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Ferial Masoud

Oral history interview conducted by Liz H. Strong

February 13, 2018

Call number: 2018.006.04

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MASOUD: I know, like I want to tell you about, you know, we have to start about, you know, Jerusalem before. Right?

STRONG: Yes, yes, I would love to hear about that. Okay, great. I'm just going to mark the recording by saying today is Tuesday, February 13th, 2018. My name is Liz Strong. I'm here with Ferial Masoud for the Muslims in Brooklyn Public History Project at the Brooklyn Historical Society. So, where and when were you born?

MASOUD: Okay, I am Ferial Masoud. I [was] born Jerusalem, in the holy land. And, you know, I -- you know, I finished high school in Jerusalem, and I finished also another one year, like, studied something else, and after that I married.

STRONG: Tell me about your family, your childhood, life growing up in Jerusalem.

MASOUD: Okay. My family is a big family, 12 people. I am the youngest in the 1:00family and am very happy with my family, my father my mother. They're good people. Their manner, they -- you know, they teach us a lot of things good. They like the people, they like to give, they like to feed, they like -- you know. Good people, thank God. Yeah. And I am married, after that, you know. Within one week I married, and after that, I come to America.

STRONG: Okay. Tell me about your memories of Jerusalem. What was it like in the 1950s and '60s?

MASOUD: Fifty, fifty -- I don't know about '50 --

STRONG: Oh, that's right.

MASOUD: -- because, you know, I am not born yet. I'm new baby, you know [laughter]. It's nice, of course. You know, nice. The best country, you know, 2:00like holy land. They have three religion, like Muslim, Catholic, and Jewish people, you know. Three together, you know. And everybody -- there is tourists, you know, they come over there, you know, because their religion. And good country. Everybody fight for that, for this country.

STRONG: What do you remember about the war in 1967? You told me a little bit about that last time.

MASOUD: I remember -- I tell you, I remember my father, he was scared about the girls, and he tell us, you know, "You have to go outside Jerusalem" to, you know -- like, the Jewish people, you know, do something bad for the girls or something, you know. That's why we go out to Jordan. After Jordan, we go to Kuwait.

STRONG: How long were you in Jordan, and who did you stay with?

MASOUD: Yeah, in Jordan, I stayed with my sisters -- my sister -- and my aunt. And in Kuwait, I stayed with my brother. Yeah.

STRONG: So it was you and one other sister.

MASOUD: Oh, yes.


MASOUD: Yes, yeah. More older than me.

STRONG: Yeah. How old were you?

MASOUD: Sixteen.

STRONG: You were sixteen?

MASOUD: Uh-huh, yeah.


MASOUD: And my sister, she's 20.

STRONG: She was 20?

MASOUD: Uh-huh.

STRONG: What do you remember about that time? Any stories in particular?

MASOUD: No, you know, because, you know, we would go out, out of Jerusalem. Of course, you know, we were too far from my family -- my father, my sister, my brother, everybody in Jerusalem, and me and my sister, you know, alone, you know. It's very hard. And we stayed three, four months out, and after that, my 3:00father, he tell us come, you know.

STRONG: Yeah. How was life different when you returned home?

MASOUD: Of course different, because Jewish people inside Jerusalem. And there were different situation, different, you know, like, scary. Like it was -- you're scared. You can't go out, you stay inside the house. You can't do anything, you know, because if you go out, you know, like, you know, Jewish people, they catch you or they can shoot you or something, you know. It's hard. It's hard in the beginning; it's scary. Yeah.

STRONG: So it was just a few years later -- '72, you told me? -- that your husband came?

MASOUD: I married, yeah, '72, yeah.

STRONG: Tell me about meeting him for the first time.

MASOUD: How I meet him?


MASOUD: He come to my house. He come to my house, and, you know, I don't know him, he don't -- he never see me. He come to see, to see the girl he want, you know. He don't know me, if he like me or no. You know, I go in, you know, I say hi, shake hands, and sit down. That's it. When he see me, he say, Okay, I want her.

And like I tell you, you know, I say yes, because my father, he's sick before, and, you know, he tell me, you know, "I have to let you [be] married before something happens to me. And he's good man, and I hope your luck better [for] you." And I agree what my father say. I say, "What you want. Anything you say, 4:00you know, it's okay. I agree for it, because you." Yeah. That's why, and we married within one week.

[Interview interrupted.]

STRONG: So, what do you remember about moving to Brooklyn after you got married?

MASOUD: It's hard --

STRONG: You were married there, in Jerusalem, first?

MASOUD: Yes, I married in Jerusalem.

STRONG: Tell me about your wedding.

MASOUD: Oh my God. My wedding is big wedding, but we make it in a public school. Like college, like small college. We make it. Lot of people. I don't know the people, of course, you know, because, you know, I don't know my husband, I don't know the family, I don't know nobody. Something strange, you know, because, you 5:00know, my husband is [from a] different town, and we inside Jerusalem. Yeah. And just like that, come. You know, it's nice, nice, you know, nice wedding. After that, after the wedding, we go to the movie.

STRONG: Oh, really?


STRONG: What movie did you see?

MASOUD: Arabic movie, Arabic movie. The people that come in the wedding, they say, "Oh my God, oh my God, I see your sister." "Where you see her?" "I see her in the movie." They said, "No, she's married today. How she go to the movies?" They said, "No," they said, "I see her in the movie." You know. [laughter] Yeah.

STRONG: That's wonderful.

MASOUD: Yeah. And after that, we go honeymoon.

STRONG: Where did you honeymoon?

MASOUD: We don't go far. We go same, like same -- not Jerusalem, inside, inside Israel. Like, you know, Haifa, you know, like that, you know. We go there, you 6:00know. That's it. Stay like two, three days, we come back. Yeah.

STRONG: And then how long after that did you get your tickets and your visa and --

MASOUD: Ah, the visa, okay. Three months for -- three month.

STRONG: Three months?

MASOUD: Three month and half. Yeah, I stay, my husband stay with me until finish all my paper, and we come here. But it's hard, hard. When I come here, it's very hard, because I'm alone, I don't have no family, nobody come with me, only my husband. Everything like strange for me because, you know, I come different country. I don't have nobody. It's very hard, in the beginning, very hard. Every day I cry. Yeah. It's not easy.

STRONG: Where did you live? Where was your first home?

MASOUD: First home, in Church Avenue.

STRONG: That's right.

MASOUD: Yes, yeah. We have house. Like, my husband, he buy a house before, you 7:00know. Yeah. And I come to the house, you know, with his brother and sister-in-law. They're good family, nice family, you know. They make me company. They make me company, but I feel -- still I feel lonely because, you know, I don't see my father, I don't see my mother. My father's sick. After nine months, my father die. When I come to America, after nine months, my father die. When I [gve birth to my] first baby, same time I borne the baby girl, my father die.

STRONG: On the same day.

MASOUD: Yeah. Same hour. Same hour. Four o'clock in the morning I have the baby, first baby; four o'clock in the morning my father die. You believe?

STRONG: So you weren't able to travel home to be with the family after he died.

