Six-week Assyrian culture program kicks off in Skokie

dtcommonstreamsstreamservercls.jpgBy MIKE ISAACS
Rounza Gorges (from left), Kathy Polus and Sarah Adam welcome guests Sunday to the kickoff Coming Together In Skokie event at Niles West High School. This year’s edition celebrates Assyrian Culture. | Jerry Daliege~for Sun-Times Media
The first of more than 30 events over the next six weeks celebrating Assyrian culture kicked off this year’s Coming Together In Skokie program Sunday at Niles West High School.

The first event introduced the audience to Assyrian history and included some art, live entertainment and food. Through the middle of March, events ranging from book discussions to art exhibitions, from history seminars to field trips will be held throughout the village.

This is the third annual Coming Together In Skokie, which focuses on a different culture every year. The program, which always revolves around literature of a selected culture, has grown each year.

Books highlighted in this year’s program include is “Gilgamesh,” the first known recorded literature discovered among the archaeological ruins of Assyrian King Ashurbanipal’s great library; “Home Is Beyond the Mountains” by Celia Barker, a story of loss and courage; “Children of War: Voices of Iraqi Refugees” by Deborah Ellis, which highlights firsthand accounts of children displaced by war in Iraq; and “Sahra=Moon,” written and illustrated by Romil and Victor Benyamino, a children’s book written in Assyrian and English as a playful bedtime story.

Authors from two of these books are scheduled to appear during the program.

“We would like everyone who lives in Skokie and the neighboring communities to come and take part in these wonderful activities,” said Susan Van Dusen, one of the initiative’s founders and the first lady of Skokie.

Organizations that are helping to plan this year’s events include the Assyrian Universal Alliance Foundation, Assyrian Chaldean Syriac Student Movement, Assyrian National Council of Illinois, the Assyrian American Civic Club of Chicago and the Assyrian students of Niles West and Niles North High Schools.

In its first year, Coming Together in Skokie featured the Asian-Indian community and the novel “Motherland.” In 2011, the program showcased the Filipino-American community based around several books.

A crowd attends the kickoff Coming Together In Skokie event celebrating Assyrian culture Sunday at Niles West High School. | Jerry Daliege~for Sun-Times Media

Marie Simon reads about Assyrian history Sunday during the Coming Together In Skokie kickoff event at Niles West High School. | Jerry Daliege~for Sun-Times Media

People socialize over refreshments Sunday as they learn about Assyrian history and art during the Coming Together In Skokie kickoff event at Niles West High School. | Jerry Daliege~for Sun-Times Media

For more information on this year’s Coming Together In Skokie program, access www.skokie.lib.il.us/s_programs/ComingTogether/index.asp.