Power Lists

2023 Power of Diversity: Middle Eastern & North African 50

City & State presents the 2023 Power of Diversity: Middle Eastern & North African 50.

City & State presents the 2023 Power of Diversity: Middle Eastern & North African 50. Elena Mudd

Presented By:
The New York Women's Foundation

When Fabien Levy was named deputy mayor for communications this month, New York City Mayor Eric Adams recounted a familiar tale of immigrants finding refuge in the city. “His mother was born in Iraq and his father, his dad was born in Iran,” Adams told reporters. “The two met in Iran and moved to New York City in search of the American dream like so many are.”

Yet Levy’s groundbreaking appointment – making him the city’s first deputy mayor of Iraqi or Persian descent – serves as a reminder that those of Middle Eastern or North African descent have struggled to break through in New York politics and government. While Anna Kaplan made history several years ago as the first Iranian American elected to the state Legislature, and Assembly Member Nader Sayegh is the legislative body’s first Jordanian American representative, many others with roots in the MENA region have fallen short. 

City & State’s inaugural Power of Diversity: Middle Eastern & North African 50 list puts a spotlight on this often overlooked group, highlighting MENA individuals who are making a difference in politics, business and nonprofits and advocating for greater representation and recognition in government. The list – researched and written by City & State’s Aliana Jabbary – features entrepreneurs and activists, Muslims and Jews, Arabs and Persians. These individuals hail from across the state – Brooklyn, Queens, Long Island and upstate – and with ties to every corner of the MENA region, from Algeria and Egypt to Syria and Yemen to Palestine and Israel.

1. Murad Awawdeh

Executive Director, New York Immigration Coalition
Murad Awawdeh / Elena Mudd

The New York Immigration Coalition’s Murad Awawdeh is a man of the moment. As city, state and federal officials grapple with an influx of migrants and refugees, Awawdeh has helped secure $800 million in federal funding and $1 billion in state funding to support recent arrivals while also lobbying for $100 million for immigration legal services in the New York City budget. He has been showing up to greet immigrants directly while highlighting the economic benefits asylum-seekers bring to New York. An Arab American Muslim and the son of Palestinian immigrants, Awawdeh has been at NYIC for nearly a decade and has served as its executive director since 2021. His organization, which represents more than 200 immigrant and refugee groups around the state, has a separate political advocacy arm, NYIC Action, that endorses progressive candidates supporting immigrant communities.

2. Fabien Levy

Deputy Mayor for Communications, New York City Mayor’s Office
Fabien Levy / New York City Mayor’s Office

In August, Fabien Levy was elevated from press secretary to a higher-ranking deputy mayor post in the Adams administration, underscoring his importance at City Hall. Although there have been similar deputy mayor roles in prior administrations, New York City Mayor Eric Adams touted the new deputy mayor for communications post as unprecedented and essential to aligning the mayor’s message across city government. Levy is the son of Jewish immigrants from Iraq and Iran, and he’s the city’s first deputy mayor with that heritage.

3. Nader Sayegh

Assembly Member
Nader Sayegh / Kerry Donovan

Assembly Member Nader Sayegh, who became the first Jordanian American to join the Assembly in 2019, has a long history supporting the multicultural nature of his home city of Yonkers. Sayegh is an attorney and an educator with four decades of experience working in Yonkers public schools and boards. As a state legislator, Sayegh has supported legislation supporting MENA communities, such as an Arab American Heritage Month resolution, the 9/11 Notice Act and a measure recognizing Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha as state holidays. He has also met multiple times with King Abdullah II of Jordan to discuss the Jordanian American community.

4. Debbie Almontaser

Founder and CEO, Bridging Cultures Group Inc.
Debbie Almontaser / Joey O'Loughlin

One of the leading voices of New York’s Muslim community is Debbie Almontaser. The Yemeni American advocate, educator and author was the founding principal of Brooklyn’s Khalil Gibran International Academy, the nation’s first Arabic dual language public school. Today, she serves as board president of the Muslim Community Network, advises Emgage New York Metro and leads her diversity consulting firm, Bridging Cultures Group Inc. Among her recent accomplishments are advocating for New York City funding for a halal school lunch pilot program and for state funding for bodegas through the Yemeni American Merchants Association.