MASOUD: No, I can't, of course. I can't. You know, like all the family, my 8:00husband's family, they know my father die, but they didn't tell me because I have a new baby. You know, they're scared, you know, something happen to me. After three, four days they tell me. Yes, after three, four days they tell me. I know, it's hard, it's hard, but we make it. That's the life.

STRONG: What was the name of your first daughter?



MASOUD: Liqa. Name it in Arabic, like "meeting." I meet my husband -- I meet my husband -- my husband, same time, same time, he's in the hospital, he make operation, and me, I have the baby. He's in the hospital, and me, another 9:00hospital. That's why we meet in hospitals; that's why we name it "meeting," Liqa, in Arabic.

STRONG: Wow. In the same hospital, or was it different hospitals?

MASOUD: Not same hospital, different hospital. Yeah. He make operation --

STRONG: What was his operation?

MASOUD: Appendix.

STRONG: Oh, yeah.

MASOUD: Appendix. Yeah. It's like surprise.

STRONG: Oh, he didn't know it would happen.



MASOUD: Yeah, yeah. He didn't know. After operation, I call him, I say, "I have the baby." Say, "Oh my God, you in the hospital, I am in the hospital, let's name it Liqa, like meeting."



STRONG: And how did life change for you after that, when you became a mother?

MASOUD: Oh. Of course, you know.


MASOUD: Of course life change, you know. But it's still hard. You know, like first baby, you learn. You don't know nothing about the baby, you don't know nothing. You learn. Every day, you learn something, different things, you know. Yeah.

STRONG: What did you learn?

MASOUD: I learn -- I learn -- make me more company, number one. You know, before, lonely, cry all the time, but when I have baby, you know, make me company and make me like, you know, work to forget a little bit, work for the baby. If she laugh, I laugh, you know. Make me more happy. Yeah.

STRONG: So once you started having children, did you find you went out and did more in the community after that, that you got to meet more people through their school?

MASOUD: Of course. Of course, yeah, of course. You know, each, each -- you know, like each baby teach me more and more in the life and how you, like, treat the kids, how you go to the doctors, how you go to shopping, something. Of course.


MASOUD: Every time, you know, teach -- we learn something different.

STRONG: What do you remember about your neighborhood? What was Brooklyn like in the 1970s?

MASOUD: Brooklyn -- you know, our neighborhood mix, mix. Jewish, Italian, and some Arab. You know, a little bit, not too much. After that, you know, like we stay maybe like 10 years -- change. Jewish people move, Italian people move, come Black. When come Black, it a little bit scary. We sell the houses, and we move after that.

STRONG: Oh, so his brother moved too.

MASOUD: His brother moved before us, before us. Yeah. Yeah, that's why.

STRONG: So tell me about your husband's store at that time.

MASOUD: Uh-huh. On Utica?

STRONG: Yeah, Utica, the first one.

MASOUD: Utica Avenue. Yeah, first one. Was good. Like, you know, the neighbor is the Black people, but good people. Before, the Black people is good, not like now, you know, and not too much people. Now you have more people.

STRONG: It's crowded there.

MASOUD: Yes, crowded. Yeah. They have good business, before, the business good. They, they treat the people good, you know, and the people like them, my husband and brother-in-law together. They work together.

STRONG: So they both owned the store?

MASOUD: Yes, yes, together. Yeah.

STRONG: Which they got in 1969, is that right?

MASOUD: No. I think in nineteen seventy --

STRONG: Oh, nineteen s--

MASOUD: -- '71, before he married me.


MASOUD: Before -- '71.

STRONG: Just one year before he married you.

MASOUD: Yes, yes, yeah, uh-huh.

STRONG: Okay. So it was a new business.

MASOUD: Yeah. Before, they have -- before they work, you know, like in supermarket, they work alone, like -- they sell watches, they sell carpet, they sell on the street in the beginning. And after that, they make money and they open store.

STRONG: So they were -- were they street vendors on Atlantic Avenue? Where did they sell?

MASOUD: Where?

STRONG: Where were they selling their goods before the store?

MASOUD: Oh, oh, all over.

STRONG: All over.

MASOUD: They have a car, and they go anywhere. New Jersey, Detroit. Anywhere. I don't know, I am --

STRONG: Yeah, this is before you.

MASOUD: I don't know them before. I don't know them.

STRONG: Okay. I was just curious.

MASOUD: Yeah, yeah.

STRONG: So you moved to Bay Ridge in 1980, thereabouts?

MASOUD: Yes, yes, 1980.

STRONG: Tell me about that move. What was that like?

MASOUD: I tell you, we moved because we -- the neighborhood is no good, and, you know, one time, you know, our neighbor, Black people, they go in my house and they steal all my gold.


MASOUD: Yes. That's why, you know, say we'll have to move. Yeah. And we moved 1980, in apartment, until we find, you know, the right house. Yeah.

STRONG: What was the apartment like? Was there room enough for everyone?

MASOUD: It was good. Yeah. Oh, yeah, very good. Very good apartment, not small, no. Three bedroom, salon, dining room, veranda, you know. Yeah, it was good. Very nice.

STRONG: And one of your children was born while you were there.

MASOUD: Yes, yes. One of my children, yeah.

STRONG: And tell me about that.

MASOUD: Born in Ramadan. He born -- he born -- you know when he born? He born the best night in the year, like Laylat al-Qadr. You understand about Ramadan? Twenty-seven -- 27 -- the date of 27 of Ramadan, he born the same night. They say in Ramadan, Laylat al-Qadr, that's the best night in the year, and he born the same night. Yeah.

Yeah. While I have a pain, I'm cooking -- I'm cooking for my husband because he's fasting. While I have pain, I'm cooking, keep cooking, I say, "Oh my God, the baby coming." I call my husband, I tell him, you know, I have pain, you know, come. He say, you know, "It's hard for me because it's too far, the store's too far, and I can't come the right time. Call the ambulance." I call 10:00the ambulance, the ambulance take me to the hospital. And almost I have the baby inside the ambulance. Yeah, I know.


MASOUD: Yeah, it's hard.

STRONG: So what did you name him?

MASOUD: Mosa. Like, you know, I have four boys: Muhammad, Jesus -- Essa -- and Mosa, and Abraham. All the prophet, yeah. And everybody come the right time. Like Muhammad come in the after Ramadan holiday, like Eid al-Fitr. You know, Essa, he come Christmas-time, in December. Mosa, he come Laylat al-Qadr, and 11:00Abraham, he come the big holiday for Hajj. Yes. You know, everybody come some occasion.

STRONG: That's wonderful.

MASOUD: Yeah, thank Good. Yeah.

STRONG: So tell me about finding this house. What were you looking for in a neighborhood, and what did you like about it?

MASOUD: What I like about it? Okay. My husband, he keep looking, you know, and he show me a lot of houses. Sometimes I don't like it. I say -- when I go to the houses, I say, "Oh my God, the drape very nice, the couch is very nice." I say like that, you know. And say, "Why you looking for the drape, why you looking for the couches? Look for the house." I say, "I don't like it." That's why, you know. But this house, I like it because [it's] bright. Bright. Have lot of window, the sun come inside, and space. The salon -- I'll show you my salon upstairs. The salon big. And have six room. For my kids, it's enough. Six 12:00bedroom. Six bedroom, you know? That's why I like it.

