Said Manna: "When Arthur and I
launched the Building Community
Initiative, we never would've imagined
the impact it has had on this region
and our communities. I am excited
about our plans in 2012 as we engage
additional communities to foster
better communication in this region."
Unprecedented as a newspaper
initiative, Building Community has all
the hallmarks of building on common
ancestral roots in the Middle East
(Iraq for Chaldeans and Israel for
Jews). Efforts range from shattering
intolerant stereotypes to sharing
cultural foods and tackling social
BCI began with excitement, promise
and a big splash in April 2010.
Landmark events during the
formative years since include:
• The opening dinner at
Shenandoah Country Club in West
Bloomfield. "From the eloquent
remarks by honorary co-chairs
Michael George and Dr. Conrad Giles
to the informative videos about the
Chaldean and Jewish communities to
the deliberate mixing and matching
of Chaldean and Jewish attendees by
areas of interest, and to, of course,
the exceptional food, this May 2010
event set a tone of collaboration and
friendship that continues to draw
upbeat comments:' Horwitz said. "It
was a magical evening."
•The two teen forums, hosted by
Bloomfield Hills Schools for Chaldean
and Jewish students and by Walled
Lake Schools for Chaldean, Jewish and
Muslim students, both well-facilitated
by radio personality Mojo of 95.5 FM.
"They stripped away stereotypes and
even motivated one student to initiate
a series of follow-up opportunities
with a wider group of students
who brought diverse backgrounds','
•The gathering of young Chaldean
and Jewish entrepreneurs at Wayne
State University's TechTown in
Detroit's Midtown District. The
intent was to spur new friendships
and business partnerships. Some
of the respective communities' top
entrepreneurs and venture capitalists
spoke. A key result of the networking
was creation of an angel fund for
•The delicacy-filled evening
arranged by the BCI workgroups that
offered a chance to sample dozens of
home-cooked Chaldean and Jewish
dishes. This was a classic grassroots
endeavor with food as the savory
unifier."The food line went right
out the front door of the host venue,
the Vineyards of Farmington Hills,"
Horwitz said. "Fortunately for the
hungry crowd, the line moved quickly."
Telling the stories of the two ethnic
communities has been a priority.
In 2010 and 2011, the Chaldean
News and the Jewish News published
BCI supplements in May, August,
October and December. The
inserts showcased the five hard-
working workgroups: Business/
Entrepreneurship; Arts & Culture;
Education; Social Action; and Health.
This year, special BCI pages will run in
each newspaper during the same four
The collaboration between the
Chaldean News and the Jewish News
to plan, produce and share similar
content with both communities is
unique. "This component of the
Building Community Initiative
continues to serve as the foundation
upon which the rest of the endeavor is
constructed;' Horwitz said.
Published content continues to
educate readers while capturing many
of the joint events and activities.
People and organizations have
stepped up to lend their minds and
money to making this exercise in
multicultural pollination resonate.
Underscoring the value of BCI, most
of the initial sponsors continue their
support. Health Alliance Plan is a new
In 2012, BCI will seek to extend its
footprint to more ethnic communities,
with a particular focus on the city
of Detroit. For example, BCI, in
collaboration with the Black-Jewish
Forum, a cultural-bridge project of
the Jewish News and the Detroit-based
Michigan Chronicle, is planning a
14th Congressional District event this
election season. The district stretches
from southwest Detroit north into
south Oakland County.
BCI hopes to find other ways to
work with the Black-Jewish Forum as
It also hopes to discover business-
mentoring ways to work with
grassroots organizer Sue Mosey
in revitalizing Detroit's Midtown
neighborhood of 24,000 residents.
Personal connections in myriad
forms have proven to be pistons of
engagement and opportunity for the
Building Community Initiative.
As the Chaldean News' Martin
Manna put it: "I have personally
gained many new friendships and a
deeper understanding of Jewish faith,
culture and cuisine. But I realize this
is more than just breaking bread. We
have become family!" BC
New Honorary Leaders
At The Helm
Building Community Initiative co-leaders Arthur Horwitz and Martin
Manna have named new honorary co-chairs for 2012: Frank Jonna, represent-
ing the Chaldean community, and David Victor, from the Jewish community.
Both count friends and associates in the respective other community.
They assume the reins from the 2011 honorary co-chairs, Florine Mark,
president and CEO of the Farmington Hills-based WW Group Inc., the
top franchise holder of Weight Watchers International, and Judge Diane
D'Agostini of the 48th District Court in Bloomfield Township.
Jonna, a Farmington Hills resident, is chief executive officer of the
Bloomfield Hills-based Jonna Companies. The family-owned
business encompasses commercial and residential develop-
ment and management, leasing, construction and histori-
cal renovation. He is past chair of the Chaldean American
Chamber of Commerce. He has served on the boards of
Henry Ford Health System, Henry Ford West Bloomfield
Hospital, Detroit Public Television and Midtown Detroit Inc.
"I believe we have an opportunity to improve the
Chaldean and Jewish communities by highlighting the posi-
tive aspects and unique family values that both communi-
ties share," Jonna said.
He's especially interested in promoting family values and
philanthropy, two pillars of each community. He has high regard for the
Jewish community's yen to give. "One of my objectives for the Chaldean
community is to help it understand the value of giving without expecting
anything in return," Jonna said.
He and his wife, Judy, have four children and five grandchildren.
Victor, a Bloomfield Hills resident, is president of the American
Educational Institute, a Birmingham-based national sponsor of Continuing
Medical Education. He's past national president and current
board chair of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee
(AIPAC). Locally, he has served on the boards of the Jewish
Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, the Jewish Community
Relations Council and JARC, a residential services agency
serving developmentally disabled people. He and his wife,
Kelly, have four children.
Via AIPAC, Victor assists the Chaldean community
navigate Capitol Hill on behalf of Chaldean refugees and
Chaldean aspirations in portions of Iraq. "I've tried to be
helpful in consulting with Chaldean community leaders
regarding policy advocacy concerning the well-being of their
brethren in Iraq," he said.
He added, "I find Chaldeans generally to be a very warm, high-energy, fam-
ily-oriented people who are living a history in this town very similar to ours,
albeit a generation or two more recent."
Jonna got his business start at age 10, working in the family grocery store
in Detroit. Most of the customers were black; many of the vendors were
Jewish. "Our success in that first family business was a direct result of the
confidence our Jewish vendors gave us by extending credit and providing
quality service," Jonna said.
As he grew older, Jonna said he never forgot the work ethic of his Jewish
"After losing the business in the 1967 riots," Jonna said, "I joined my
brother in the construction business. Many of the members of the Jewish
community that supplied us became our customers. The support of numer-
ous members of the Jewish community contributed to the success we now
For his part, Victor wants to see the Jewish-Chaldean relationship deepen
from one of mutual admiration somewhat from a distance to one of vigor-
ous communal, social and business relationships.
Both men see advantage to their communities teaming with each other
and with other local ethnic constituencies to address larger Southeast
Michigan needs, challenges and causes.
For the Detroit Jewish community, Victor said, "The Chaldean community
is particularly important given its size, its proximity to us, its cultural similari-
ties to our community and its high business and communal energy." BC