Exploring the Heritage of Arab Americans

A new documentary, A Thousand and One Journeys: The Arab Americans, documents the myriad meaningful contributions Arab Americans have made over the years.

Filmmaker Abe Kasbo.
Filmmaker Abe Kasbo.
Photo courtesy of Verasoni Worldwide.

Abe Kasbo was having lunch with an acquaintance when it happened again.

“I was telling him about the film,” meaning Kasbo’s debut documentary, A Thousand and One Journeys: The Arab Americans, currently on the festival circuit. “He said he knew of Aleppo, that he had seen the rubble.” But, says Kasbo, “he had no idea that Aleppo is as cosmopolitan a city as New York. I can’t understate how off the stuff is I hear from people when I tell them I’m from Syria.”

Kasbo, a resident of West Caldwell and CEO of the marketing and PR firm Verasoni Worldwide, made his film to start a conversation about Arab Americans—who they are and how they’ve contributed to the U.S. as citizens.

The 90-minute film traces waves of Arab immigration to America. Through taped interviews, actor Jamie Farr, Senator George Mitchell, journalist Helen Thomas and other notables whose Arab backgrounds may come as a surprise describe their heritage and cultural traditions.

Those familiar with the lore of the Paterson silk mills may be drawn to the movie’s discussion of the Arab-American immigrants who settled in the area to work in the factories more than 100 years ago. “They were textile workers back in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Palestine. They helped build those industries,” says Kasbo, 46, who grew up in Paterson long after its heyday. His family moved to the States in 1980; his father was a tailor at Saks Fifth Avenue.

Making the film was as humbling as it was rewarding for Kasbo.

“There was a time when I simply wanted to quit,” he recalls. “I was exhausted. But I had all these cool interviews, and all these incredible people gave me their time.” In the end, he says, “I had to do this project justice.”

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