STRONG: What was it like raising nine children in Bay Ridge?

MASOUD: It's very hard. It's very hard. You know, you have to be very strong and very [strict] to have, you know, good children. Every time I'm scared about my children. If they come after five minutes late, I'm scared. All the time, you know, after them, after them. If they go to the bicycle, you know, only here, only here, around me.

STRONG: On Narrows Avenue, in front of the house.

MASOUD: In front my eye. All the time, in front my eye. You know, I don't let them go anywhere -- girls and boys. Yeah. It's very hard, you know. Thank God, you know, they come good children, they come religion, also have good manner. 13:00Thank God. You know, we make our -- we make best, you know, for them. Yeah.

STRONG: When we spoke last time, your daughter mentioned that much of their religious education was at home, homeschooling, early on.


STRONG: So how did you -- how did you teach them?

MASOUD: Okay. About, you know, like -- about the Islamic? No, we sent them to the masjid, Masjid Al-Farooq. You know, we sent them.

STRONG: When did you start doing that?

MASOUD: Yeah, when they're small, like, you know, around -- maybe they -- five years? Five, six, seven, we send them to the Masjid Al-Farooq, teach them little bit by little bit. You know, one -- if one learn, the other one, they teach. They learn each other, you know. Every time, you know.

We make our house, same culture, same everything [as] in our country. Not like 14:00American way. No, no. We live in America -- I teach my sons and my daughters, we are in America, but still we Arabic Muslim. We have to do our culture and our religion. I know you see something wrong outside. I see -- I know you see everything no good, but you have to compare between outside and inside. That's why, you know, they -- they're confused. Of course they're confused. But, you know, they -- they ask me a lot of question all the time about, you know, "Ma, we see this and this." "No. Don't worry about them. Leave them. Not our religion, not our culture. Let them do what they do. It's not our business. We are Muslim, we are Arab, we have to do our culture, we have to do our -- the right way. That's the most important." Yeah, all the time.

I know -- you know, I -- too much hard for my kids. Me too much hard for my kids. But thank God, they come good kids. Thank God.

STRONG: Tell me -- do you remember any specific stories about their upbringing, their education, any questions that they asked you that surprised you? Anything like that.

MASOUD: Uh-huh, okay. Of course. You know, I understand English, of course, you know, from beginning, because I, you know, finished high school -- but little bit different, you know. Yeah, lot of time, you know, I make the homework for them, like I -- you know, I help them for the homework, and, you know, and if they no understand, my husband -- my husband, he don't have time for that. He 15:00work 12 hour, and he don't have time for homework, he don't have time for kids, he don't have for nothing. Everything's me. But each one teach other one. You know, the oldest -- sometime I don't understand, I say, "Ma, go help your sister, go help your brother," because I don't understand it. They help each other. Yeah. And sometime, you know, after school, they have after school, they go, you know, and they make homework over there. Yeah.

STRONG: So at this time, your husband was working at C-Town, right?


STRONG: He owned a C-Town. Was that also with his brother, or was that on his own?

MASOUD: No, his own.

STRONG: On his own.

MASOUD: His brother, he have another -- another business. Like wholesale cigarettes and candy, his brother, in Atlantic Avenue. Yeah, yeah. He work very 16:00hard, my husband, very, very hard. And my husband, he work hard because he not only feed us, he feed kids of my -- his brother and the other brother. The kids of other -- three family.

STRONG: Where was his other brother?

MASOUD: He's also, you know, in, like, Atlantic Avenue.

STRONG: Oh, they're both there.

MASOUD: Yeah. But he study, and he married, have kids. Like, my husband, he's responsible for his kids also.

STRONG: Oh wow.

MASOUD: It's very hard. I know my husband, he's hard-working, very hard-working. Yeah. He's good for the family and good for his mother. Yeah. He's good.

STRONG: What was it like when you did see him at home? Was it just for meals? What was his relationship like in the house?

MASOUD: Oh, okay, when he come? Well, you know, talk, you know, good, of course, you know. Welcome, the food's ready, the kids are clean, they make homework. They're ready for sleep, but before they sleep, they have to sit down with the father on the table, they have to take dinner with him, they have to talk with him, you know. And he's happy when he see all his family and the food on the table and the coffee and everything, and a [smiling] wife, you know. Yeah. He's good, you know. He sit down after that, you know, with the children, if he have something to talk, you know, or the children have to talk, they talk, and they go sleep. Yeah.

STRONG: Was he working on weekends as well?

MASOUD: Of course, yes. Yes, he work. He work seven days. One day I said to him, "You know, you're supposed to, you know, take off one day because you have to see your children. You don't see your children enough, you know." He say, "Okay." He stay Sunday. He get up, I give him coffee, I give him breakfast, and he go outside. Have lot of trees outside before, you know, before we're fixing -- have lot of trees. He go, he want to do the trees. Big knife. He make like this, he do the tree, he cut his hand. Oh my God. He make me very sick. I said, "Never stay home. That's it. No more stay home." [laughter] Yeah, I know. I know, it's hard. Yeah. He cut -- he didn't want to go hospital. He didn't want to go. I go to the pharmacy, I bring something for him, and I do everything for him.

STRONG: And he went back to work the next day?

MASOUD: Yeah. [laughter] I tell you, yeah, my husband -- if he sick sick he come to work. He's very good man. He's very good man.

STRONG: Tell me about when the two of you first got married and came here. How did you get to know each other? What did you learn about each other?

MASOUD: What I learn? A lot of things. You know, I don't understand him in the beginning, of course, but -- (phone ringing) Do you want to answer? You can if you want. We'll pause.

[Interview interrupted.]


STRONG: So you said you didn't understand him at first, and then --

MASOUD: At the beginning, of course, you know. You learn -- you learn each time, you know. You know, how is he acting, how is he -- ? You know. But I learn. Every day I learn something about him, you know, and I stay what he like. I do 17:00what he like, because I don't go anywhere, I don't have no family, nothing, you know. You know. I learn a lot of things, you know, about him.

STRONG: Like what? What did you learn?

MASOUD: Oh, what I learn? Some -- what I tell you? Long time, that. He don't talk a lot, number one. When he come from work, he come tired, he don't talk a lot. Me, all day alone, I need somebody, I need company because I don't have nobody. It's very hard. He don't talk a lot. That's why I learn from that. That's why, you know, I have company with my children all the time. Number two, you know, sometime he don't like [me] to go outside a lot, alone. He's scared, you know, from me, you know. He's scared me go alone all the time, you know, he 18:00want me together to go because he's scared about -- you know, different country, you know, different people, you know. Yeah.

And he's good man, and he's good for our family. Yeah. I learn a lot about -- the life teach you. Believe me, every day the life teach you. Yeah.

STRONG: So tell me about conversations with your children, games you would play, how you built your own family.

MASOUD: Yeah. All the time, I play with them, with the kids, you know. I sing with them, I dance with them, I make a party with them. All the time with them. Nobody else, I don't have nobody. You know, it's very hard, but, but, that's why, you know -- they make me company, they make me happy. My kids, you know, 19:00make me everything in my life. They're everything in my life.

STRONG: Tell me a little bit about their growing up. When did they start to work in C-Town, in your husband's store?

