Posted by on July 09, 2012 in Blog

By Johara Hall

2012 Summer Intern

Sherine El-Abd, an Egyptian born American citizen who immigrated to the United States in 1965, has become an influential Arab American in her community. After leaving a country in which civil society was constrained and political involvement was limited, El-Abd was eager to delve into America’s political sphere. Upon graduating from Texas A&M University, she moved to New York and then New Jersey, where she has become known for her deep political and community activism.

As President of the New Jersey Federation of Republican Women, El-Abd has been working with Republican women, bringing them under the umbrella of the Republican Party, while also exposing them to Arab culture. The experience has been “very refreshing because a lot of people don’t have the opportunity to meet and interact with people of Arab origin. To get to know an Arab American firsthand and to be able to see us in a different light allows the greater community to discover that we are indeed normal!” El-Abd continued, “Attempting to change the perception of us as Arab Americans in the US by becoming a key player in an organization such as the New Jersey Federation of Republican Women is the most effective way to eradicate the misperceptions about our community. Once you become a valuable member of the team, it is much easier to bring the issue of your ethnicity into the field.”

El-Abd’s political activism does not end there. She was asked by Governor Christie to run for Statewide Republican delegate of New Jersey. Taking this opportunity, El Abd said, “I was very proud to run for delegate. Before that I was an honorary delegate during the 2000 Republican National Convention which was a tremendous experience.” As a Republican delegate, El-Abd has also been active fundraising and campaigning for fellow Arab American Republican Joe Kyrillos, who is running for Senate while also being an active Romney campaigner.

In addition, El-Abd was selected by Governor Christie to be part of the state’s redistricting commission. One of the main criteria in redistricting was to ensure that minority communities were not to be split and weakened. She said, “one of the reasons I was selected was because I am Arab American. By having a diverse redistricting commission, the voices of minorities could be heard. And now, rewards are being seen because the people of our community are noticing Arab Americans in a positive way.”

El-Abd does not only represent the Arab American community in New Jersey, but also supports it through her outreach work by attending various Arab American events and gatherings. Most recently, she attended a United Arab Coalition meeting, a newly-founded organization based in New Jersey that aims to educate the community about what it means to be an Arab American.

Given Sherine’s passion for public service and ethnic outreach, she has been longtime member of the Arab American Institute and serves on its board. El-Abd said, “I am very proud to be part of AAI. I think the work that Jim has done with the staff has been phenomenal and gives us [Arab Americans] hope that our community can overcome the discrimination we face. When I first came to this country, it wasn’t a bad thing to be an Arab American. Today, it is a bad thing…AAI has provided us with excellent groundwork to work against the stigma Arab Americans have in our country”--a stigma that El-Abd has long been working against. El-Abd is also President of the Egyptian-American Professional Society and serves as a point of contact for the Egyptian-American Business Association. 

For this reason, El-Abd urges the Arab American community to get involved in politics, stating, “we are not here just to make a living, we are here to live a dream and make our voice heard. We have a very rich heritage that we can actually give as a gift to America because we owe a lot to this country.”

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