People on the Move: Ibrahim Naboulsi
Ibrahim Naboulsi, his wife, Lisa, and their three children Noah, Amar, and Zach have only lived in Marlboro for the past 7 years, but this Islamic community leader and international businessman has already made his mark in local politics and is proud to call Marlboro his home. In fact, being a Muslim in this community has been a comfortable transition, even in the wake of 9/11. While many of his Muslim friends in other parts of the country relayed horrible stories of the backlash they were getting in Oklahoma, Tennessee, and elsewhere, Ibrahim and his family have not had that experience in Marlboronot one small moment of prejudice. For this he credits the intellect and worldliness of the people in this diverse town. Although it was the lure of one of the best public school systems in New Jersey and the opportunity to raise their children in a safe and established community that first brought them here (via Manhattan, then Brooklyn, then Secaucus), they have since discovered that Marlboros diversity is one of the reasons they treasure this town most. Born in Beirut, Lebanon, Ibrahim was the middle child in a family of seven brothers and one sister. Although he laughingly calls himself the black sheep of the family, there was little evidence that this nickname fit him. He first came to this country to study business at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, and continued on to earn a masters degree in international business from New York University (NYU). It was there that he met his wife (who converted to Islam for him) 18 years ago; while chauffeuring her to a job interview he struck up a conversation with her.
Currently, Ibrahim is an adjunct professor of political science at both Montclair University and Rutgers University. He serves on the Marlboro Township Ethical Standards Board (which he helped found 4 years ago) and the Economic Development Committee, and is also a Marlboro Recreation soccer coach for his childs team. In addition, he is a trustee and active member of the Islamic Mosque in Holmdel, and the owner and president of his own export/import company, Naboulsi Enterprises, Ltd. His company ships all over the world everything from autos, heavy equipment, trucks, school buses, ambulances, and furniture to oil, cotton, sugar, tea, gold, gems, steel, and clothing. Interestingly, Ibrahim also served as an Arabic translator on the much touted independent film, Why We Fight.
The social growth and responsibility and the future of all children are important to the Naboulsis. While Lisa chairs the Marlboro Educational Foundation, a non-profit group that provides grants to teachers and staff of the Marlboro K8 public schools, Ibrahim was instrumental in setting up a youth exchange program between his mosque and Temple Rodeph Torah in Marlboro. We had about 20 Jewish kids who came to visit our mosque, and then we took them bowling and for pizza. Now we are going to arrange with Rabbi Donald Weber to visit them. The kids loved it! Ibrahim sees this kind of exchange as a way to bridge the gaps between cultures in the community and a way to stop childhood intolerance in its tracks. Marlboro is such a melting pot, he says happily. My neighbors here are Jewish, Italian, Pakistani, Chinese, Ukrainianyou name it!
Of course, there are differences in the way Ibrahim grew up in Beirut and the way his children are growing up here. In his country English is taught intensely, not as casually as, say, Spanish is here; he speaks English fluently, as well as Arabic and French. Pick-up soccer was the norm on the streets just casual competitions no travel, recreation, or other organized teams. Family scheduling was also less intense there, with relatives able to drop by and visit without having to call first, and the parenting duties and influences were shared with the extended family. Here, he finds that with the familys time so scheduled, he is nostalgic for the time when aunts and uncles, cousins, grandparents, or friends could just drop by unannounced, and the family could hang out around the kitchen table and talk. Luckily, his parents have an apartment in Brooklyn and come to visit from Beirut several times a year. The Naboulsi family also loves traveling to visit with family all over the world; however, Ibrahim is always glad to get right back here to Marlboro. After all, as the saying goes, there is no place like home!
Favorite restaurant: Peter Luger Steakhouse in Brooklyn
Favorite music: classical
Favorite movie: Theres Something About Mary
Pet peeve: waiting in line at the DMV
Three people you would like to have dinner with: Bill Clinton, [the late] Peter Jennings, and Rafik Harriri (the late prime minister of Lebanon)