art from the "Local Not Local" exhibit curated by Maece Seirafi and Pouya Jahanshahi
Some of the many letters we have received upon the announcement of our demise
Although I relocated the gallery 5 years ago to Seattle, I've appreciated keeping tabs on the Levantine Cultural Center/The Markaz in your newsletters over the years. So sorry to hear of its imminent closing at month's end, but certainly understand as laid out in your latest emailer. If there's anything I've learned in my years in the art business — worthwhile work, important work, especially in the cultural arts is never considered mainstream, cutting edge, popular or trend setting. But it is a voice nevertheless that needs to be spoken, heard, and shared, especially as so demonstrated in these times more than ever. I'm deeply saddened to hear The Markaz will cease to exist in the physical structure but its voice was heard and shared well beyond your programs. Thus, important conversations that were impressionable will continue to be shared in the hearts of all who were fortunate to have crossed paths with you and your honorable organization. I remember with great fondness our collaborations both at The Markaz and offsite at my gallery including insightful conversations by the coming together of visual artists from a variety of background perspectives — Muslim, Jewish, American. Thank you for the opportunity and kindness extended for sharing in this type of dialogue. Be well and strong, look forward to when our paths cross again.
—Warm regards, Eleana Del Rio, Koplin Del Rio Gallery
I always called you the "hardest working man in show business" for you just never stopped — always producing shows, events, lectures, fundraisers — whether they were for the Markaz or another organization that badly needed help and exposure. You have added so much value to so many in so many ways and changed minds, cracked open hearts, and positively influenced the way people behave in this world. All of that lives on.
I know the sadness and the disappointment — my hope is that it bleeds out quickly and what is left is a deep understanding of what you created in this world, plus room for new life, for new creation and for the abundance you so greatly deserve.
I look forward to seeing you soon.
—Lisa Schultz, The Whole 9 Gallery
I am so sorry to hear of this! Perhaps I was one of those who took the center for granted, that it would always be there.
I know how hard you worked to keep everything going. I thank you for all the outreaches you did for me when I was casting and for the many interesting and enlightening articles that you wrote and panels that you created in your efforts to keep people informed.
I wish you and your family the very best and hope that our paths cross in the future.
—April Webster, casting director
This is grim and sad news. I know how much time and energy you have committed to this project for so many years: how many talks, shows, events, performances you’ve organized, a few of which I’m proud to have participated in. And the vision you developed for a permanent center to bring all our Levantine cultures together both culturally and politically in a shared physical space was inspiring. But you’re right of course: money pays the bills. I don’t know why fundraising proved so difficult: perhaps because the people with the best intentions have the least amount of money, or because, conversely, those with money lack the charitable view of culture and politics that many of us share. Rich Arabs are generally pretty useless ya Jordan; that explains many things.... I wish I could say something better or more hopeful, but, especially in these accursed times, I can’t come up with anything. This is crushing. We will stay in touch of course, and I’ll come up with something more appropriate and evocative to say eventually, but in the meantime I want to thank you for everything you’ve done.
—Saree Makdisi, author and UCLA prof
You did years of outstanding work and surely exerted a positive influence on the course of events. I think your vision was maybe too big (though surely correct) for an era in which most people are overly focused on themselves and their own core group rather than on the world we all must learn to share. You see that narrowness in most responses to the pandemic —“let those others die and let’s get back to making money”. “Let me be free; I’m not responsible;” and certainly in the American lack of response to climate change.
It’s a struggle not to let this world break your heart.
Take care; stay well; survey your accomplishments with pride.
—Steven Lavine, president emeritus, Cal Arts
Dear Jordan, dear Alfred:
I am so sorry, Jordan, more than I can possibly tell you. It breaks my heart that people who actually had money have not stepped forward to keep the Markaz open. If I could, I would, and you are right; it is everyone's fault, even those of us who could have sent $100 more than we did when we could... we didn't. We thought we would have time, some other time, some other day.
And now with this pandemic where everyone is afraid and no one except the filthy rich (and I recognize that you do know many such individuals) are stepping up. you have finally thrown in the towel, because you have no choice. No one can go to an event any longer.
My fondest wishes that, somehow, people reading your email who can, will step up. Much love and respect.
—Greta Berlin, co-founder Free Gaza
I hope you are well and staying safe. You have done magnificent work that required courage and intelligence. I too am very sad that this wonderful project has come to an end, though in recent years my participation has been minimal due to many circumstances. Your programs were brilliant. The Markaz influence was always infused with hospitality, truth and artistic flair. Sobering information was always presented within wonderfully artistic programs. Inviting atmosphere and warm hospitality were trade marks of events I attribute to your excellent leadership. I will be sending a thank you with the warmest wishes for new, interesting and successful endeavors no matter how bleak things seem at this moment.
Appreciation for all that you have done Jordan,
—Maureen Cruise, RN
Dear Jordan, like so many I wanted to thank you for your history-making efforts here in L.A. at Levantine/Markaz, and even before that. About the time you put on that magnificent conference at UCLA [The Israeli/Palestinian Crisis: New Conversations for a Pluralist Future in May 2001], I was just emerging as a "recovering Zionist," having been summarily fired as the director of the Jewish Labor Committee, for having criticized the Occupation. Your conference introduced me to people who shared my views and gave me plenty of new places to articulate what I could, as so many more evolved voices were articulating at that conference. If you had done nothing else, that conference was a notable contribution to REAL Jewish culture arising in this city.