5. Sherif Soliman

Chief Policy and Delivery Officer, New York City Mayor’s Office

An invaluable member of the Adams administration, Sherif Soliman brings over a quarter-century of government experience spanning three New York City administrations to his position as the mayor’s chief policy adviser. Soliman, who was held over after serving as finance commissioner at the end of then-Mayor Bill de Blasio’s tenure, began working under the Adams administration as director of the Mayor’s Office of Policy and Planning. Soliman’s current title is chief policy and delivery officer, and he also is a mayoral appointee to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board.

6. Mohamed Attia

Managing Director, Street Vendor Project
Mohamed Attia / Sherouk Mohamed

After emigrating from Egypt in 2008, Mohamed Attia found work as a Manhattan street vendor, serving up halal over rice and hot dogs for nearly a decade. He now heads the Street Vendor Project, a 2,800-member organization advocating for vendors and providing legal representation and small business training that is part of the Urban Justice Center. The coronavirus pandemic and waves of immigration have spurred a surge of street vendors, and Attia and others have pushed successfully to raise the cap on street vendor licenses. The Street Vendor Project has also joined a coalition pushing for state legislation that disaggregates MENA individuals from the white category.

7. Rana Abdelhamid

Founder and Executive Director, Malikah
Rana Abdelhamid / Rana for Congress

New York’s political world took notice of Rana Abdelhamid in 2021 when she launched a Democratic primary challenge against then-Rep. Carolyn Maloney from the left. While redistricting scuttled her plans, the Queens activist has continued her community organizing and advocacy against gender-, immigration- and race-based violence through her grassroots feminist organization, Malikah. The daughter of Egyptian working-class immigrants, Abdelhamid has trained 10,000 women through the organization and recently opened its first safety center in Astoria. Abdelhamid also founded Hijabis of New York, co-founded Astoria Halal Fridge and organized with NY Muslim Organizing Collective.

8. Aya Keefe

Manhattan Deputy Borough President
Aya Keefe / Deneka Peniston

Aya Keefe is one of two deputy borough presidents under Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine. The Israeli American public official assumed the post in January 2022 and oversees the office’s policy, land use, budget, communications and operations departments. Keefe has spearheaded efforts to provide zero-interest small-business loans during the coronavirus pandemic and has identified potential sites for affordable housing development. She previously served as chief of staff to Levine during his time in the New York City Council and helped pass the city’s right to counsel legislation for tenants facing eviction.

9. Linda Sarsour

Executive Director, MPower Change
Linda Sarsour / KK Ottesen

Known for her political activism, human rights work and community organizing, Brooklyn native Linda Sarsour now has a national platform. She currently leads MPower Change, a Muslim online advocacy platform mobilizing Muslim communities around collective issue areas. With an estimated 250,000 members, MPower Change creates grassroots campaigns for social and economic justice, tech accountability and immigration reform. Beyond her roles as co-organizer in the Women’s March and leader of the Arab American Association of New York, Sarsour has also co-founded the nonprofit Until Freedom, which combats systemic racial inequities.

10. Mohamed Bahi & Bassal Omar

Senior Liaison to the Muslim Community; Special Adviser to the Mayor, New York City Mayor’s Office
Mohamed Bahi & Bassal Omar / Submitted; Caroline Rubinstein-Willis

Even before he became New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ senior liaison to the Muslim community, Mohamed Bahi had an extensive track record of supporting Brooklyn’s MENA community. Inspired by tenets of his faith, Bahi founded the Muslim Community Center, the Asiyah Women’s Center and Muslims Giving Back, providing Islamic community programming, shelter support and meals. Bahi’s City Hall colleague Bassal Omar, who served as deputy chief of staff to then-First Deputy Mayor Lorraine Grillo, recently transitioned into a new role as a special adviser to the mayor. Omar, a Bronx native and proud Palestinian American, has continued to support New York’s MENA communities. The former executive director of the Bronx Muslim Center also served under Ruben Diaz Jr. as a staffer in the state Legislature and at Bronx Borough Hall, a period during which he helped introduce legislation making the Islamic holidays of Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr public school holidays.

