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May 05, 2011 - Image 43

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Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2011-05-05

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{ co-chairs

At The Helm

Building Community names 2011 honorary leadership.

Robert Sklarl Contributing Editor

Vigor continues to bring

the local Chaldean and

Jewish communities

together — to not only

get to know one another

better, but also to appreci-

ate how each contributes

in a robust way to mak-

ing Metro Detroit a richer,

more inclusive area.

In this spirit, the Building
Community Initiative, a joint proj-
ect of the Chaldean News and the
Detroit Jewish News, both based along
Northwestern Highway in Southfield,
enters its second year with some suc-
cess stories and a host of possibilities
with impact on Southeast Michigan's
economic, political, educational and
social engines.
There are lots of reasons to believe
the project's momentum won't subside
in the ongoing pursuit of experiencing
what's special to each culture, discov-
ering the similarities, sparking respect-
ful working relationships and inspiring
lasting new friendships.
The Chaldean community's arrival
and assimilation in Metro Detroit over
the last 25 years mirrors the earlier
business and civic-minded patterns set
by Detroit Jewry
Jews and Chaldeans have much
in common, prompting Judge Diane
D'Agostini, the Chaldean honorary co-
chair of Building Community 2011, to
say, "I hope that this initiative will be
the source of even more friendships in
learning about each other as a group
and individually."
D'Agostini was the first Chaldean
elected a judge in the U.S.
Florine Mark, the Jewish honorary
co-chair, envisions the initiative driving
the two ethnic communities to "live

peacefully and happily
and help make our
state better — Jews
and Chaldeans work-
ing together."
Each of the com-
munities has Middle
East roots (Iraq for
Chaldeans and Israel
for Jews) and a sub-
stantial Metro Detroit Florine Mark
population.

underage drinking and
illegal drug use. Her
program "Order in the
Court" has introduced
1,500 local fourth-
graders to the law and its
adjudication.

Chasing A Dream

Mark is president and
CEO of Farmington
Hills-based WW Group
Inc., the leading fran-
chise holder of Weight
Vote To
Watchers International.
Remember
The weight-loss enter-
D'Agostini was first
prise had humble begin-
elected to the 48th
nings as a family busi-
District Court in
ness created by Mark
Bloomfield Township
from the ground up. Her
in 2000 — the first
relatives were the first
Chaldean judge in
members; her parents
Michigan.
worked
the phones.
She is a first-
Judge
Diane
D'Agostini
Mark
acquired Weight
generation American;
Watcher
franchises
both parents were
throughout
the Midwest,
born and raised in
East
Coast,
Canada
and
Mexico.
Some
Telka if, Iraq, a small farming commu-
of
these
franchises
were
sold
in
2003
nity where Chaldeans — Christians
to Weight Watchers International;
in a largely Muslim country — lived.
but
Mark retained all operations in
Her parents came to the U.S., like many
other Iraqi Christians, in search of reli- Michigan as well as Northern Ontario.
Mark is an adviser, advocate and
gious freedom and economic oppor-
board
member for at least 35 orga-
tunity. Her father, Salim Dickow, was
nizations. They include the Jewish
a Highland Park grocer. Her mother,
Federation of Metropolitan Detroit,
Suham, raised their three children
the Jewish Community Center of
while widowed at age 27.
Metropolitan Detroit, the American
"I will never forget Election Day
Heart Association, the Detroit Institute
2000 for many reasons',' D'Agostini
for Children, the Business Leaders for
said. "Elderly Chaldean women were
Michigan, the University of Michigan
being driven to the polls by their
Cardiovascular Center, the Henry
families so that they could vote for me.
Ford Health System, the Community
When they saw me at the polls, they
Foundation for Southeastern
hugged and kissed me, saying that this
Michigan and the Governor's Council
was the first time they had voted.
on Physical Fitness.
"These women did not have reli-
She served on the Seeds of Peace
gious or political freedom in Iraq; and
board, chaired the Federal Reserve
I could see and feel the magnitude of
Bank of Chicago's Detroit branch and
the moment for them and myself. It
now serves on the Detroit Regional
still makes me emotional when I think
Chamber of Commerce board and the
about it."
Harvard University John F. Kennedy
For the last 11 years, D'Agostini has
handled criminal, civil, landlord/tenant School of Government Women board.
She hosts a weekly morning radio
and traffic cases. She finds great reward
in teaching youth about the law and the show, "Remarkable Women',' on Magic
105.1 FM. She is seen at 5:45 p.m.
consequences of breaking it, especially

Mondays on the "Ask Florine" segment
of WDIV-TV Local 4 News.
"Diversity,' Mark said, "is very
important to me:'
Mark lauded Building Community
as an elevator of multiculturalism.
"Being Jewish and having many
Chaldean friends, because we do so
many things alike, this is an exciting
thing for me to see how we can collab-
orate to make life better for the Jewish
people and the Chaldeans in the state
of Michigan:' she said.

Friendly Interactions

D'Agostini was pleased when Building
Community came about because it
formalized some of the partnerships
she had been observing while practic-
ing law."My colleagues, [Jewish] Judges
Kimberly Small and Marc Barron, and I
talk frequently about the relevant issues
of our respective communities," she said.
The Jewish community has been a
part of D'Agostini's life since her days
as a child in Southfield — "where our
communities interacted and shared
friendship."
"Through the relationships that I
have had with many friends over the
years',' D'Agostini said, "certain values
were consistent in Jewish families: a
great emphasis on family, education
and charitable works."
As she became a prosecutor and a
judge, she made more friendships and
gained more understanding via partici-
pation at Israel Bonds events, speaking
to students at Frankel Jewish Academy
in West Bloomfield and attending
events involving JVS and the JCC.
The intent of Building Community
has been to have the Chaldean and
Jewish communities mingle, appreciate
each other's traditions and serve as a
regional or even a national model for a
multicultural ethnic network.
Says Florine Mark: "The Jews have
their seders, Shabbat and Passover
while the Chaldeans have Easter and
Christmas. Our cultures are distinct,
but important to us. It's good that we
learn about each other by inviting the
other community over to our houses in
friendship and understanding." BC

May 2011

CHALDEAN NEWS I JEWISH NEWS 5

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