مقالات عن مانكيش

From My Home Town Mangeshi: Dr. Solomon Eshoo Sara, S.J


الكاتب: Francis Kalo Khosho

From My Home Town Mangeshi: Dr. Solomon Eshoo Sara, S.J

By: Francis K. Khosho

In this series “From My Home Town Mangeshi” I would like to introduce you to some exceptional people from our community. Their accomplishments should be honored and their stories and journeys recorded and shared with other members of our community


Father Shlaimun Ishu Sara

Father Shlaimun (Solomon) Ishu Sara was an emeritus professor in languages and linguistics at Georgetown University, Washington, DC. He was an expert in phonetics, articulatory phonetics, phonology, Classical Arabic Phonetician, Al-Khalil and Sibwayh, Instrumental Arab Phonetician, Ibn Sina, Classical Hebrew Linguistics, Hayyuj, Field linguistics, Prolog programming language, and General linguistics. He was born in Mangeshi Village to Ishu and A’sho (Kollo) Sara on May 1, 1930 and had two brothers, Toma Sara of Vancouver, WA, and the late Shamoun Sara. He graduated primary school in Mangeshi with high grades and was accepted into Baghdad College كلية بغداد ; an elite high school for boys ages eleven to eighteen in Baghdad, Iraq. It was a catholic school founded and operated by American Jesuits from Boston in 1932. Baghdad College was Iraq’s most famous secondary school for boys, having produced notable alumni: an Iraqi prime minister, a deputy prime minister, a vice president, two billionaires and a member of the British House of Lords, among many other distinguished figures. (Wikipedia)


I was honored to have been a student in Baghdad College in the early sixties as it was a marked experience in my life that has shaped much of who I am today. Other Mangeshnayi that attended this school were Marques Ishaq, Dr. George Eshoo Soso, Hermes Mekho Markho, Dr. Shamoun Dinkha Qulo, Dr. Kwarkes Mekho Qulo, Hana Shamoun Moka, Marqos Jebo Qulo, Fareed Shamoun Daweth and Khaled Soro Qulo, to name a few. Our Mangeshi community was certainly represented


Father Solomon Sara was the first Mangeshnaya to arrive in the United States in September 1950 to Shadowbrook in Lenox, Mass. after he decided to join the Jesuit Community


Shadowbrook, Lenox, Mass

The Jesuit Catholics are members of the Society of Jesus, an international religious community which was founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola in the 16th century. Father Sara took preparatory courses for the priesthood at a seminary for junior training, which was a two year course devoted to the review of classical studies and philosophy. He focused on the study of philosophy at Weston College, the New England province of the Society of Jesus and graduated in 1957. Father Sara then returned to Iraq, where he taught at Baghdad College for three years and then returned to Weston College to study theology. After completing the theology program, he began doctoral studies in linguistics at Georgetown University in Washington, DC. He graduated with a PhD in 1968 and was assigned to teach linguistics at Georgetown University, where he taught undergraduate and graduate courses, directed doctoral dissertations, and served a term as chair

Recently, our community suffered a tremendous loss when Father Sara passed away on August 8, 2016 at the Campion Health Center, in Weston, Mass. The Campion Health Center serves the infirmed and elder members of the Society of Jesus and stands by the message of finding God in all things and all things in God. Father Sara was 86 years old


I had the honor of meeting with Father Sara on several occasions during his tenure in Washington, DC. These encounters with him, I believe, illustrate quite nicely what an intelligent, kind and gracious person he truly was


My first visit with Father Sara was in late 1986 when I was researching in the Library of Congress for books available to compile my book entitled: “Twin Rivers Bibliography: Assyrian, Chaldean and Syrian Past and Present.” Father Sara ended up writing the preface for my book (image below), which was a great honor that I am still grateful for to this day 

Immediately upon meeting him, his warm presence and tone set me at ease, and he did not shy away from the millions of questions I had for him. He was truly a wealth of knowledge on religion, philosophy, academia and notably – life lessons. On my second trip to Washington DC, I came bearing gifts. I brought pomegranates from my garden here in California, which started a lengthy conversation about the good old days back in Mangeshi. We reminisced about how wonderful it was to just pick pomegranates straight from the tree, crack them in half and eat them with no reservations

This of course led to many discussions about our time back home which naturally creates automatic bonds between all of us. During this visit, he gave me a tour of the Georgetown University campus, including the department of languages and linguistics where he worked and resided on campus. His unit was so simple, comfortable and quaint. There was no television or other modern distractions. Instead, there were four walls covered in shelves upon shelves of books. I remember telling him you are living with books and he replied back saying how much he loved books. He reminded me of that quote by the Canadian writer Robin Sharma, “ordinary people have big TV’s, but extraordinary people have big libraries.”