11. Nemat “Minouche” Shafik

President, Columbia University

In July, Nemat “Minouche” Shafik succeeded Lee Bollinger as president of Columbia University, one of the most prestigious institutions of higher education in the country. She is prepared for the high-profile post, having previously led the London School of Economics and Political Science and also having held key roles at such institutions as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the Bank of England. She was even made a Dame Commander by Queen Elizabeth II in 2015. Shafik was born in Egypt, but her family fled the country in the 1960s, finding refuge in the United States.

12. Marwa Janini

Executive Director, Arab American Association of New York
Marwa Janini / Sean Sirota

Led by Marwa Janini, the Arab American Association of New York is a nonprofit organization supporting New York’s Arab community with advocacy efforts, social services and immigration support. The organization, which was previously led by Linda Sarsour, is involved in multiple community-based efforts to support the Arab community. It is an anchor organization under the city’s Partners Against the Hate Initiative and has expanded in recent years in Bay Ridge, Queens and Staten Island. Janini, a Muslim Latina Palestinian American, spoke at Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso's 2023 Ramadan iftar.

13. Somia El-Rowmeim

Founder, Union of Arab Women of NYC
Somia El-Rowmeim / Kalid Elrowmeim

Following the 2016 presidential election, Somia El-Rowmeim founded the Union of Arab Women of NYC in South Brooklyn, mobilizing a civic and political response to the sociopolitical marginalization of women and MENA communities. Building on her experience as an organizer and advocate – including nearly a decade in key roles at the Arab American Association of New York – El-Rowmeim has played a crucial role in activating the Arab voting base in Brooklyn. She also founded the Women's Empowerment Coalition of NYC, unifying women from multicultural backgrounds.

14. Amir Korangy

Founder and Publisher, The Real Deal
Amir Korangy / Submitted

Amir Korangy’s The Real Deal bills itself as “the publication of record for the industry,” and it’s a reasonable claim. Its real estate coverage reaches millions of readers in New York and South Florida as well as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and Texas. With a monthly print magazine and paywalled website, Korangy’s operation delivers breaking news, aggregation, deep-dive analyses and profiles of key developers and decision-makers. Korangy, who launched The Real Deal two decades ago, escaped Iran during the Islamic Revolution.

15. Samir NeJame

Shareholder, Greenberg Traurig
Samir NeJame / Greenberg Traurig

Samir NeJame holds a key leadership position at Greenberg Traurig, an international law firm that has a long-established reputation as one of the leading government relations firms in Albany. NeJame, who’s known for his work in real estate and municipal government, oversees the firm’s New York state government law and policy practice, representing a wide range of corporations, civic associations and nonprofits seeking to shape policy or with business before the state. His family’s country of origin is Lebanon.

16. Goli Sheikholeslami

CEO, Politico Media Group

Goli Sheikholeslami has been at the helm of not one but two major news organizations that deliver strong coverage of politics and government in New York. In 2019, she took the reins at New York Public Radio, which is known for its WNYC flagship station as well as Gothamist, which it acquired in 2018. Last year, the journalism veteran went to Politico, where parent company Axel Springer installed her as its CEO. Born the daughter of an Iranian diplomat in Kuwait, Sheikholeslami fled with her family following Iran’s 1979 revolution.