MASOUD: They work -- my sons, they work, you know, like every weekend when they are small, they go with their father. Like, you know, to see, to know. I don't want them to stay home; I want them to go to learn. Like from seven, seven years, they go every weekend, every time. Every week he take one or two kids, you know, for him, for, you know, C-Town.

STRONG: Daughters and sons?

MASOUD: Sons more.


MASOUD: But the daughter also. You know, she like to go, like to learn, you know, and she's -- she work, you know, something in the office also, you know, 20:00my daughter. Yeah, second daughter. She like to work there, you know, so. And my sons start working from -- the big son, Muhammad, he start working from 10. Ten years, 12 years, you're responsible, and he work everything, and he know everything about, you know, business. Yeah, that's why now he succeed, thank God.

STRONG: How long did the family have that store?

MASOUD: Around 24 years. Twenty-four years, yeah. And after that, the area danger -- have lot of hold-up, and --

STRONG: Oh, they were robbed there?

MASOUD: Yes, a lot. A lot. That's why -- oh my God, one day they closed the store -- Sunday -- they closed three o'clock. They go inside the car in the parking lot, and three Black man come, one [with a] gun, you know. One on my 21:00husband head and one on my son neck and the other one on the floor. And they take money. I don't care, $35,000, but we didn't care about the money, but thank God -- they take the key, they take everything from them. After that, he say, "No, I have to -- I don't want it. I have to sell it." Yeah.

STRONG: It was on Gates Avenue?

MASOUD: Yes, mm-hmm, yeah. But now it change. The area change now. Yeah, the area change now.

STRONG: So they sold the store in 2003, right?

MASOUD: Two thousand, I think.

STRONG: In 2000. Oh, that's right, in 2000.


STRONG: And did he think -- did your husband think he would retire at that point?

MASOUD: No, he stay. That's why he stay, he fix the house here.

STRONG: Oh, he stayed home.

MASOUD: We traveling. We travel. And after that, I tell him, "You have to do something for your sons, you know, because we can't stay like this."

STRONG: Oh, yes, what were the sons doing?

MASOUD: The sons doing -- the sons, two sons work in airport. They work in -- anyplace. They don't want to stay. But after that, I say, "No, I don't want them working to people, you know, job, you know. [I] want our business." And we opened this -- 2003, I think, we opened this, Balady.



STRONG: Tell me about finding the place to open Balady.

MASOUD: Well, just like that. It come like that. You know, my husband, he stay, he sit down, like, to have coffee with some friend, and he say, "I want to sell 22:00the store. If you want to take it, take it." "Okay," he say, "okay." And second day, he give the key, and we take.

STRONG: What kind of store was there before?

MASOUD: Same thing, like supermarket Arabic, but not too much like -- small, and not too much stuff, no nothing. And [it] have also gold. Gold, Arabic gold. Yeah. And we take it, thank God. Yeah.

STRONG: And you chose the name, is that right?

MASOUD: Yes, yes.

STRONG: Tell me about the vision for what your store would be like and how it would be different from other stores.

MASOUD: Uh-huh, okay. Number one, like, not about -- you know, my husbands and my sons, you know. They very honest, and they want the right way. They put the 23:00prices. They clean everything, they clean everything like new. The customer come, you know, they see the prices -- before, no prices. All the store, no prices. If this is one dollar, they tell the customer two dollar. You know? That's why we do the right way. Yeah, a legal way. That's why. And, you know, they treat the people, you know, good.

STRONG: And this was the first halal market --


STRONG: -- the family had run.

MASOUD: Yes, yes. Yeah.

STRONG: So tell me about that decision. Why did they want to do that?

MASOUD: Uh-huh, why? Okay, because my son -- my sons and my husband, he don't like, you know, like, like pork, and don't like beer, you know, like alcohol. He don't like it. That's why we like halal. Everything halal, and if we take money, 24:00take it like halal money. That's why. So that's it. That's it. We have to -- you know, like he [very religious] my husband. He say, "That's it. We have to work, and we do the right way. That's it. No more like that."

STRONG: So now they could do the store however they wanted. They could make their own brand, their own --

MASOUD: Oh, of course. Yes, yes, yeah. We tried to make a lot of -- a lot -- a lot of brand, our name. Yeah.

STRONG: Tell me how you chose the name.

MASOUD: How? Okay. We sit down together, and we talk about it, you know, what do we name it. And I tell them, "Okay, everybody here in community, Arabic community, everybody come from the country to different country, strange 25:00country. And everybody like his country, like, you know, like Egypt, Moroccan, for Palestine, you know, Jordan -- everybody like to go back, but they can't go back. That's why if we name it Balady, they remember, each one, his country." That's why we name it like that. And they agree, my sons and my husband. You know, they say, "Oh my God, that's good. If you think like that, you know, it's good."

The Arabic community, not too much before. A little bit. Now, too much, too much community, too much Arab, too much Muslim people here now.

STRONG: So when you first moved to this house, there weren't many people.

MASOUD: No, not too much. No. It's very hard to find somebody Arab. Yeah, it's very hard to find. But now, all over. Yeah.

STRONG: So what was that like for you and your family, to go from being, you know, one of the only Arab families in the neighborhood to one of many? Tell me about that change.

MASOUD: Say it again.

STRONG: Okay. What was it like for you to be, you know, one of the only Arab families in Bay Ridge? And then, 10, 20 years later, be one of many Arab families?

MASOUD: Oh. Not -- you know, not only us, you know, Arabic here in Bay Ridge. No, a lot. But we don't know each other, you know, we don't know this is Arabic or not Arabic. We know the Arabic people until we open the store. When we open the store, we know about Arabic more, because everybody come to the store, and we know the people from there. That's why. Yeah.

STRONG: Tell me about the history of the store. You started out renting the space, right? [00:40:00]


STRONG: And then, what was that like and how did you grow from there?

MASOUD: How we grow? Okay. We rented. In the beginning, we rented, and my husband, he's businessman. All his life, he's a businessman. Every time, you know, the Chinese woman, she come, she come beginning of the month, "Oh, come on, Masoud, Masoud, come, I want the rent, I want the rent." "Okay, okay, no problem, you take it." He give her. He give up, he say, "Oh my God, why I give her?" Okay, if you sell the building, I take it. You know, that's why. He don't like to -- you know, like somebody control him. That's my husband. He want he's, he's the boss. Yeah, that's why, and he buy the building.

STRONG: So when she eventually sold, she --


STRONG: -- offered it to him first, and he took it.

MASOUD: Yeah, yeah. Good price. Yeah. Yeah, we sell it -- we buy it, thank God, you know, and we fix it more, and we extend it more a little bit in the back, and after that, we buy the other building, and we open it together. Yeah, laundry -- before [it was a] laundry.

STRONG: It was a laundry. Did you run it as a laundry for a little while, or did you straightaway -- ?

MASOUD: Yes, yes, couple years, we running as a laundry. And after that, say, "Why laundry? You know, let's make it bigger." And we make it bigger. Thank God.

STRONG: Tell me about building up the inventory of the store. Where did you buy things from? How did you choose things to buy?

