Maha Freij, with her broad smile and enthusiastic manner, is a wonderful spokesperson for ACCESS, and the jewel in their crown, the Arab American National Museum.
As the CFO of ACCESS, the Arab Community Center for Economic & Social Services, Freij spearheaded the successful $20 million national campaign to create the Dearborn museum.
“The museum is the production of human services,” she explains with pride. “It has international importance as well as creating a dynamic in the local community. Detroit’s massive Arab population has allowed us to organize in such a way that our presence has impact. It’s my hope that such a positive focal point will help dispel the stereotypes. It’s fair to suggest that Arab Americans are under a microscope right now.”
Freij is a native of Israel; she was the first Palestinian to earn a CPA license in her country. “At that time, I didn’t think I would come to the United States. But,” she grins, “I fell in love with a Palestinian American and so, I came.”
It is a move which she has never regretted. A patriot of the highest order, she describes the vast melting pot that is the United States and Detroit especially, as a means by which her children, Leith and Omar, can be exposed to many different cultures and religion, something which would not necessarily have happened so easily in the Middle East.
Despite her educational success, she is very quick to point out that the most basic lessons of humanity are those which are taught in simple forms: the golden rules of religion. “You don’t need to attend Harvard to understand that you need love your neighbor and have respect for hard work. Integrity is key to all positive human interactions.”
She is also a strong Dearborn booster; a community where she points out that many religions live together in harmony. “Dearborn is the American story,” she effuses.