17. Michelle Nawar

Managing Director, Bolton-St. Johns
Michelle Nawar / Rodney Choice

Michelle Nawar brings invaluable experience in organized labor and in health care, immigration and economic policy to her work at Bolton-St. Johns, one of the top lobbying firms in New York City and in Albany. Nawar served as director of legislation at the Service Employees International Union during the negotiations over the Affordable Care Act and also worked at the American Nurses Association. She is also a key part of the lobbying firm’s ongoing expansion into Washington, D.C.

18. Abdul Mubarez

President, Yemeni American Merchants Association

When the Trump administration in 2017 imposed a travel ban on seven predominantly Muslim countries, Yemeni American business owners led a strike that shut down hundreds of bodegas and culminated in a rally at Brooklyn Borough Hall. The protest marked the founding of the Yemeni American Merchants Association, which also mounted an ultimately unsuccessful legal challenge against the Muslim travel ban. The organization’s president is Abdul Mubarez, a Yemeni entrepreneur, who has been an advocate for merchants. 

19. Abdelhafid Djemil

President, Majlis Ash-Shura: Islamic Leadership Council of New York

Abdelhafid Djemil has served as chair of Majlis Ash-Shura: Islamic Leadership Council of New York since 2015, guiding the Muslim umbrella group through the COVID-19 pandemic and advocating on behalf of more than 90 mosques and organizations on a wide range of policy matters. The organization, which was founded in 1989, has supported legislation benefiting Muslim and immigrant taxi drivers in New York City, pushed for “good cause” eviction legislation in Albany and backed efforts to boost voter turnout in Muslim communities.

20. Anna Kaplan & Zak Malamed

Congressional Candidates
Anna Kaplan / New York State Senate Media Services

Anna Kaplan, who made history as the first Iranian American to serve in the state Senate, is in the midst of a comeback bid – and she’s aiming higher this time, seeking to represent the 3rd Congressional District covering a portion of Long Island’s North Shore. The Jewish American politician’s bid to topple scandal-plagued Republican Rep. George Santos has gained some traction, with nearly a half million dollars pouring into her campaign account – although former Rep. Tom Suozzi could clear the Democratic field if he seeks his old seat. Kaplan has prioritized abortion rights, gun safety and public education in her campaign.

Yet Kaplan isn’t the only congressional candidate with Middle Eastern roots aiming to oust Rep. George Santos. Within the first 24 hours of his campaign’s launch, Great Neck native Zak Malamed raised $225,000 for his congressional bid. Malamed, a millennial whose grandmother emigrated from Israel, is a staunch supporter of the U.S.-Israel relationship. The former staffer for then-Assembly Member Michelle Schimel has also been an advocate for gun control, spurred by the shooting death of a friend, and also backs public education, affordable housing and health care, and combating climate change.

21. Zaid Nagi

Yemeni-American Community Advocate

Zaid Nagi is an advocate for New York City’s growing Yemeni-American population. Nagi organized the 2017 strike by bodega owners across the city in protest of then-President Donald Trump’s immigration orders. A co-founder and former vice president of the Yemeni American Merchants Association, Nagi has been working on initiatives related to his community’s educational programs and building bridges with other groups in the city. Nagi has also been seeking to raise awareness of the need to reopen Sana’s airport, push out militias and deliver more international relief assistance.

22. Omar Fattal

System Chief for Behavioral Health and Co-Deputy Chief Medical Officer, NYC Health + Hospitals
Omar Fattal / NYC Health + Hospitals

In January, Dr. Omar Fattal ascended to the role of system chief for behavioral health and co-deputy chief medical officer at NYC Health + Hospitals, the largest provider of behavioral health services in New York City. Fattal leads the public hospital system’s efforts to expand psychiatric and substance use services while implementing training programs and recruitment strategies for behavioral health staff. Fattal is an outspoken advocate for the health equity of refugees and LGBTQ+ individuals in the MENA region, and co-founded the Lebanese Medical Association for Sexual Health in 2012.

