Basatin Special Edition Lecture

Speaker Biographies 

Rabbi Andrew Baker 

Rabbi Baker, Director of International Jewish Affairs for the prestigious American Jewish Committee headquartered in Washington DC, is an internationally renowned leader in efforts to preserve the Jewish heritage in Arab countries and in Europe. As a result of his engagement with senior Egyptian officials he has achieved much tangible success in the restoration and preservation of important synagogues and Jewish historical sites in Cairo and Alexandria. In recognition of his work in Europe he was decorated by the Presidents of Germany, Lithuania, Latvia, and Romania. Among his many other affiliations, Rabbi Baker was past President of the Interfaith Conference of Washington DC and a former Commissioner of the District of Columbia Human Rights Commission. 

David Ovadia 

President of the Karaite Jews of America for multiple terms, David is passionately committed to preserving the heritage of his Karaite Jewish community of Egypt, to strengthening ties among the Karaite Jewish families in the United States, to building bridges with all those who share in the diaspora of Jews from the Middle East, and to inspiring others to learn more about his community’s celebrated history. David was just twelve years old when his family emigrated from Cairo to California in 1962, among the last Jews to leave a place of great discord during that traumatic era. A distinguished Structural and Civil Engineer by training, among many other leadership roles in his long career in California, David was the lead seismic engineer for the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant during its early tumultuous years; and he continues to work in his field, most recently consulting on a project in Israel. 

Maryellen Himell-Ovadia 

Maryellen represents another branch of the Jewish family tree, whose grandparents came to the US from Eastern Europe around 1905. Like David, Maryellen believes that all remnants of the Jewish world must be preserved, and she joins him in helping to safeguard the rich culture and traditions of the Jews of Egypt, including the legacy of both the Rabbinate and Karaite communities. Maryellen’s career spanned decades of leadership in the world of fundraising, communications, and marketing, managing non-profit organizations in San Francisco including the international federation, the English-Speaking Union; and trailblazing at the University of California, Berkeley, where, as Executive Director of Development, she served for over twenty years developing innovative programs and raising many millions of dollars in funding for a diverse population of first generation college and needy undergraduate students.

Dr. Nicholas Warner

Dr. Nicholas Warner is an architect who has lived in Egypt since 1993. His primary research interest is the Islamic Architecture of Cairo, reflected in publications such as The Monuments of Historic Cairo: a map and descriptive catalogue and The True Description of Cairo: a sixteenth-century Venetian view.

Over the past 25 years, Nicholas has also participated in or directed numerous physical projects related to the documentation, preservation, and presentation of historic structures and archaeological material throughout Egypt and dating to all periods. These include work in Quseir, Saqqara, the Western Desert Oases, Luxor, Sohag, Aswan, Tanis and Cairo.

Many of the past projects Nicholas has worked on have been supported by grants administered by ARCE, and in 2020 he joined the organization as its new Director of Cultural Heritage Projects with further responsibility for publications. 

Liska Radachi

Liska Radachi has worked in the fundraising and external engagement field for over a decade. Prior to joining the American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE), Radachi served as a Director of Regional Advancement for the Smithsonian, focused on fundraising for institutional priorities including renovation of the Fossil Hall at the National Museum of Natural History, The Smithsonian American Women’s Initiative, and the transformation of the National Air and Space Museum. She has held development roles at the University of Maryland, Arizona State University and the Institute of Food Technologists. Radachi received her BA in Art History from the University of Arizona and her MA in Arts Administration from Indiana University. Originally from Scottsdale, she lives in Alexandria, VA with her husband Adam, son Owen, and cat Linus.

Magda Haroun

Haroun is the Head of the Jewish Community in Cairo (JCC) and Director of the Haroun & Haroun Law Office, specializing in trademarking and registration. Since assuming leadership of Egypt’s dwindling Jewish community, she has made big strides in the preservation of the country’s Jewish heritage. She has revived the JCC’s Drop of Milk Association (DOM), adding heritage preservation to its charter and gathered a core group of trusted members around her who volunteer with DOM to clean up synagogues, the Jewish cemetery, give tours to visitors and students, and organize celebrations of religious holidays and other events in the synagogues. 

Samy Ibrahim 

Ibrahim is a senior management professional with over 25 years of experience in leadership roles in various industries. He currently serves as Managing Director and Partner at C.E.L.F. Company, the Egypt based family business specialized in growing, sorting, packing, and exporting fresh and processed vegetables and fruit. He has served as deputy to the Head of the Jewish Community in Cairo since 2015 and in 2016 was appointed as Executive Director of the Drop of Milk Association, the JCC’s NGO for preservation and promotion of Egypt’s Jewish Heritage. Both appointments are on a voluntary, non-compensated basis. Samy holds a Bachelor of Science in Commerce and Business Administration from Cairo University and a Master’s in Logistics from the Arab Academy for Maritime Sciences. He is fluent in Arabic, French, English, Italian, and Spanish.