MASOUD: Oh yeah. From all over. Like, you know, from overseas. Before -- listen, before, it's very hard to have like brought -- you know, something, Arabic 26:00stuff, to come to America. It's very hard. Yeah. And after that, little bit by little bit, a lot of companies, a lot of -- it's more easier. But everything, we bring it from overseas.

STRONG: You brought it yourselves?

MASOUD: Me and my husband, yeah, and one of my kids. Yes, yeah.

STRONG: Tell me about those trips.

MASOUD: Oh my God. The best trips. Yeah, like, you know, I like to -- I like to buy, to bring something new for the Arabic community, especially for the woman. When they see something like from the country, they more happy to see it in America, you know. It's very hard to bring something, you know, but we bring everything what they like. Every time, you know, we bring container, we bring everything.

STRONG: Tell me about one of your early trips. Tell me a story about what you remember.

MASOUD: Early, the beginning?


MASOUD: The beginning trip, uh-huh, okay. Syria. We go -- we went to Syria. My son, he -- second son, Essa, he went to Syria to study Qur'an and Arabic. After he finish master, he say, "Ma, I want to go to learn Qur'an and the Arabic language." Say, "Okay, go." He stayed nine months over there.

I went to visit him, and I see lot of things, you know, good for the community, Arabic community. I say, "Oh my God, have a lot of things good. Okay, let's buy and bring container to the store." In the beginning of the -- you know, when we opened the store. Didn't have nothing before. And we start from there. Every time we go, we bring containers -- from there, from Lebanon, from Jordan, from 27:00Egypt, from Turkey, from Morocco -- all over.

STRONG: What kinds of food, what kinds of gifts and other goods did you look for, did you like?

MASOUD: Uh-huh. The food -- not my responsibility. My husband responsibility, the food. But the gift and things, you know, for the house and things the woman use, that my responsibility. I bring everything -- what the woman want, I bring it.

STRONG: Like what? What are some of the things you would get?

MASOUD: Uh-huh, like what. What I tell you. Maybe some don't understand it sometimes. Okay, you know, lot of things before, like picture Qur'an, number one. Everything write in Quran, Arabic, I bring it. Number two, all the 28:00equipment of singing.

STRONG: Singing. Music?

MASOUD: Yeah. No, like this.

STRONG: Like a drum.

MASOUD: Yes, drum, yes. Like all kinds of drums.

STRONG: Oh, wonderful.

MASOUD: Oh, yeah. That's why. You know, everything I see it, I say, "Oh my God, I have to -- you have to buy it and bring it over there, because the people, they don't see it. They don't have it in America." That's why everything no have in America, I bring it here, in the beginning. Yeah. And I bring lot of thing, like kind of soap, soap, like healthy soap. I bring honey, like natural. Like everything natural, everything like organic, I bring. Or, what I tell you, oil, like the oil, like --

STRONG: Yeah, scented oils.

MASOUD: Uh-huh, uh-huh, all kind of oil, all kind of herbs. Herbs, number one, herbs. (phone rings)

MASOUD: Ooh, let's pause a moment.


[Interview interrupted.]

MASOUD: What I tell -- everything. Like some decoration, some for bath -- for bath, you know, the one, you know, bath, you know.

STRONG: Bathrobe?

MASOUD: No, not bathrobe.

STRONG: Or soap?

MASOUD: Like the soap and, you know, the scrub.

STRONG: Oh, yeah, the --

MASOUD: The scrub for the bath. Yes, all kind of that. They don't have it here in America, in the beginning, I say. Now, all the companies, they have it. And -- oh, everything, everything. Everything what I see different, no have in America, I bring it.

STRONG: What kinds of things would sell well, did you learn over time?

MASOUD: Oh, everything. [laughter] Yes. Like, you know, the community, when they see something like no have it in America, something from the country, oh my God, they'll buy it right away. Yeah. And we put the price cheap. Not expensive. We 29:00say, "No, we have to learn -- they have to learn, you know, everything this store cheap." That's it. Yeah.

This is from Syria. This is from Syria. This is from Syria.

STRONG: All these things.

MASOUD: This is from Syria. You know? Everything, you know.

STRONG: They're beautiful.


STRONG: So, just for the recording, you pointed out some art on the wall, some mirrors, some furniture, and the couches we're sitting on right now.

MASOUD: Yeah, yeah.

STRONG: And they're lovely.

MASOUD: Yes, those, those, yeah. This is custom-made.

STRONG: Custom-made from Syria.

MASOUD: Yes, yes.

STRONG: Yeah. And it fits the room perfectly.

MASOUD: And this, I buy this also.


MASOUD: The couches.

STRONG: Yes. No, it's wonderful. It's an open space. It's great for hosting.

MASOUD: And I want to show you the salon also. I buy also, you know, for salon, you know.

STRONG: Oh, great.

MASOUD: Couches, yeah.

STRONG: Yeah, we'll go look at that after.

MASOUD: Yes, yes, yes.

STRONG: I'm also curious, what was Fifth Avenue like in 2003, and how did it change? The neighborhood of the store.

MASOUD: Okay, the neighborhood. Before, I tell you, the community's small, but 30:00every year growing. That's why, more growing, more Arabic people open businesses because they see too much Arab, they need this, they need this, they need this. That's why it changed. Before, no. Like, little bit community. But little bit by little bit, it's growing.

STRONG: Yeah. It's a very active street now, where Balady Foods is.

MASOUD: Yeah, yeah. I tell you, from 75th [street] to 69, before, dead. Nothing. The business, from 75 and up, 75 to 86 is good business. But now, from 75 to 69 now is good. Change. Change everything like Arabic community. Yeah.

STRONG: So once you bought the property next door -- I'm trying to remember when that was -- that was --

MASOUD: Home decor?

STRONG: Yeah, the 2010s, just about?

MASOUD: Twenty-ten?

STRONG: Oh, I'm trying to remember. When was it that you bought first the laundry? When did you buy the laundry and expand the store?

MASOUD: Aha, when we buy the laundry? Wait. Wait, I remember. Maybe if we buy the store 2003, we buy the laundry maybe 2005 or '06.

STRONG: So just a few years later.

MASOUD: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

STRONG: And then shortly after that, you did the renovations to make it --

MASOUD: After, after four, five years, we say, okay, we run the business, laundry, and we say, "No, we don't want it. We take everything and we make it bigger." Yeah.

STRONG: And then after that you started renting the barbershop next door for home goods.

MASOUD: Yes, yes. We rented -- not too far, like maybe now maybe one year only.

STRONG: Oh, not that long.

MASOUD: We opened that. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Not too long, no. Yeah, because, you 31:00know why? We have lot of gift inside Balady supermarket, you know. No space to put everything and not show a lot. When you put it between the food or something, not show a lot. That's why we said -- you know, we rent that to put everything inside.

STRONG: So now it's separate.

MASOUD: And thank God, it's good. Thank God. Anything is good. Believe me, I don't care about money; I don't care. More that, you know, they pay everything what cost, more than enough. Believe me. The life is not worth it. The life -- money is nothing.

STRONG: Tell me about making the foods here that you would sell -- the coffee, the spices.