23. Ayman El-Mohandes

Dean, CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy
Ayman El-Mohandes / CUNY SPH

Dr. Ayman El-Mohandes has led the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy for the past decade through significant institutional and external changes. Under his leadership, the school has transformed into an independent reaccredited CUNY school and is No. 1 in the U.S. News 2023 ranking of public schools of public health in the state. El-Mohandes’ public health research in infant mortality reduction in minority populations and COVID-19’s impact on community health focuses on underserved populations locally and beyond.

24. Ehab Shehata

Founder, President and CEO, Bravo Group
Ehab Shehata / Stephen White, Bravo Group

Ehab Shehata in 2016 founded the Bravo Group, a partnership between Velocity Architecture & Engineering Group, DPC, Chu Engineering PC, Shahrish Shuvo Engineering PC and Bradford Construction Corp. The collection of architecture, engineering and construction expertise has positioned the group as a key player in the industry. The former AECOM executive last year hosted a fundraiser for New York City Mayor Eric Adams at the Bravo Group’s midtown Manhattan headquarters.

25. Tali Farhadian Weinstein

Of Counsel, Kaplan Hecker & Fink
Tali Farhadian Weinstein / Robbie Quinn

After a strong run for Manhattan district attorney, a distinguished career as a prosecutor and clerkships under Merrick Garland and Sandra Day O’Connor, Tali Farhadian Weinstein last year joined the boutique law firm Kaplan Hecker & Fink, where she focuses on gender justice and public interest litigation. In the Brooklyn district attorney’s office, she helped create a groundbreaking post-conviction justice bureau. Farhadian Weinstein, who finished second in the Manhattan district attorney Democratic primary in 2021, serves on the boards of the Vera Institute of Justice and the International Refugee Assistance Project and is an NBC News and MSNBC legal analyst.

26. Tahanie Aboushi

Founding Partner, The Aboushi Law Firm
Tahanie Aboushi / Kisha Bari

Tahanie Aboushi is not afraid of a challenge. Through her work as an attorney, Aboushi has aided detained immigrants at John F. Kennedy International Airport when a federal Muslim travel ban was imposed in 2017, helped change an NYPD policy in order to protect religious rights following arrests and took legal action to protect protesters during racial justice protests. In 2021, Aboushi became the first Palestinian American to run for Manhattan district attorney, coming in third place in the Democratic primary. Aboushi serves as secretary on Manhattan Community Board 10.

27. Afaf Nasher

Executive Director, CAIR New York

Afaf Nasher’s passion for civil rights advocacy inspired her to change career paths, ultimately leaving her job in commercial litigation after a professional hiatus. Today, Nasher leads one of the largest chapters of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Under Nasher’s leadership, the civil rights group supports Muslim New Yorkers through legal advocacy and civic engagement, while promoting public education on Islam. Nasher has also spoken out against discrimination and hate crimes targeting Muslim Americans.

28. Tom & Fred Elghanayan

Co-Founders, TF Cornerstone
Tom & Fred Elghanayan / TF Cornerstone

The Elghanayan family’s real estate empire got its start in the 1950s and 1960s, when Iranian immigrant Nourollah Elghanayan began purchasing properties in Manhattan. Two of his sons, Tom and Fred, now run TF Cornerstone, which has properties in Brooklyn, Long Island City in Queens, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania. Last year, the Real Estate Board of New York honored Tom Elghanayan with The Bernard H. Mendik Lifetime Leadership in Real Estate Award.

29. Joseph Moinian

Founder and CEO, The Moinian Group

The Moinian Group was founded over 40 years ago by Joseph Moinian, who built it into a major real estate developer in New York City with a presence in other cities like Chicago, Los Angeles and Miami. Moinian has amassed an impressive portfolio of private properties exceeding 20 million square feet across a wide range of property types. A few years ago, the Iranian-born developer reportedly financed the Persian Jewish Center of Manhattan’s purchase of two buildings on East 73rd Street for a synagogue and social gathering space.

