Last year provided no shortage of obstacles and challenges. However, the Arab American Bar Association of Illinois proved that it has and will continue to grow and show its strength in the face of adversity.

In January 2020, AABAR celebrated its co-founder, board member and past-president, Hon. Rouhy J. Shalabi, becoming the first Palestinian-American judge in Illinois and first Arab-American Muslim to ascend the bench.

As the severe impact of COVID took effect in March, AABAR was steadfast in its commitment to the Arab-American community at large and led a virtual pandemic fundraiser in support of Arab American Family Service’s COVID-19 Food Drive.

In May, AABAR was a proud co-sponsor with American Middle East Voters Alliance of the virtual Iftar Webinar with Illinois’ top elected officials: Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.

In June, following the horrific death of George Floyd, AABAR stood together with community leaders at a press conference to stress the importance of the fight against injustice and disparate treatment of minorities.

In September, AABAR, in conjunction with the Decalogue Society, held its fifth-annual Building Bridges Awards ceremony via Zoom, honoring Community MVPs Judge Megan Goldish and AABAR President Marvet M. Sweis Drnovsek for their dedication to and support for our communities.

In November, as the pandemic continued to ravage our communities, AABAR proudly hosted its first Turkey Drive with AAFS, which helped raise Thanksgiving dinner for 150 local Arab-American families in need.

In December, Judge Shalabi received the prestigious 2020 Advocate for Diversity Award at the 18th annual Unity Award Gala presented by the Diversity Scholarship Foundation.

AABAR held its 30th anniversary installation and award ceremony in January with more than 200 people in attendance, including numerous judges, bar presidents, law school deans and other distinguished guests. AABAR was once again graced with the presence of Gov. Pritzker, who humbly provided a thoughtful keynote address.

We awarded AABAR’s first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award to Judge William J. Haddad — AABAR’s co-founder — honoring the courage and foresight to establish Illinois’ first Arab-American bar association. The event also featured a video of the installation of the officers by Cook County Circuit Court Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans and AABAR’s own Judge Shalabi. The installed officers include President Drnovsek, vice presidnt Nura Yanaki, treasurer Tony Abou Ezzi, corresponding secretary Lana Nassar and recording secretary Jawad Shalabi.

AABAR’s 2020 year is reflective of the immense strength and dedication of its members in the organization and community.