MASOUD: Uh-huh, uh-huh, yeah. I work hard. I work hard, but I feel happy. You 32:00know, I feel happy because I want make happy the community, Arabic community, make them happy. I make the coffee, I make the seeds, I do myself.

STRONG: The nuts and seeds.

MASOUD: Yeah, the nuts, the nuts. I make the sweet -- all kind of sweet, Arabic sweet. Before, they didn't have companies. Before, in the beginning, no companies. Everything I do, I was in the store to sell. I make a lot of things I don't know in English.

STRONG: Roasting the nuts --


STRONG: -- mixing spices --

MASOUD: Yes, spices. Also spices, number one. I make my spices special. Everybody like it. Until now, I teach the girls, and they do it sometimes. They bring me here to do it, and they take it. Yeah. Mix spices special, like special -- this is like a Middle East, they like the spices. But different also. Like 33:00Indian spices, Moroccan spices, like Palestinian spices. You know, those kind. You know, each spice, you know, different cook, different food. Yeah.

STRONG: So now your daughters do it. So you did this for years, maybe about 10 years?

MASOUD: Yes. Now, not my daughter, really. I teach the, the cashiers.


MASOUD: I teach -- and my sons, my sons. I teach my sons. I tell them, "Do this, do this." Every time I go, I look, you know, something wrong, I say, "Why like this? Why like this? No, do it like this, like this." Still, you know.

STRONG: So you're still teaching them.

MASOUD: Yes, yes, of course. You know, and also the pickles.

STRONG: The pickles.

MASOUD: Oh, yeah, yeah. I teach them about the pickles. I start to do it all the time, and after I teach my son, Abraham, this, you know, about the pickles, and 34:00I teach the workers. Yes, yeah.

STRONG: So your kitchen must have smelled amazing if you were making all of these things [laughter] at home.

MASOUD: You know, I like to cook, I tell you. And I like to make the community happy. And also I make orders.

STRONG: Right.

MASOUD: Like big lamb, big rice, chicken, salad, hummus -- all kind of food, Arabic food, I make order if somebody want it. Yeah, but now, no. Now, I'm tired to do that, you know. My daughter -- I tell my daughter, she like to do that.

STRONG: Do they now have a kitchen at the store to make these things there?

MASOUD: No have.

STRONG: Oh, they still do it off-site.

MASOUD: No, no, no have, no have kitchen. No, I like, I like. I tell them -- 35:00until now, you know, I tell them, I have to make at least little bit bakery. Little bit like, you know, stove, like shelves, and bake, you know, something. When it smell fresh, everybody like it.

STRONG: Yes. So if they make the sweets there, the baked goods there --

MASOUD: Not sweet, not sweet. Forget about sweet. The sweet, you know, bring it from the company or something. Like, you know, like meat pie, spinach pie, cheese pie, like this, you know. When you smell it inside the store, everybody like it. We try to do that.

STRONG: So that'll be the next thing?

MASOUD: I hope so. I hope so, yeah. [laughter] I hope so.

STRONG: That would be great.


STRONG: How did -- how did you begin doing the food orders? Was that part of the plan for the store initially or did that grow --


STRONG: -- as you were bringing food to your husband?

MASOUD: Yes, yes. You see -- okay, I want to tell you.


MASOUD: In the beginning, start -- we start, you know, when you open the -- you know, I help my husband all the time in the store. And my husband, he like to eat, and he like, you know -- he like food, you know. He don't like junk food. I cook over there. When I cook food over there, I feed all the worker. And the customer, when they come, say, "Oh my God, smell good. What you cook?" I give them.

Until now -- until yesterday, one lady, she say, "Oh my God, I never forget when I come to your store and you feed me with food and smell good, and you tell me, 'Oh my God, oh my God, I think you're pregnant.' And I go to the doctor, and the doctor tell me I'm pregnant." Because, you know, she smelled the food, and she loved to smell it, and she want it. I tell her, "You pregnant" and she pregnant!


MASOUD: She remember me yesterday.

STRONG: [laughter] Just yesterday?

MASOUD: Thank God. Yeah. You see? Yeah, I start from there, and after that, I cook all the time. Sometime I cook in the house and I bring it to the store. I put it outside, everybody, [from] the stores, they come to eat with my husband. That's make me happy. When I feed the people, it make me happy.

And also in Ramadan, I started, in the beginning, I cook everything. In the beginning. Four or five years, I cook everything, and I am more than happy to feed the people in Ramadan. Yeah, I make the soup, I make the meat, lamb, chicken, kabob, everything, salad -- all kind, everything I do myself. I say -- and I make also like the pancake.

STRONG: The pancake?

MASOUD: Not pancake, atayef. They say atayef in Ramadan. You know, like a pancake, you do it only in Ramadan, and you sell it in the store. Also I do it.

I don't know. When I think about myself, I say I don't know how I handle everything. I do the pancake for the store, to sell it in the store. Maybe I make a thousand of pancake. And I come, while in Ramadan -- I come, cook, and I bring the food over there to everybody eat it. All the worker eat it, because everybody like Arabic Muslim, they fasting. I feed everybody.

STRONG: So the iftar you guys do is on the street, right in front of the store.

MASOUD: Yes, yes. In the beginning, yeah.

STRONG: And you've been doing it for about 10 years, right?

MASOUD: Listen. In the beginning -- in the beginning, I do it myself. Nothing -- 36:00nobody help me five years. But come bigger and bigger. I say, "Oh my God, I can't. You have somebody to help me." Now somebody help me for make the food, and I make some. I make sweet, I make the soup, I make salad. Me. And the rest, the other restaurant, they do that. Now, long time. Not only 10 years, more than 10 years we do that. We start little bit by little bit, I do it. But when big, I can't. Too much [for] me alone.



STRONG: Well, now it's well known. People come from other neighborhoods to --

MASOUD: Of course. Over three hundred people come, 350 we feed. Thank God, oh my God. More than happy. When I see the people eat, oh, it make me fly. Yes. Yeah. More than happy. Thank God.

STRONG: Yeah. And I should emphasize this is completely free.

MASOUD: Oh, yeah, free.

STRONG: You're just giving.

MASOUD: Of course, of course. Free everything. Free, free. That's sadaqah. Sadaqah, you know, for God. Yeah.

STRONG: So in addition to hoping to bake things at the store, how do you hope the store will grow and change from here? What do you hope it will become? Balady, what do you hope it will become?

MASOUD: More things to come? I tell you, only little bit bakery, that's it. Not more than that. Not more than that, no. More than enough; this is more than enough. I want them to be healthy, like, like the religion, and that's it. That's the most important for my kids. That's it. I don't need anything else. God bless them. Believe me.

STRONG: Tell me about -- tell me about your kids. What have they done that 37:00you're proud of aside from the store? You know, be it their families, their education. What are you proud of your kids for doing?

MASOUD: Thank God, everybody finished masters, the sons finished masters. The big son, he have his own business. He -- thank God, thank God, he succeed [in] everything. And thank God, you know, succeed for business. Also, you know, for communication with the people good. That's the most important. Like with the people, they are good. That's why everybody like them. They're honest, honest. That's the most important.

STRONG: You mentioned when you were first beginning Balady Foods, you still had to teach your sons Arabic and some things they didn't quite understand. Tell me about some of those stories.