30. Shahar Sadeh

Director of Strategic Affairs, JCRC-NY
Shahar Sadeh / Ran Brosh

As the director of strategic affairs at the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, Shahar Sadeh engages with governmental, academic and community groups representing the Jewish community. Throughout her nearly decadelong leadership of JCRC-NY’s Scholars as Bridge Builders program, Sadeh hosts seminars, roundtable discussions and academic tours to Israel for academics and institutions, engaging with Palestinians and Israelis. She was recently joined on a study tour to Israel by CUNY Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez and 12 CUNY presidents.

31. Alireza Hedayati

President, Iranian American Society of New York

Alireza Hedayati serves as president of the Iranian American Society of New York, a nonprofit and nonreligious organization committed to promoting Persian culture and providing humanitarian assistance to Iranians in need. Hedayati has led the organization since 2018, overseeing the operations of its Ferdowsi Farsi Schools, Youth Chapter as well as scholarship and mentorship programs supporting New York’s Iranian community. The organization is developing plans to open a community center housing programming for all ages.

32. Emira Habiby Browne

Founder and CEO, Center for the Integration and Advancement of New Americans

Emira Habiby Browne founded the Center for the Integration and Advancement of New Americans in 2006 as a nonprofit social services organization addressing the needs of new immigrants and MENA New Yorkers. As a Palestinian American who grew up in the Middle East, Habiby Browne has developed services to be culturally sensitive and language-inclusive for new Americans, acknowledging the marginalization of immigrant communities. Today, the Astoria-based organization provides legal services, language courses, case management and after-school youth programming to immigrants.

33. Dania Darwish

Co-Founder and Executive Director, Asiyah Women’s Center
Dania Darwish / Submitted

As founder and executive director of the Asiyah Women’s Center, Dania Darwish handles operations for one of New York City’s first emergency temporary shelter facilities for domestic violence survivors with MENA, South Asian, Black and Indigenous backgrounds. The women-led volunteer staff offers employment assistance, a food pantry, counseling and GED support, aiming to fill the gap in services for minority women. Before she co-founded the space, Darwish supported the expansion of medical care to over 10,000 refugees in need abroad and worked to abolish immigration detention. 

34. Mark Hanna

District Leader, Assembly District 64
Mark Hanna / Megan Walsh

Mark Hanna quickly built a name for himself as an organizer while working on Khader El-Yateem’s New York City Council campaign. Despite the loss, Hanna and fellow advocates formed Yalla Brooklyn, a nonprofit organization mobilizing MENA voters in South Brooklyn. Today, Hanna juggles his political advocacy with his work as a civil litigation attorney and as a district leader for Assembly District 64. Hanna has also pushed for increased transparency within the nomination and endorsement process for state Supreme Court judicial candidates.

35. Yamina Kezadri

Director, Muslims Giving Back

For the past decade, Yamina Kezadri has risen through the ranks of Muslims Giving Back, a self-proclaimed “faith in action” nonprofit organization serving New York’s marginalized groups guided by their tenets of compassion, consistency and community. Founded in affiliation with the Muslim Community Center, MGB has increased its community support efforts amid the influx of immigrants into New York, connecting individuals to legal aid and job placement services and providing community pantries, English classes and shelter within their mosque.

36. Youssef Mubarez

President, YAMA Action
Youssef Mubarez / Muaz Osman

Youssef Mubarez brings a unique perspective to YAMA Action, the 501c(4) sister organization to the Yemeni American Merchants Association, which focuses on civic engagement and advocacy on behalf of New York’s Yemeni community. Mubarez is also the chief operating officer at ATM World Corporation, an ATM sales company that provides another connection within the Yemeni merchant community. As president of YAMA Action, Mubarez aims to mobilize and empower New York’s Yemeni community around civic engagement and advocacy, such as voter drives and economic initiatives.

