Governor Moore Announces Appointments to the Maryland Commission on Middle Eastern Affairs

Published: 2/26/2024

​ANNAPOLIS, MD — Governor Wes Moore today announced appointments to the Governor's Commission on Middle Eastern Affairs. The commission advises the governor and other state agencies on matters relating to Maryland's Middle Eastern American communities, from economic, workforce and business development matters to matters of health, safety and overall wellbeing and welfare, and supports Maryland’s Middle Eastern communities, as specific needs and challenges arise.

"Our diversity is one of our greatest strengths. Marylanders of all backgrounds and nationalities aren't just appreciated, they are necessary – and they deserve a seat at the table in decision-making," said Gov. Moore. "The twenty-one extraordinary Marylanders I've appointed to the Maryland Commission on Middle Eastern Affairs will help us advance our twin commitments to representation and excellence. I thank them for raising their hands to serve, and together, we will build a stronger Maryland for all."

Created in 2007, the commission has 21 members who reflect the diversity of Maryland’s Middle Eastern communities. The appointees represent eight countries in the Middle East and increase geographic representation of the state from six to nine counties, with new representation from Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Tharwat Abouraya has been appointed to serve as chair. 

Commission members appointed by the governor reflect the diverse ancestry and national origins of the Middle Eastern American community of Maryland and also include experts on issues important to the State's Middle Eastern American population. New appointees include:

Tharwat Abouraya (Egypt) is Chief Executive at Abouraya Consulting Group and chair of the International Friends of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina and the Baltimore-Luxor-Alexandria Sister City Committee. Throughout his career, his negotiation skills, strategic partnerships, marketing and cross-cultural communication have earned him global recognition for leadership, marketing and social involvement.

Shivaani Arya (Kuwait) is an entrepreneur who owns Kesar By Shivaani, a commercial food facility that provides free, healthy, and nutritious hot meals to those in need, offers catering services, and collaborates with adult day care centers to ensure a consistent supply of fresh and wholesome options for seniors. She is proficient in global recruitment team leadership with a robust background in Business Management. Formerly head of consulting at MRINetwork in the Middle East and India, she is known for her leadership, business development and team management skills. Proudly anchored in Maryland, she brings a wealth of experience and a passion for making a positive impact in both professional and community spheres.​

Bagher Fardanesh (Iran) is a professor of strategic management and international marketing at the University of Maryland, specializing in cross-cultural sales and negotiation, diversity and inclusion management and international market-entry strategies. Also a published author, he served in the past on the Governor's Commission on Middle Eastern American Affairs and chaired the World Affairs Conference at the University of Colorado.

Francis J. Ricciardone (United States) has been a U.S. Foreign Service Officer for more than three decades, while also holding leadership roles in government, business, education and diplomacy. A past president at American University in Cairo, he also has served as U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines, Palau, Egypt and Turkey, and played pivotal roles in diplomatic missions, crisis management, and global collaboration. 

Ammar Abdulhamid (Syria) brings a broad range of experience to the commission as a former poet, author, teacher, blogger, journalist, human rights activist, motivational speaker and political analyst. He is currently the parliamentarian and director of policy research at The World Liberty Congress, a nonprofit dedicated to ending autocracy by connecting freedom fighters. 

Dr. Aharona (Roni) Rosenthal (Israel) holds an Ed.D. in Jewish educational leadership from Gratz College and serves as the director of Judaic studies at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. She has also been a senior lecturer and adjunct professor in modern Hebrew literature and Judaic studies.

Dr. Amal K. Ali (Egypt) is Professor and Director of the Urban & Regional Planning Program at the Henson School of Science and Technology at Salisbury University. She also is an Advisor to the Muslim Student Association at Salisbury University, founder and adviser for the Salisbury University Smart Growth Club and a frequent presenter on the growth of cities.

Mona Kishore (Egypt) is head of partnerships at Capital One, known for managing cross-functional teams, negotiating complex deals and fostering industry-leading partnerships. Her past roles have included vice president at Roadpass Digital and director of global strategic partnerships at Expedia Group.

