Festivus for the Rest of Us

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Rotary Club of Okla. City Preparedness Plan

Festivus – Panel: Rabbi Vered Harris, Dr. Bob Long,  Dr. Imam Imad Enchassi


Vered Harris began serving as the rabbi of Temple B’nai Israel in Oklahoma City in 2012. Highlights of Rabbi Harris’ work in Oklahoma include educating about Judaism in many interfaith settings, encouraging social action and spiritual awareness, and providing meaningful worship experiences for religious holiday and life cycle events. Rabbi Harris earned her master’s degree in Jewish education from the Rhea Hirsch School of Education, and master’s of Hebrew letters and rabbinic ordination from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion; her bachelor’s degree is from California State University, Northridge. Rabbi Harris is married with three daughters.



Dr. Bob Long is a native of Houston, Texas and earned his Bachelor of Science degree from Sam Houston State University and a Masters of Theology from Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology. He also holds a Doctor of Divinity Degree from Oklahoma City University.

Known for his practical, uplifting scriptural messages, Bob has become a positive example of leadership in both the United Methodist church and throughout the community.

Bob and his wife, Marsha, have been married for 40 years and have two married children, daughter Kelly, and son Paul. The two are also proud grandparents to six grandchildren. Bob is passionate about both sailing and flying. He is a private pilot and has built, flown, and crashed his own airplane.

Dr. Imam Imad Enchassi grew up in the Palestinian refugee camps in Beirut, Lebanon. His experiences as a child surrounded by war and conflict have shaped his passion as an adult for promoting unity and understanding. When asked about living through the massacres in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps, Enchassi says, “Sometimes, I think God exposed me to so much hatred and violence so that I can be a voice for love and peace.”

After moving to the United States at the age of seventeen, Enchassi began a long journey in education, receiving business management degrees from South Plains College and Southern Nazarene University and, then, completing his masters in management from the University of Phoenix. He used those degrees to excel in the restaurant industry as a regional director and advisor for nearly two decades.

In 2004, Enchassi made a career move, turning his previous part-time volunteering activities into a full time commitment by becoming the founder and executive director of the Mercy Education Foundation – a multi-million dollar project creating the first accredited Islamic school of Oklahoma City. During that time, he also became the founder, imam and president of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City (ISGOC). In that role, he studied overseas at the Daawa University Institute and the University Institute for Islamic Studies in Lebanon, where he received his bachelors, masters and doctorate degree in Islamic Studies. In addition, he earned a certificate of “Apostolic Succession”*  earned by a selected few.

Besides being the senior Imam at ISGOC, the chairman of Islamic studies and Chaplain at Oklahoma City University, an adjunct professor of Islamic studies at both Phillips Theological Seminary and St. Paul School of Theology, advisory board member of CAIR, advisory board member of Wilbery School of Religion (Oklahoma City University), Enchassi is also in charge of organizing outreach and curriculum with the Muslim and non-Muslim communities throughout the state of Oklahoma. He is a highly sought after public speaker, and he is regularly booked to address audiences at academic institutions, government functions and interfaith events to offer his expertise in Muslim principles, comparative religions, interfaith dialogue and human rights.

Among much recognition, Enchassi has received the Interfaith Alliance “Community Service Award,” CAIR “Lifetime Achievement Award”, CAIR “Inspiration Award,” Dialogue Institute “Dialogue Award,” Oklahoma Center for Community and Justice “Humanitarian Award,” Oklahoma Conference of Churches “Interfaith Award” and was named a “Visionary in Religious and Education Outreach” in The Daily Oklahoman’s Progress Edition.

* Eijazah in Quranic Recitation that goes back to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), similar to the concept of Apostolic Succession.

Chair of the Day

Jalal Farzaneh moved to America in 1978 after leaving his home country of Iran to start his studies at University of Oklahoma (OU). In 1981 he received his Bachelor of Science in Environmental Design and he went on to earn his Master of Architecture in 1984. While a student at OU, Jalal received the “Disney of Norman” scholarship as an active Iranian student at the university.

After his graduation in 1981, Jalal followed his father’s steps as a master-builder and started his career as a homebuilder. Jalal and his brother Mohammad found Home Creations, a company that has grown to be one of Oklahoma’s largest homebuilders today.

Success in their business led the two brothers to share and give back to the University they earned their degrees from. Through the Farzaneh Family Foundation, Jalal and his brother Mohammad have given back to the community, primarily focusing on education but also striving to help the community with basic human needs. The foundation recently presented what is believed to be the largest donation in the university’s history from alumni who attended OU as international students: a $4 million gift to the College of International Studies. The gift will support many programs including an academic major in Iranian and Persian Gulf Studies establishing OU as one of the premier academic institutions for Iranian and Persian Gulf studies in the United States.

Jalal is an advocator of peace, equality and coexistence through the mutual understanding of faiths, ethnicities and diversity of opinion. In addition to the extensive philanthropic work he has been involved in, he has been the recipient of the Beacon Award, the Oklahoma City Humanitarian Award for Community and Justice, the “Door opener” award from the Aztec Charter School, the University of Oklahoma’s board of regents “Outstanding Alumni Award”, Interfaith Alliance Humanitarian Award, the Oklahoma Conference of Churches ” Community Service Award, Honoree Doctorate degree from University of Oklahoma and 2018 honoree of “The Most Admired CEO”. Jalal serves on a number of civic organization boards of directors & trustees as well as board of visitors for OU’s College of International Studies, OCCC Board of Regents and OKC National Memorial and Museum board of Trustee. He continues promoting the rich history of Iran and its culture by serving as a mentor to current Iranian and international students, ensuring that they have a positive experience at OU.

Jalal has been married to his wife Azam Farzaneh for more than 40 years and they have two boys who are part of family business: Ali Farzaneh, 39 who received his PHD in Architectural Design from the Architecture Association in London, and Hossein Farzaneh, 37 who received his Juris Doctor degree from The University of Oklahoma’s School of Law.


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