37. Mitra Hormozi

Partner, Walden Macht & Haran
Mitra Hormozi / John Madere, John Madere Photography

Mitra Hormozi brings years of experience as a federal and state prosecutor and corporate general counsel to her current practice at Walden Macht & Haran, whose attorneys are often active in New York governmental matters. Hormozi’s expertise lies within criminal prosecution and public corruption – she helped convict former state Sen. Pedro Espada and also served on the state ethics commission – as well as regulatory and compliance investigations. Hormozi previously represented Revlon as executive vice president and general counsel overseeing legal and regulatory operations.

38. Suzanne Samera Adely

President, National Lawyers Guild

Suzanne Samera Adely serves as president of the National Lawyers Guild, the oldest progressive legal association in the U.S., which was founded in 1937. Adely also supports an alliance of 33 food chain workers' organizations through her work as co-director of the Food Chain Workers Alliance. With a background as a New York City educator, community organizer and activist for international laborers, and as the daughter of Jordanian immigrants, Adely advocates for labor rights in New York and in Middle Eastern and North African countries as well.

39. Kinda Younes

Executive Director, New York City Industrial & Technology Assistance Corp.

Kinda Younes has spent nearly a decade at the helm of the New York City Industrial & Technology Assistance Corp. The nonprofit organization, which is part of the nationwide Manufacturing Extension Partnership and is sponsored by the state’s economic development arm, supports the city’s manufacturing and tech sectors. ITAC boasts of creating or retaining over 17,000 jobs and facilitating over $750 million in new investments since 2000. Younes is also a member of the state’s New York City Regional Economic Development Council, which provides input on the awarding of economic development grants.

40. Azadeh Khalili

Senior Vice President for Strategic Partnerships, New York Women’s Foundation
Azadeh Khalili / Ashley Morse

Committed to improving marginalized communities’ conditions and inadequate service structures, Azadeh Khalili currently serves as senior vice president of the New York Women’s Foundation. Khalili has supported MENA and intersectional communities through her appointments as executive director for the New York City Commission on Gender Equity, deputy commissioner in the New York City Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs and as then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s liaison to the Muslim community. She has pushed for pay equity, improved language access and free menstrual products.

41. Rama Issa-Ibrahim

Director of Programs, Communities United for Police Reform

Rama Issa-Ibrahim has been an advocate for the MENA community since the beginning of her career, which began supporting refugee children in a Beirut refugee camp. After advising the New York City Commission on Human Rights, running the Arab American Association of New York and serving as deputy public advocate under New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, Issa-Ibrahim now drives policy, legislative and community empowerment efforts at Communities United for Police Reform. The citywide campaign promotes community empowerment and policing reform.

42. Hersel Torkian

Managing Member, The Torkian Group

The Torkian Group is a player in New York City’s influential real estate industry. The family-owned company is led by its founder, Hersel Torkian, with family members serving in other key roles at the privately held firm. Late last year, The Torkian Group secured a $145 million loan for its 23-story mixed-use project on the Upper East Side, and it also boasts other marquee apartment properties in Midtown and lower Manhattan.

43. Azin Ahmadi

Associate, Harris Beach PLLC
Azin Ahmadi / Harris Beach PLLC

Albany-based attorney Azin Ahmadi provides legal counsel to employers and individual clients navigating the complexities of the U.S. immigration system. Inspired by her own experiences as an Iranian immigrant who was raised in Germany, Ahmadi supports clients with employment, humanitarian and family-based visa options. Before joining Harris Beach, Ahmadi provided culturally sensitive legal support to Muslim women impacted by domestic violence through the Capital District Women’s Bar Association Legal Project’s Equal Justice Works fellowship.

44. Mohamed Albanna

Chair, Access of Western New York

Mohamed Albanna is a Western New York businessperson, Yemeni community leader, charter school co-founder and former candidate for elected office in Lackawanna, a suburb of Buffalo. He co-founded and serves as chair of Access of Western New York, which was opened in 2005 to serve young Arab Americans in the community. He won a seat on the Lackawanna City Council in 2017, but was blocked from taking office due to a prior conviction for illegally transferring money to Yemen without proper registration in the early 2000s.