MASOUD: I don't know how to talk to you about that in English, you know.

STRONG: Oh, okay.

MASOUD: Like a lot of things, when they hear from different countries -- (phone rings)

STRONG: Oh, let's pause just so you can -- and then we'll --

[Interview interrupted.]

STRONG: So you were telling me the story about teaching your sons Arabic early on -- people from other countries.

MASOUD: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. I tell you, you know, like Egyptian, different accent. Like Moroccan, different accent. Like Yemen, different accent. Everybody different accent. They don't understand it. You know, Arabic, regular Arabic, maybe, yeah, but the different accents, they don't understand it. It's very hard when the customer come and they tell them, you know, "I want this." "I don't know, I don't know." They say -- yeah -- they say, "I don't know. Maybe we don't have." And we have it, but they don't know where is it, you know. Yeah, that's why -- it's very hard. You know, they talk [to] the father, and the father understand. Yeah, and me also. And we laughing, laughing about them. Yeah, yeah, 38:00it's funny. In the beginning, very funny. And now they know everything.

STRONG: They caught up.

MASOUD: Yes, yes. They know everything now. They talk like Egyptian, they talk like Yemeni. Abraham, yes. They talk all the language. Yeah.

STRONG: But you had to teach them and help them.

MASOUD: Oh yeah, of course, of course.

STRONG: So it's good you were there in the store to overhear.

MASOUD: Oh yeah, me and my husband, yes. Yeah, we teach them a lot. Yeah, of course. Yeah, it's good. You know, the life -- learn. Yeah.

STRONG: So I'd like to ask you some questions about Brooklyn and about Bay Ridge. How do you hope these communities will improve, or what would you like to see change in Brooklyn in the future?

MASOUD: In the future?


MASOUD: The most important is to be safe. That's the most important. Like when 39:00you live safe, that's it. We don't need anything. Nothing else. Good people and safe. Right?

STRONG: Right.

MASOUD: That's it. We don't need anything.

STRONG: Yeah. So now that, you know, many of your kids are married and have kids of their own, are they living nearby, and how is life very different for you now? Do you get to see them? Do you get to do holidays?

MASOUD: Uh-huh. Yeah, everybody own house. They have own house, and that -- every time, they come here. They come here, like two, three time a week, you know, like one son this day, another son this day, sometimes everybody's together, you know. They come and make me more happy, you know. And some holiday, sometime they come here, sometime, you know, each, each holiday, like, 40:00go one house. Like this holiday, go for Essa, another holiday for Muhammad, another holiday for Mosa, another time here. You know, around.

STRONG: So this is very different from when you first came to Brooklyn and you didn't know anyone.

MASOUD: Of course, of course.

STRONG: Now you have a huge family.

MASOUD: Of course, thank God, of course. They make me -- they make me the life. Of course. And I have friends also. They come also, friends. But me, I don't like to go any place. I like people come, welcome. Me, it's very hard to go another place. Only on occasion. Have occasion, I go. No occasion, I don't go. I don't like to talk too much with the woman -- for what? Yeah.

STRONG: Another thing that's changed, that you told me about when we spoke last week, was when you first came to Brooklyn, there weren't many opportunities to 41:00worship, to practice religion, to go to masjid --


STRONG: -- and that changed.


STRONG: So tell me about that.

MASOUD: Yes. In the beginning, you know, the time I know, maybe because we young, not understand -- of course, we know about the religion in our country. We do everything in my country, but we come here, like no have nothing. Then it's very hard to find, like mosque, it's very hard to find, like, big community. Like little bit community, that's why, you know -- one here, one here, one here. We don't know -- nobody know each other in the beginning.

That's why they -- they wear -- they don't wear, like, hijab. They say, "Okay, we are in America. Maybe America no like hijab, no like -- don't like Arabic or, you know, to -- we don't want to show we are Arab" or something like that, you 42:00know, in the beginning. They're scared about that because they don't know, you know -- America, you know. That's why they wear regular -- they don't wear hijab, they don't wear, like, jilbab or something.

But, you know, the days and the years and, you know, the big community come, and more Arabic, more -- more religion. Especially I see -- long time I see the old people religion. Now not only the old people, no, the young people religion. That make the community and the religion higher and good. Yeah. Now I see -- okay, I see the family, they scared about the kids, that's why they teach them 43:00from small about the religion, and about hijab, and about to pray, and to take them for mosque and everything. That's why when they grow, they grow straight. Yeah.

STRONG: And you did that for your children, sending them to school on the weekends.

MASOUD: Of course. Yeah, yeah, yeah, of course.

STRONG: And that was important to you.

MASOUD: Yeah, of course. Yeah, I tell you. We teach them in the weekend, and after that, you know, we take them to the Arabic country to learn.

STRONG: Oh, they went abroad with you.

MASOUD: Yeah, yeah.

STRONG: Tell me about some of those family trips when you traveled together, or when you sent them.

MASOUD: Oh that -- oh, me and my kids?


MASOUD: Yeah, we went lot of time. We went lot of time for Hajj, for Umrah, take my kids for Umrah. Everybody go for Hajj, my kids, like the boys. And the last girl also. The other girls, they married, they have a new baby or something, 44:00they don't go, but one day I want to take them. Yeah. And very nice, you know, to be with the family. And one day -- one time, we go to Jordan, all my family, for my daughter's wedding. We make it in Jordan. Yeah.

STRONG: Tell me about that.

MASOUD: Yeah, Ayat. You see the girl last time?

STRONG: Yeah, yeah.

MASOUD: Yeah, she's the one, you know. We make the wedding in Jordan, and everybody go there. Everybody, like -- only Essa stay because the store. Yeah. Nice to be with the family, very nice.


MASOUD: You know, like overseas, you know.

STRONG: Right. So your family, your sisters and your brothers, their family could come to the wedding too?

MASOUD: In Jordan.


MASOUD: In Jordan, yeah, because they are in Jordan. Some of them in Jerusalem and some of them in Jordan. Yeah, my sisters, my brothers. Yeah, yeah. And my 45:00sons, my kids also.


MASOUD: Yeah. They know the family more, and they understand more Arabic, more things, you know, over there. We teach them the culture more.

STRONG: When we spoke with your daughter last time, she said that, you know, the stories she had heard about Jerusalem from your childhood versus when she was young and got to go see Jerusalem were very different. Tell me about how was Jerusalem different when you brought your children there than when you grew up there?

MASOUD: Uh-huh. Okay -- okay, when you before married, different life, and after you married, I take my kids over there, you know, they young. Like, you know, the big girl, five, four, three, and two, and three months. How they understand? 46:00Nothing, because they know nothing. Exactly. When I take them first time. Yeah, everybody like a new baby. But my daughter, she go, like, visit the aunt in Jerusalem. That's why, you know, she see different, because she grew up, you know, like -- she's 22, 23 when she go, and she knows -- she see something different alone, not with me.


MASOUD: That's why. Of course, when you're young, different, and when you grow up, different. Yeah.

STRONG: Tell me, what kinds of things struck her, or did she ask you about or talk to you about after her trip when she was older?

