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Fahima Hanosh


Fahima Hanosh was born in Mardin, Syria, 1901. She emigrated to the United States in 1920 to rejoin several members of her family who had already emigrated. She married Joseph Anton, a fellow Syrian immigrant, in 1922, and they divorced in 1927. Soon after, she married John (Jack) Oirathy, another Syrian immigrant.




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My great-grandmother Fahima Hanosh emigrated from Mardin, Syria when she was about 19 years old. She and her three older siblings: Albert, Mary, and Charlie made the voyage in the summer of 1920. Her eldest brothers and father had already established themselves in the U.S. and were slowly bringing the rest of the family to join them.

Fahima’s parents Abdul Amseh and Saydoon (or Sadie) Hamany were married in Syria around 1885. Saydoon’s parents had taken her out to church a few years earlier and asked if she liked any of the boys there. She chose Amseh because she was impressed with how tall he was. They got to know each other by playing at each other’s houses. They went on to have seven children, all born in Syria: Abdul Lahad (Albert), Mariam (Mary), Constantin (Charlie), Fahima, Sophia, Jamilia, and Shaukry (Frank).

Amseh came to the U.S. via Canada sometime between 1914 and 1916. He worked as a peddler at first, and eventually a grocer. He was able to secure this trade for his sons Albert and Charlie as well. When Fahima arrived in 1920, she listed her occupation as housekeeper; in later years she also worked as a dressmaker. By 1921, the entire Hanosh family was reunited in Michigan.

Fahima married Joseph Anton (a shoemaker) in June of 1922. He was a fellow Syrian, and they had two children together: Said (Sid) and Alice. The marriage was not a happy one, and it ended in divorce by 1927. Growing up, I wasn’t told much about this period in great-grandma’s life, and I know not many people asked her about it because it was painful for her. Back then, an announcement of divorces was published in the Detroit FreePress and Fahima is quoted as saying her ex-husband was a terrible drunk, and made his own moonshine – a serious allegation during Prohibition.

Fahima remarried soon after, to John (Jack) Oirathy, another fellow Syrian and a tool and dye maker. Jack had immigrated in 1916 via Canada, and had two children from a previous marriage as well. Fahima and Jack had two additional children together, Rose Marie, and my grandmother Jamilla, who goes by Jimmy.

Assimilation and education was important to the family. My grandmother and her siblings were not taught much Arabic, and only a few phrases have been passed down to my generation.

My grandmother Jimmy married in 1950. My mother is the eldest of her five children, and I am the youngest of her three children. I have a child of my own now, who hears “saha” at appropriate times and eats tabbouli with his baby spoon. My great-grandmother’s culture still lives in us today.