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Introduction to Gorab Family History
By Bob Gorab, August 2007

Before I make an attempt on putting something together in the way of an introduction to the Gorab Family History, let me introduce myself. My name is Bob Gorab; I am the son of Sadick (Sam) and Alice Gorab and the brother of Nicholas Gorab. My father is the son of Noula Gorab and was born in Homs Syria and immigrated to the U.S. at an early age. My mother is the only daughter of Yoacub Gorab and was the only child born in the U.S. All of her brothers were born in Homs Syria. So that would make my brother and me one and one-half generation sons of immigrants. My life through college was spent living at home in Clifton N.J. and, in fact, after marriage my wife Helene and I lived in Clifton for five years. My brother Nick still lives in Clifton.

I did not meet or know three of my grandparents. Unfortunately they were deceased long before I was born. The only grandparent I knew and dearly loved was my maternal grandmother Kawkob. She was an absolute angel and had nothing but kind things to say about anyone. I wished I could have spent more time with her.

The only knowledge I have of my paternal grandparents is what I learned from my father and others in the family. So what I write today (August 2007) at the age of 72 is based mostly on those conversations. Only one additional opportunity to know my paternal grandfather came when I was traveling on business in the Middle East with my wife Helene. Before we moved to Beirut, Lebanon in June 1975 (which move was untimely as the war broke out and we subsequently moved to Athens Greece and London) we left Saudi Arabia and visited my cousin Katie Gorab Abbas. While visiting, Katie was kind enough to drive us from Beirut to Homs, Syria. While there we visited the home where my father was born and raised: a truly cherished moment. While the home was no longer owned by the family, the new owners were kind enough to welcome us and to allow us to look throughout the house, a beautiful stone structure that my grandfather built. He was a stonemason. On the roof the house was a very large stone tablet that he had made that contained the names of his family. It was too large for me to lift and too large to think of shipping it home. I now regret that decision. One of the regrets about that trip was that my father, Sadick, had already passed away and I could not share those cherished moments with him. I did however share them with my mother.

Well; that is about as much as I can relate to you about my grandparents. I will now move on to my mother and father.

To describe my parents as being social and giving people would be a vast understatement. As I look back now over the years, I can only think about all the time they gave to entertaining at home, to the time they gave to charitable endeavors, the time they gave to worthwhile causes, the time they gave to the church, and the time my father gave to his favorite pastime—The New York Yankees. This was a passion he shared with John (Naseeb) Gorab, his nephew and good buddy. This passion extended to sharing a box seat at Yankee Stadium for many years. All of this happened while working very hard as basically middle class people to put food on the table, keep a roof over our heads and strongly urging a set of values on my brother and I that included respect, hard work, love of the church and giving to others. Often this effort required my father to work two jobs and long hours. My mother also worked as school crossing guard, where the children she looked after at School #1(my grade school) became her second family.

I don’t want to forget the Sunday afternoons spent under the grape vine arbor around the table eating and visiting and enjoying each other.

A good deal of my father’s charitable activities was centered on the church-St George Syrian Orthodox Church (now Antiochian Orthodox) in Paterson N.J. My father was on the Board of Trustees for years, including presidency a number of times, my mother was a very active member of the Ladies Society. Boy could they cook! My brother and I were baptized there, as well as our children and we were active in youth activities, choir and altar boys.

Another of my father’s activities was as president of the Homsian Charitable Society, a Clifton/Paterson-based charity that by its name was formed and run by people from Homs Syria. This organization ran fund raising functions that raised money for orphanages in Homs. Also this organization, together with the Aleppo-based and Damascus-based organizations in Clifton/Paterson was the New Jersey founding members to the institution we now know as St Jude’s Hospital in Memphis, Tenn. These three organizations formed the nucleus in New Jersey of what became known then as ALSAC (known then as American Syrian Lebanese Associated Charities and Aiding Leukemia Stricken American Children) a vision of Danny Thomas singer, actor and comedian. A great deal of money was raised when Danny Thomas came to Paterson for a parade and a major fund raising dinner.

I do not want to forget something that existed in Clifton at the time and still exists today for other immigrant families throughout the U.S. Many of the families that were relatives and friends of my family seemed to settle in the Madeline Avenue area in Clifton. The families included the Kashey’s, the Kabbash’s, the Nahass’s, the Eardley’s, the Haik’s, the Azrak’s, the Harraka’s and others I currently can’t remember. They stretched from Main Street all the way up to Hazel Street and to some of the adjoining streets. What a neighborhood. You could visit all of them by foot and it would take you a month or more to visit with all of them. It was the social center of Syria in Clifton N.J.

I have for the moment exhausted my memory, but did want to memorialize this for my sons and grandchildren.