I remember asking Father Sara how he became a Jesuit. He told me that back in the late forties, he would interact with many Jesuits as a student in Baghdad College and felt that he too was being called by God to join the priesthood and serve Him. I then asked him what the difference was between the Jesuits and Chaldean priests. He told me that Jesuits were different then other priests because they lived in a tight-knit community and had special vows they followed that were unique to them

Father Sara 1959 

He said that they were normally not parish priests, and rather agreed with aspects of Catholicism and tried to teach and understand the Catholic faith and in turn help others understand it. While there I asked Father Sara to explain to me what a typical day was like for him. He made it clear that Jesuits were just ordinary guys with a special calling. He would work teaching, helping students, preparing lectures and holding office hours. He would also pray every day, celebrate Mass and have meals with members of the community. I distinctly remember during our tour, while walking past the Jesuit cemetery, he told me that this was where he would be buried. It gives me chills now to think about that moment, yet I know that Father Sara is resting peacefully amongst his fellow brethren.


Since that trip, members of my immediate family have turned to Father Sara for words of encouragement and support. My daughter Shannon had an internship in Washington DC her

senior year of college and was terrified about having to live on the other side of the country without any familiar faces from back home. She reached out to Father Sara, someone who she had never met, and received such a warm response. Father Sara took her on a tour of the Georgetown campus in an effort to make her feel comfortable and welcome. She distinctly remembers when he took her to the university gift shop, and told her to pick anything she wanted as a keepsake. She still has the memento from the university in her office to this day. My son Andrew also had the same experience when he later visited with Father Sara at Georgetown. The point is he did not need to go out of his way to meet with them, but this was just the type of person he was. He knew that someone from the Mangeshi community needed his help, and he was there.


Father Sara was also one of the great linguists of our time. He was widely known for his studies of the Arabic language. He was influential in the analysis of the well-known linguist and grammarian of the Arabic language, Sibawayh, and published a book entitled “Sibawayh on Limalab (Inclination): Text, Translation, Notes and Analysis” in 2008. On the same subject he also contributed several articles in the Journal of Arabic Linguistics Tradition, International Electronic Journal (JALT). Father Sara also contributed a chapter in the Oxford Handbook of Arabic Linguistics, edited by Jonathan Owens, entitled: “The Classical Arabic Lexicographical Tradition.” Other books he published were, “A Dictionary of Phonetics, Articulatory, Acoustic, Auditory English- Arabic” in 1999 and “Ibn Sina: A Treatise on Arabic Phonetics” in 2009 and another dictionary on Embera, a Central American Indian Language spoken in Panama, Colombia and Ecuador entitled “A Tri-Lingual Dictionary of Embera-Spanish-English.” He also assembled dictionaries of African languages and was commissioned by the U.S. Army to produce multi-volume instructional courses in modern standard Arabic in Iraqi dialect for the Defense Language Institute (DLI) in Monterey, California.


Father Sara prepared his doctoral thesis and was one of the first scholars to study the grammar of his native tongue, Chaldean. His thesis was entitled “A Description of Modern Chaldean: A Functional Structural Approach” and was published in 1969. In 1974, on the same subject, he published his first book entitled “A Description of Modern Chaldean


This work presented the first description of the modern Chaldean language from a functional and structural

point of view. The introduction considers the place of modern Chaldean with the Semitic languges. Semitic languges are divided into main three groups according to the geographical distribution of their speakers


In the book he indicates that the dialect that was the subject of the analysis was that of Mangeshi; he details that all the speakers are Christian, as is the population of the whole town. He describes that he was his own informant, in that Chaldean of Mangeshi was the language of his childhood, the first language that he learned. He poignantly states he spoke it for “twenty uninterrupted years.”


Father Sara was truly a wonderful person and a remarkable scholar. His kind and benevolent character, his good humor, his generosity and his love will live on our memories. This is beyond doubt a sad loss to not only the world of linguistics, but to our Mangeshi community. Rest in peace, Father Sara

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