist College to offer the College's students an introduction to Islam in spring 2008.  The course includes both an academic and a service learning component. The emphasis in both is on preparing rabbis to function as Jewish leaders in dialogue, community activism, and education in partnership with Muslims. 

For the service learning component, the Center recruited Muslim graduate students to partner with the rabbinical students, who will participate in a number of joint activities together, including: a get-to-know-each other dinner to beheld at the University of Pennsylvania on March 5th; engaging each other in religious text study and discussion; visiting  a religious service or other Muslim event of the Muslim student’s choice; and preparing a presentation to a Jewish audience on some aspect of Islam or Muslim-Jewish Relations.

"Cruise the Nile through History: Explore Ancient and Modern Egypt"
A Workshop for K-12 Teachers at the Penn Museum

On November 10th, the Education Department at the University Museum, the Middle East Center, and Camden County College sponsored a workshop,"Cruise the Nile through History: Explore Ancient and Modern Egypt," for 49 teachers from Philadelphia and New Jersey. Dr. Kate Liszka, one of the University Museum's Egyptologists, covered many of the cultural aspects of the Old, Middle, and New Kingdom in Egypt. Her presentation included discussions of the sites of the Giza Plateau, Memphis, Luxor, Alexandria, and Abu Simbel, and explored aspects of the ancient society such as love, poetry, worship, humor, business, education, and hobbies. After the talk, the teachers enjoyed a guided tour of Penn Museum’s magnificent Egyptian collection. After a sumptuous Middle Eastern buffet lunch, Manar Darwish, a native of Cairo and professor of Islamic Art, gave a lively presentation on Modern day Egyptian art, religion, education, and tourism. The teachers learned how the legacy of ancient Egypt is integrated into the current culture. Following the lecture, Manar lead the group through Penn Museum’s Islam gallery.