The Origin of the Modern Syrian


The Origin of the Modern Syrian



Dr. Kalil Assaf Bishara was a Lebanese-American pastor and intellectual. He was born in May 1878 and immigrated from modern-day Lebanon to the United States in 1898. He was naturalized in 1908. Bishara was well-educated:  prior to immigration, he studied at the Friends' High School for Boys in Brummana, the College National a B'abdat; after immigration he studied at Hobart College in Geneva, NY; from there, he took courses in science and law in New York City before pursuing an advanced theological degree; he received his Ph.D. from the Presbyterian College of Maryland and a B.D. degree from the Princeton Theological Seminary. In 1919 he resigned a position as pastor at the Presbyterian Church of Bedford, Pennsylvania, to move to the Syrian Protestant church in Brooklyn. He remained in this role until the mid 1935. In 1933, his wife, Nabeeha Bishara, sailed to Lebanon for health reasons. Kalil Bishara followed her in 1935. He traveled between the two countries until his death in Lebanon on September 1, 1950. He is buried in the Arabic Protestant Cemetary in Beirut, Lebanon.

The Origin of the Modern Syrian was published in 1914 by Al-Hoda Press at the encouragement of Salloum Mokarzel. The book was written in part as a resonse to American court decisions which denied immigrants citizenship on the basis of race. Bishara provides an ethnic and religious history of Syrians in order to demonstrate that Syrians were "white." The bilingual presentation of the book--with English preceeding Arabic--suggests that he hoped to reach Americans as well as the immigrant community. This is thus an example of the intellectual and political efforts of Lebanese-American immigrants to gain recognition and 'respectability' from the United States government and society.



Moise A. Khayrallah Center for Lebanese Diaspora Studies



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Bishara_1914_Origin of the Modern Syrian.pdf


Kalil Assaf Bishara and Al-Hoda Press, “The Origin of the Modern Syrian,” Moise A. Khayrallah Center for Lebanese Diaspora Studies Archive, accessed July 1, 2022,