Your center served us to incubate new organizations, like LA Jews for Peace, which you supported in many ways, as well as the birth of a JVP-LA chapter, still struggling to fly here in L.A. Moreover, you opened the channel for expansive expression, and enlightened expression of the cause for justice in Palestine by so many important voices. I remember so many occasions where I saw people grappling with the difficult questions that challenged the Zionist cult of poisonous superiority that has caused so much harm to millions of good innocent people. That cause called out to you so loud and you responded brilliantly. Thank you! —Rick Chertoff, longtime peace activist
As someone who was a witness to your commitment and dedication from almost day one, I want you to know that while Markaz/Levantine Center may close at the end of this month, what you helped create, will manifest itself in different incarnations for years to come. God knows how many people were touched and influenced by the various programs you (Levantine/ Markaz) offered.
You, my friend, made the world a better place than when you found it. And for that, I salute you and will always be thankful. While Markaz may close at the end of the month, Light shall continue to find its way in the darkness. I'm sure of that.
—Jahanshah Ardalan, Kurdish Iranian musician
So sad to hear that the Levantine Cultural Center, i.e., the Markaz is shutting down definitively.
But let's emphasize what you have achieved despite the financial limits and difficulty of fund-raising.
You and the Markaz you created have been a real cultural ambassador for our diverse community, a safe place for learning, dialogue, artistic and cultural performance.
I have appreciated what Markaz has done and at CSUN, we have benefitted from our collaboration between the Markaz and the Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies.
Alas, the big money usually wins over the smaller ones, even in the realm of cultural entrepreneurship. But one reason for the monitory shortcoming of this project, I think, has to do with the unfortunate trend of ethnocentric and sectarian identity politics that make multicultural or transnational projects less appealing or less motivating and less mobilizing. Every group seems to be after its own narrowly defined cultural projects.
Given your passion, dedication, energy and vision, I am hopeful you will figure out an alternative path and pursue a new way of contributing to the building of a better world for a peaceful coexistence of our diverse communities of humanity.
Wishing you all the best—Nayereh Tohidi, CSUN
I'm so sorry to hear it--the one event I was involved in, your 2014 exhibition War and People--was a memorable one from the photos you sent me. The non-profit sector has been devastated across the board during COVID19, and unfortunately you are among what I fear will be many who will not re-open. None-the-less, I have no doubt that your vision and hard work has impacted and connected many of us in the MENA community. Please know that we are with you and your founding vision even as you move on to other things, and that your work in a sense, lives on in my exhibitions that highlight my Arab heritage.
Aloha, Melissa Chimera, artist
You brought light, insight and the wisdom of dialogue to a divisive world. You enlightened the multitudes, illuminated the blind, and offered a path of harmony that today's politicians will never understand. But, everyone who came was touched and moved, because the Truth embodied in each program is what we all aspire to and pray for. And it will come to pass one day my friend! —Terence Ward, author Searching for Hassan
I’m so sorry to hear that The Markaz is going to have to shut down.
I want to thank you for all the important work you have done over the years.
Best to you always.
In Peace & Solidarity,
—Frank Dorrel, publisher of ADDICTED To WAR
I feel so sad reading the below.
Such an extraordinary endeavor, and a needed endeavor not just for the community but for the world.
Every bit of love that went into its creation will be remembered in my heart and by the universe!!!
God bless everyone, God bless you Jordan and family, and may peace reign soon,
This is very sad news. Thank you for having invested so much energy and work in this Center, I was an intern/volunteer in 2009, while a visiting student at USC from France where I live now. I still remember how your Center stroke me as unique in the LA landscape and I was delighted to take part in the many activities organised that summer and fall and I can only imagine the huge impact of your programs not only for Arab and Middle Eastern communities in LA but as a contribution to a shared way of life, un vivre ensemble.
I have fond memories of my time at the Center and Jen who worked at the Center at that time is still a very dear friend to me, we managed to meet in several countries through the years (including Morocco :) and I hope we'll continue to do so. There's the rich public contribution of the Center and there are the many personal stories that the Center made possible by bringing people together, thank you once again Jordan for your incredible work and for creating such spaces.
I hope you find the strength to continue your crucial work of bringing cultures and people together - in whatever form possible.
With my very best wishes,
My first ever internship was here working with you. Met so many amazing people and exposed myself to such tremendous culture and events. Such a marvelous center, so saddened by the news. Thank you so much Jordan for giving us all these lifelong memories and friendships. —Mohamed Malik
I would guess that I sent you the most essential photos to reflect the amazing history of Levantine/The Markaz cultural center. Looking at these photos helps me realize how rich and unique events I was a part of.
You have made a history by developing cultural programs, concerts, events at the very hard time of prejudice and turmoil in relations between the US and Middle Eastern countries.
The Center has been a place of making peace and developing respect to cultures, languages, music and art, the place of creating bridges with countries where Arabic, Turkish and Farsi languages are spoken.
Thank you for everything you have done! —Irina Azarova