In the city of Daraa, in southwest Syria eight miles north of the Jordanian border, familial bonds have shaped communal rhythms for generations. Relatives typically lived in family compounds, where lines between kin and friend blurred. Generations shared knowledge and domiciles, sharing tables and stories amid the demands of daily life.
In recent years, such traditions have been interrupted. The spark for the Syrian Civil War ignited in Daraa in 2011, graffiti from a group of schoolchildren spiraling into a complex conflict with no end in sight. In the intervening years, nearly 80% of Daraa’s families have fled, according to nonprofit journalism organization Syria Direct. More than 11 million Syrians have been displaced internally or across borders.
Today, however, Daraa native Maryam al Radi is giving new life to her traditions, and making a home in her adopted country. As part of Syria Supper Club, which has hosted events in North Jersey and Manhattan for more than a year, she is one of 40 Syrian cooks who are breaking bread with their new American neighbors and helping to support their families in the process.