AAI's Board of Directors
Mr. Jean R. AbiNader
Jean AbiNader is Executive Director of the Moroccan American Trade & Investment Center (MATIC), and is a founding board member of the Arab American Institute. He is also the principal of Jean AbiNader International Advisory Services based in Bethesda, MD, and has extensive experience in advocacy, strategic communications, intercultural training, and international business development.
Mr. Ismael Ahmed
Ismael Ahmed is currently the Associate Provost for Integrated Learning and Community Partnerships at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. Ahmed is a longtime activist who has served in multiple political roles within the Michigan Democratic Party. He was appointed Director of the Michigan Department of Human Services in September 2007 and served through January 2011. A nationally-recognized expert on immigration and social reform, Ahmed previously served as executive director of the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS). During his 38 years with ACCESS (24 years as director), Ahmed advocated for low-income, new immigrant, and other marginalized communities across metro Detroit and beyond through a range of social justice, human services and arts activist programs.
Hon. Michael E. Baroody
Michael Baroody served as Executive Vice President for the National Association of Manufacturers, one of the industry’s most powerful lobbies from 1990 to 2007. He oversaw all of the NAM’s advocacy efforts and represented the NAM on the Executive Committee of BIPAC, the influential Business-Industry Political Action Committee. From 1981 to 1985 Baroody served as Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of Public Affairs at the White House under Ronald Reagan. He was Assistant Secretary for Policy at the United States Department of Labor during the Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush administrations.
Ms. Maya Berry
Chevy Chase, MD
Maya Berry is Executive Director of the Arab American Institute, steering the Institute's policy agenda. In 1996 she established AAI’s first Government Relations department, which she led for 5 years before becoming Legislative Director for House Minority Whip David Bonior, where she developed policies on international relations, human rights, trade, and immigration. Berry started her career in public service working for ACCESS, the nation's oldest and largest Arab American human services non-profit. Berry is also the founder of MidAmr Group, a private consulting firm dedicated to enhancing US-Arab economic, political, and cultural cooperation.
Ms. Sherine El-Abd
Sherine El-Abd, an Egyptian born American citizen who immigrated to the United States in 1965, is an influential Arab American in her community. She is the Superintendent of Elections in Passaic County, New Jersey. El-Abd is the former President of the New Jersey Federation of Republican Women, and was previously asked by Governor Christie to run for Statewide Republican delegate of New Jersey. She was selected by Governor Christie to be part of the state’s redistricting commission in 2012. El- Abd is known for her deep political and community activism.
Hon. Edward M. Gabriel
Honorable Edward M. Gabriel was the United States Ambassador to Morocco from 1997 to 2001. Since 2002, he has served as President and Chief Executive Officer of the strategic business consulting firm, The Gabriel Company, LLC. Ambassador Gabriel is on the advisory board of Guggenheim Partners, a private wealth management firm. He has held senior management positions with CONCORD and the Madison Public Affairs Group, where he advised Fortune 100 Companies on multi-national matters in technology, energy, banking, and tax policy. He served the Federal Energy Administration, U.S. Department of Energy, as Senior Economic Analyst. He is the Vice Chairman of the American Task Force for Lebanon and is a Visiting Fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Ms. Nahla Kayali
Nahla Kayali is the Executive Director and Founder of AccessCal, an organization that enhances the quality of life for Arab Americans and American Muslims and provides services and support to new immigrants. Today, AccessCal is one of the premiere ethnic-based social service agencies in the state, providing help to anyone who comes through their doors, whether on immigration issues or navigating health care services. In March 2014, Kayali earned a prestigious recognition from the White House as one of the Cesar E. Chavez “Champions of Change.” Kayali serves on national and international boards including the Palestine Children Relief Fund, Community Action Partnership and the Orange County Food Bank. Kayali also serves as the Chairwoman of the Refugee Forum of Orange County and holds the State Refugee Forum Seat for the State Advisory Council on Refugee Assistance and Services.
Hon. Ray LaHood
Secretary Ray LaHood has extensive experience on major national policy issues, among them transportation and infrastructure. He served as the 16th Department of Transportation Secretary from 2009 to 2013 and quickly became known as a bipartisan leader and skilled conciliator in a highly partisan environment. Secretary LaHood’s tenure was marked by landmark efforts to improve safety in every mode of transportation, from aviation and rail to pipelines and automobiles. Before heading the US Department of Transportation, Secretary LaHood served from 1995 to 2009 in the US House of Representatives on behalf of the 18th District of Illinois and also served on various House committees, among them the powerful House Appropriations Committee and the House Intelligence Committee. He served as chief of staff to House Minority Leader Robert Michel from 1982 to 1994.