Anthony Browder (United States) is researcher, writer and lecturer in Egyptian and African history, and retired adjunct professor at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. He is Director of IKG Cultural Resources and has led annual study tours to Egypt since 1987. As director of the ASA Restoration Project, he funded the excavation of 25th dynasty tombs on the West Bank of Luxor, Egypt.

Athar Bayoumi (Egypt) is managing director of Little Ladybug Learning Center in Elkridge, MD and contributes to fostering cooperation between Baltimore and the Egyptian cities of Luxor and Alexandria through her role as a member of the Baltimore-Luxor-Alexandria Sister City Committee.

Ala'a Wafa (Palestine) is corporate counsel for labor and employment at Cummins Inc., where she offers legal guidance on labor and employment issues, specializing in Title VII and Americans with Disabilities Act accommodation matters. She is a past board member of the Center for Interfaith Cooperation and the American Civil Liberties Union, and a community liaison for Exodus Refugee Immigration, a nonprofit helping refugees re-settle in the United States.

Dr. Ayesha A Gulistan (United Arab Emirates) is a physician specializing in Hospital Medicine at Johns Hopkins Community Physicians at Howard County General Hospital. She is also a member of the medical society American Pakistani Physicians of North America, where she helps organize and volunteers at free health care clinics in the area.

Tarek Saleh (Lebanon) is an architect and lead designer and associate principal at Ayers Saint Gross, where he supports overall firm-wide design excellence and sustainability initiatives. With broad expertise spanning project types, he takes pride in fostering collaboration to achieve shared success for the projects he works on. Through the ACE Mentoring Program, he has volunteered to introduce Baltimore City and Baltimore County public schools students to the architecture profession.

Rabbi Dr. Susan Grossman (Israel) is rabbi emerita at Beth Shalom Congregation in Columbia, MD. She has been recognized for her dedication to interfaith initiatives and community engagement, and her contributions to promoting interfaith cooperation and the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with awards that include the Howard County Executive Proclamation and the Living the Dream Award. She also has served as the equity liaison and president of the Howard County Board of Rabbis.

Ali Esfahani (Iran) is a vice president and partner at USI Insurance Services where he helps lead the mergers and acquisitions and private equity practices. He is the vice chair of the board of trustees of the Next Wave Muslim Initiative, a nonprofit that seeks to empower the next generation of Muslim youth through community programming, social service relief, education and enrichment opportunities.

Dr. Laura H. Salganik (United States) is a leader in education and in her local Jewish community. With a Ph.D. in sociology and expertise in education evaluation and statistics, she is co-chair of the  Howard County Jewish Community Relations Council, a board member of the Association of Community Services of Howard County and a former leader with the American Institutes for Education . 

Mohammad Khalil (Palestine) is a certified public accountant and is currently controller at Gould Property Company. He previously worked at CohnReznick LLP and Brady Ware & Company, and serves as board treasurer for the Institute For Social Policy and Understanding, a think tank focused on the American Muslim community.

Dr. Ahmed Saleh (Egypt) is a senior program manager of clinical operations at Sekisui Diagnostics. Certified in molecular diagnostics, he excels in supervising multiple simultaneous studies, guiding clinical trial teams and ensuring compliance with rigorous federal requirements. He is also the president of The Noor Center, a masjid and community project of the Muslim American Society of Maryland.

Dr. Majd AlGhatrif (Syria) is an assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins, concurrently leading human cardiovascular studies at the National Institute on Aging’s Laboratory of Cardiovascular Science. He also conducts qualitative research and contributes to books and review articles, and is the founding president of the Swaida American Society, a nonprofit serving Americans who hail from Swaida, Syria.

Alissa Deaver (Israel) has more than a decade of experience spearheading creative fundraising initiatives and cultivating community engagement and most recently served as director of development at Maryland Hillel, a Jewish campus community organization. Her expertise spans nonprofit management, event planning and social media marketing. She is a Hebrew School teacher at her local temple.

Rafi Rone (Israel) is currently Director of Grantmaking for Israel at the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation and a leader in Maryland’s Jewish community. He is past vice president of Jewish & Israel initiatives and director of Jewish giving at the Joseph and Harvey Meyerhoff Family Charitable Funds. With expertise in nonprofit management and public policy, he has made substantial contributions to the philanthropic sector.