Since the COVID-19 crisis, the Arab American Advisory Board has met virtually every month, remaining vigilant to support community efforts to help curb the spread of the virus. Currently, the group has helped more than 50 local Arab Americans in Yonkers help navigate the online appointment system for the COVID-19 vaccine. There are currently six board members and together they have handed out masks and hand sanitizers to local schools and community centers. The group has also volunteered to deliver groceries and meals to families during quarantine.

County Executive George Latimer said: “With the creation of these advisory boards, we are able to reach every inch of the County, and learn about what their needs are. The Arab American Advisory Board has served as an ally to the community in helping to combat this virus and encourage those who may be hesitant to get vaccinated.”

The Westchester County Arab American Advisory Board was created in 2019 in the spirit of inclusion to provide advice and be consulted on issues that affect the quality of life for Arab Americans in the community. The Arab American Advisory Board is still seeking new members, with a limit of 21 people. Each member is appointed by the County Executive and will serve two year terms.

According the U.S. Census, five percent of Westchester County’s population is made up of Arab Americans, with many of our neighbors calling Yonkers and Scarsdale home.

Martha Lopez, the County’s Director of Minority Women’s Business Program and Immigrant Affairs, serves as a liaison to the Board on behalf of the County Executive: “The Arab-American community has also been dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, and through this Board, I can assist them in developing strategies to meet any concerns they may have and help get the word out about the importance of getting vaccinated.”

Arab American Advisory Board Chair John Khader said: “People want to get involved, people want to feel like they are doing something, so the mission of the Arab American Advisory Board is to move the Arab American community forward and help guide them through resources available from the County.

Resources including satellite or pop-up vaccine clinics in underserved neighborhoods to ensure fair and equitable distribution of the vaccination.

Member Nihad Bsharat said: “I’m happy to encourage everyone to get vaccinated for safety and protection to our families and communities.”

Member Hussein Elzoghby said: “The County Executive, to his credit, has established this Board as well as other Boards to hear from groups who have long been marginalized. It is a testament to his important efforts to foster inclusiveness and diversity in the County.”

Arab American Advisory Board Vice Chair Hussein Rababah said: “It is about giving service and spreading awareness.”

Member Hanade Sarar added: “We want to be contributors to our Westchester community, to enlighten people about the Arab American cultures, rich art and history.”

With the Holy Month of Ramadan underway, mosques in both Northern Westchester and in Yonkers have reopened with limited capacity. Worshippers will have their temperatures taken at the door, masks are required at all times, social distancing is marked by tape in some buildings and hand sanitizing stations have been installed.

Newest Member Ali Chettih said: “This Board is important because it reflects a genuine interest of the County Executive in a growing Arab community and its needs.”

The next meeting of the Arab American Advisory Board will be scheduled sometime after the Holy Month of Ramadan.