Those Syrian Refugee Memes On Facebook

Since the horrific events in Paris on Friday the 13th, there’s been a lot of emotional commentary with varying points of view ranging from closing the borders to stem the flow of refugees entering any number of countries to throwing open the doors to allow a flood of refugees to enter any number of countries.  There are as many reasons being bandied about to bring refugees to other countries are there are reasons being bandied about to keep refugees out of other countries.

On Facebook (as well as on other social media), memes are making the rounds.  In particular, these two memes are making the rounds.

Memes Claims

The problem with both these memes is that Danny Thomas’s parents weren’t Christian refugees from Syria and Steve Job’s biological father wasn’t a Syrian refugee either.  Danny Thomas’s parents, like Steve Job’s biological father, were immigrants.

Refugee and Immigrant

Danny Thomas (born Amos Muzyad Jacobs) was the son of Lebanese immigrants, not Syrian refugees.  His mother and father were from two of the seven prominent families in Bsharri:  Sukkar, Kairouz, Chidiac, Geagea, Rahme, Fakhri, and Taouk.   His father was Charles Yakhoob Kairouz and his mother was Margaret Taouk.

INTERESTING SIDE NOTE:  Bsharri is in the Kadisha Valley in northern Lebanon.  The town is also famous because this is the birthplace of Khalil Gibran, and it’s in Bsharri that world travelers can find a museum that honors the Lebanese-American artist, poet, and writer of the New York Pen League. 

The family changed their last name to Jacobs (a variation of Yakhoob) and in January 1912, Danny (the fifth of ten children in the family) was born in Michigan.  He changed his name to Danny Thomas in 1940 for professional reasons.

It’s a fact that a hundred years ago, Lebanese immigrants were identified in North America as Syrians and in South America as Turks.  But regardless of whether they were identified as Lebanese or Syrian or Turks, the bottom line is that Danny Thomas’s parents were immigrants, not refugees.

The meme about Danny Thomas is false and misleading

Steve Jobs’s biological father (a non-practicing Muslim born in 1931) was from a prominent Syrian family, and the youngest of nine children, who moved to New York in 1954.   While in New York, he lived with one of his relatives by the name of Najm Eddin al-Rifai, who was the Syrian ambassador to the United Nations.   He studied at Columbia University before moving on to Wisconsin University.

While working on a Ph.D. in Economics and Political Science at Wisconsin University, he and his girlfriend, Joanne Schieble, found out that they were expecting a baby.  They broke up, and she gave the child — a baby boy born in February 1955 — up for adoption.  The child was adopted by Paul and Clara Jobs.

The couple eventually got back together, married, and had another child — American novelist Mona Simpson.  Shortly after their daughter’s birth, Job’s biological father returned to Syria and the couple divorced.

After a year in Syria working as a director in an oil refinery, he decided to return to the U.S. — again as an immigrant, not as a refugee.

The meme about Steve Jobs is false and misleading.

Would you like to know who else isn’t the child or grandchild of Syrian refugees?

Jerry Seinfield, F. Murray Abraham, Paul Anka, and Paula Abdul.  Seinfeld’s maternal grandfather immigrated to America from Syria in 1909, and Murray’s father immigrated to America in the 1920s.   Anka’s father immigrated to Canada from Syria, and Abdul’s father immigrated to America from Syria.

Yes, the situation with the Syrian refugees is one that merits a great deal of attention to detail.  Humanity must play a role in the decisions made that affect the Syrian refugees.  But let’s not muddy the situation up with false and misleading memes intended to cause knee-jerk reactions and fire up emotions for the purpose of vacating logic and sense.

Elyse Bruce


3 Responses to “Those Syrian Refugee Memes On Facebook”

  1. Lynne Ferrigno Says:

    Where is Colombia University?

    • Elyse Bruce Says:

      Columbia University is a private Ivy League research university in Upper Manhattan, New York City. Noteable alumni include Barack Obama, Warren Buffet, and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

      • ClearAndPresentDanger Says:

        One should note that Lebanon, at the time that Danny Thomas’ parents were born, was part of the Syrian province of the Ottoman Empire.

        That said, the meme trying to suggest that Thomas was a Syrian refugee is bogus, of course.

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