In 1974, when Joseph Haiek documented Arab-American accomplishments in the first Arab American Almanac, he compiled 96 pages. Today, the sixth edition has ballooned to a 608-page book about Arab Americans and their history, culture and contributions to society.
“Arab Americans are good citizens, and they are doers,” Haiek said in a recent interview. “They are not waiting for something to happen to them.”
Born in Jerusalem in 1932, Haiek immigrated to the United States in his 30s and became quite the “doer” himself. He studied marketing at Los Angeles City College and journalism at California State University in Los Angeles
In 1972, he founded The News Circle Publishing House, which today publishes the English-language Arab American Affairs Magazine, which covers both Arab Americans and Arab world news and views.
In 1978, he founded the nonprofit Arab American Historical Foundation, which promotes research and dissemination of Arab-American history and culture. It preserves an extensive collection of historical Arab-American books, publications, photos and video clips — a task Haiek is passionate about.
“We must perpetuate the legacy of our Arab-American culture and acknowledge our history and perspectives before we can expect others to respect and recognize our achievements and contributions in America,” Haiek said.
Haiek is also an advisory board member of the Arab American National Museum, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and the Arab American Press Guild.
In May 2011, Haiek received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor for his contributions to his community and the nation. The prestigious honor is recognized by the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives and recipients are listed in the U.S. Congressional Record. The medal was established in 1986 by the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations, whose mission is to foster respect and understanding among religious and ethnic groups and to honor and preserve the cultural diversity that makes the United States a strong nation.
“Arab Americans are independent,” Haiek said. “They are proud of being Americans — and one of them is me.”