45. Mahwish Razi

Executive Director, Muslim Community Patrol & Service

Built upon principles of the Islamic faith, the nonprofit Muslim Community Patrol & Service was created by community members in Brooklyn with the aim of promoting a holistic view of public safety and community support for all New Yorkers regardless of religion or culture. Led by Mahwish Razi, MCPS provides NYPD-trained unarmed volunteer patrol services for community spaces as well as community food, immigration, housing and translation assistance.

46. Nasser Jaber

Co-Founder, The Migrant Kitchen; The Migrant Kitchen Initiative
Nasser Jaber / Jinane Ennasri

After juggling restaurant jobs and school, Palestinian immigrant Nasser Jaber pursued gastro-diplomacy to highlight diverse cuisines and the immigrants behind them. Jaber created The Migrant Kitchen, a catering company that offers employment opportunities for immigrants to share their home cuisines. It pivoted when COVID-19 hit in 2020, serving food to health care workers and providing 60,000 meals a week to New York’s food-insecure communities. Since then, Jaber has grown his catering business as well as the The Migrant Kitchen Initiative, which combats food insecurity locally and abroad.

47. Manal & Wissam Kahi

Co-Founders, Eat Offbeat

When Manal Kahi left Syria in 2013 for graduate school in New York City, she and her brother Wissam discovered a way to showcase their homeland – through food. Two years later, during the Syrian refugee crisis, the Kahis founded Eat Offbeat to support incoming refugees while sharing multicultural cuisines with local New Yorkers. Working with the International Rescue Committee, Eat Offbeat employs refugees from Africa, South America and the MENA region, providing training to self-identified home chefs. After shifting its focus from catering to meal box subscriptions during the coronavirus pandemic, Eat Offbeat now has two Manhattan restaurant locations.

48. Omid Ghaemmaghami

Director of Undergraduate Arabic Studies, SUNY Binghamton University
Omid Ghaemmaghami / Binghamton University

Middle Eastern studies in academia date back to orientalist misrepresentations of the MENA region. Today, New York’s universities are home to flourishing MENA departments, such as Binghamton University’s Center for Middle Eastern and North Africa Studies. As the school’s director of Arabic studies, Omid Ghaemmaghami furthers the institution’s academic reach with research focusing on Baha’i and Islamic faiths. Recently, the center, led by Kent Schull, was recently awarded a $1 million grant to expand curricular offerings and partnerships with fellow SUNY schools.

49. Mahmoud Widdi

Co-Founder, Beit Hanina Cultural Center
Mahmoud Widdi / Mirage Studio

After immigrating to the United States in 1975, Mahmoud Widdi worked after school with his father at the Palestinian family’s local supermarket. Since then, Widdi has been committed to community support and spreading healthy foods to low-income communities, with two Foodtown markets built within the past two years. While he holds a master’s degree in medical technology, Widdi now owns multiple supermarkets, co-founded and serves as vice president at the Beit Hanina Cultural Center, and a few years ago joined the board of the Arab American Association.

50. Amira Ismail

Troop Leader, Muslim Girl Scouts of Astoria
Amira Ismail / Lindsey R. Mullholand

At only 17 years old, Amira Ismail has already begun to make a name for herself as a youth organizer in New York. In addition to leading the Muslim Girl Scouts of Astoria, a troop fostering community for Arab youth in Queens, Ismail has also impacted the Girl Scouts on a larger scale, designing programming for National Arab American Heritage Month and speaking at national events as a national youth delegate. Ismail recently created a youth engagement organization, Make U Listen, has volunteered for local candidates and is an organizing and advocacy fellow at Malikah.

Did we miss anyone? Let us know at lists@cityandstateny.com. And pitch us names for other upcoming power lists.

Correction: An earlier version of this list incorrectly stated that Zaid Nagi, a co-founder of the Yemeni American Merchants Association, was the vice president of the association. He is no longer associated with the association's board of directors and is no longer included in the list entry for that organization.

NEXT STORY: The 2023 Westchester 100