Hon. Nick Rahall
Congressman Nick Rahall served in the House of Representatives from 1977 until 2015 where he was a crucial voice on Middle East foreign policy issues, advocating for Palestinian rights and pressuring the State Department to lift its travel ban on Lebanon. While representing West Virginia, he fought tirelessly to improve the state’s water and public transportation infrastructure, bringing new jobs to the state, revitalizing the West Virginia tourism industry, and protecting the state’s natural beauty. In recognition of his efforts to improve mine safety and working conditions he was made an honorary member of the United Mine Workers of America. For his successful campaign to gain the National Guard a seat on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Congressman Rahall was awarded the National Guard Association of the United States’ prestigious Harry S. Truman Award in 2013.
Hon. George R. Salem, Chair
George R. Salem is co-founder and Chairman of the Arab American Institute. He serves as Strategic Advisor with DLA Piper, where he advises the firm with respect to the development of its Middle East and U.S. Department of Labor practices. From 1985-89 he served as Solicitor of Labor, the U.S. Department of Labor’s chief legal officer. He is the first Palestinian Arab American to have been nominated by a President and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Salem has served on the U.S. Advisory Group on Public Diplomacy in the Arab and Muslim World, and in 1992 received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, presented annually to Americans of diverse origins for outstanding contributions to their own ethnic groups and to American society.
Ms. Helen Hatab Samhan
Falls Church, VA
Helen Hatab Samhan currently serves as the Treasurer of the Arab American Institute Foundation and serves as a Board Member of the Arab American Institute. Samhan lectures and publishes on Arab American Affairs, particularly the immigrant experience of Arabs in the U.S., their identity and demographics, the history of anti-Arab racism, political involvement and Arab American women. She serves on numerous boards and holds a master’s degree in Middle East studies from the American University of Beirut.
Hon. Rashida Tlaib
Rashida Tlaib is the daughter of Palestinian immigrants and the first Muslim woman elected to the Michigan Legislature. She was born and raised in Southwest Detroit, and was first elected to the Michigan House of Representatives for the 12th House District in 2008. She was the only legislator to operate a fully-staffed community-based service center that provided over 10 anti-poverty programs. Prior to being elected, Tlaib worked as an attorney, social worker and community organizer at a number of nonprofit organizations. She was awarded the Role Model award from Alternatives for Girls, the Women of Wayne Headliners award, the United Community Housing Coalition’s Maryann Mahaffey Award, Zeta Phi Beta’s Woman of the Year award, named Hero of the Year award by Immigrants’ List and was recognized as one of Crain’s Detroit Business “Women to Watch.” Tlaib received her law degree from Thomas Cooley Law School in 2004.
Hon. James J. Zogby
Dr. James J. Zogby co-founded the Arab American Institute in 1985 and continues to serve as its president. He is a member of the Executive Committee of the Democratic National Committee and was appointed by President Obama to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom in 2013. In addition to writing a weekly column published in 16 countries, Zogby is the creator and host of the award-winning call-in political television show “Viewpoint,” and is frequently featured on national and international media as an expert on Middle East affairs. In 2010, Zogby published the highly-acclaimedb book, Arab Voices. His 2013 e-book, Looking at Iran: The Rise and Fall of Iran in Arab Public Opinion, is drawn from his extensive polling across the Middle East with Zogby Research Services.
Mr. John Zogby
New Hartford, NY
John Zogby, founder of the "Zogby Poll" and the Zogby companies, is an internationally respected pollster, opinion leader, and best-selling author. A sought-after speaker, he is represented by the American Program Bureau of Boston. Zogby writes weekly columns on Forbes.com and contributes a weekly Obama report card to The Washington Examiner's Washington Secrets, by Paul Bedard. He is also a founding contributor to The Huffington Post. His expertise has been published on the opinion pages of the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Financial Times. He has polled and consulted for a wide spectrum of business, media, government and political groups including Coca-Cola, Microsoft, CISCO Systems, St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital and the Census Bureau.