MASOUD: You know, about, you know, the Jewish people, you know, when she'd go to the, to the mosque or to the -- you know, buy something, you know. It hurts when you see lot of soldier, you know, with the gun. You know, no safety. Not safety. 47:00You want to do something, but it's no safety. That's why you scared all the time. Your country, and you scared. You don't feel comfortable. That's why she feel like that.



STRONG: So do you think it was easier, then, to raise kids in Brooklyn than it would have been to raise them in Jerusalem? Or better to raise kids here?

MASOUD: Listen, I want to tell you something. If you want to raise your kids the right way, anywhere is good, you know, because the most important is the house. I know -- I know different between country, this country and that country. But if you want to raise them the right way, number one, the house. Right? Okay.

About my country. Long time, long time is better to raise the kids, but now, no. I see the kids in my country or Arabic country more free than here. I see the kids more respect, more responsible, more they [concerned] about the religion. Like, you know, they do more religion more than my countries, the Arabic countries.

STRONG: Here they take it more seriously?

MASOUD: Yes, yes, and more honest. Here, more honest. The Arabic countries, the kids, the kids now -- new generation. We talk about the new generation. The new generation -- very open. They open, and the family give them [freedom] because they say, "Eh, Arab. Muslim Arab, go where you want to go." That's why more 48:00free. Here, no. We make it tight for them because we live in wrong community, wrong area, wrong country, you know? That's why. That's why we make it more tight.

STRONG: Did your children ever argue with you or want more freedom to spend time out of the house, or -- ? (Masoud shakes head) Never.

MASOUD: No, no. Thank God. They understand. Sometime -- you know, sometime, of course, "Ma, Mama, want to go for a birthday party." Now, "Whose party? Which son, what's their name, where he live?" or something. No, they don't have to go. Yeah, they listen. Especially the girls. Yeah. No, no, that's it.

STRONG: How do you think that helped them when they grew up, when they were 49:00starting homes of their own?

MASOUD: Of course they help, you know, because they grow honest way. I know when they have [their] own life, it's hard, you know. I know it's hard because they go out from honest life to different life. They see lot of things wrong. They don't like it, of course, because they live -- because they used to for honest life. But the life teach them later on. Right? Yeah.

STRONG: I'm also curious -- you told me last time a little bit about teaching your daughters to be good wives and your sons to be good husbands.

MASOUD: Of course.

STRONG: What did you tell them?

MASOUD: Of course, of course, yeah. That's the most important. My daughters, I teach them to be good wife in the house, good mother, and respect the husband -- and for religion also, you know, respect the husband. Of course, the husband's supposed to respect her also, not only the wife, you know. But, you know, more respect, more the woman teach the man the right way. If the woman, she do it the right way, later on, the man listen to her. Yeah.

About my sons. My sons, God bless them, I teach them to be good to the wife, give her, like, what she like, good for kids, you know. Like, you know, 50:00responsibility in the house. Yeah. They do that, thank God.

STRONG: What -- what do you see that they're able to do for their families that maybe you wished you had had when you first started here? When you first came to Brooklyn, what did you wish you had?

MASOUD: Uh-huh. About, you know -- I want my sons to have respect for the wife. They care for the kids, they worry for the kids, and they help [their] wife [with] the kids. And they stay, babysitter, and everything.

Like [in] my time, no. My husband, no time for that. And the husband long time, more strict, more hard. Like men. No, yeah, like he have to be a man, no listen to the woman. If the woman tell them how to -- "No, I am man, I don't have to do 51:00that." You know? Like long time, long time it be like this. That's the different.

STRONG: And it's different now.

MASOUD: Now, a new generation different. More easy, more listen, more help, more communication. Yeah.

STRONG: And you think that's good.



MASOUD: Yeah. Long time, the man good but different way. And now, the man different way for good, but now, more easy for the wife, more easy -- like, together more.

STRONG: I love that, together more.

MASOUD: Yes, yes. Together more.

STRONG: So tell me a little more about your connections to the community in your neighborhood. (phone rings) Oh! We'll pause one more time, just so you can answer.

[Interview interrupted.]

STRONG: All right, so when I stopped the recording, I was just about to ask you about your connections in the community in Bay Ridge. What -- how did you make friends and people outside the family?

MASOUD: Uh-huh. Listen. I tell you, [I] have community here, family for my husband. Same community to my husband family. I have friends around, you know. And I tell you, I know a lot of people from the community in the store. They come like customer. Customer, "Hi, hi, how are you?" That's it. Have wedding, we go; have something, we go. That's it. Not too much, too much like -- you know. But yeah, I am friend for everybody. Yeah.

STRONG: So it sounds like, you know, your main connection was through the store, that you were there all the time, that you were cooking. What are you -- what are you most proud of in terms of what you've built for Bay Ridge, for this neighborhood?

MASOUD: What -- oh. Good communication. That's the most important. I help -- I help, you know, with good talk. What I -- you know, I feed them. I feed the whole block of Fifth Avenue. Thank God, you know. And I don't make any problem for nobody. Yeah.

STRONG: Tell me about -- tell me about this (Strong refers to an award). Just last year, you got this Power Women in Business Award.

MASOUD: Yes, yes.

STRONG: What was that for, and what was the event like?

MASOUD: Okay, yeah. This is -- they come to me, they come to my store, you know, to my kids, they say, "Where is your mother?" Yeah, they say, "Where is your mother? How many kids you are?" They tell them nine, nine kids, you know, and have grandchildren, everything, and "Who help you with the store?" "My mother." 52:00That's why they want me, to good business for the store. And, you know, like good -- because I have -- oh, you know, I have nine kids, you know, and thank God, thank God, like my kids, they, like, good, good kids. Everybody like them. Good -- good communication with the people, my kids, and everything. You know, "How you" -- you know, "How you raise your kids like that?" That's why they want me. Yeah. Good people, like good people. Yeah.

STRONG: And tell me about the award ceremony. What was it like?

MASOUD: Well, they give us the award. [laughter] Yeah. Yeah, nice, you know. I don't accept it, I don't know nothing about that. I went there, I don't know nothing. I say, "Okay, I go," but -- my daughter, she go with me, but I don't 53:00know nothing. After that, you know, they give me this and they give me lot of -- lot of certificate.

STRONG: They gave you certificates?

MASOUD: Yes, yes. A lot. Seven certificate. Yeah.

STRONG: Seven of them?

MASOUD: Yeah, yeah.

STRONG: And you just think, "Oh, that's nice."

MASOUD: "Okay," I say. Like, you know, because I don't know nothing. Like, Okay, you give me -- okay. Yeah.

STRONG: So obviously --

MASOUD: Two time, two time, I think.

STRONG: Twice, they did?

MASOUD: Yeah. One time me, one time me and my daughter.

STRONG: Yeah. So obviously communities are thankful for what you helped build.

MASOUD: Thank God, yeah. Yeah, they happy for what I -- you know, what we do, for the community, for the Bay Ridge. Because, you know, the -- you know, the, 54:00the man responsible for Bay Ridge also, you know, come to our store, you know, and they proud of our store.

STRONG: The city council?

MASOUD: Yes, yes, yes, uh-huh.

STRONG: Oh, they came by?

MASOUD: Yes, yes.

STRONG: Oh, wonderful.

MASOUD: Yeah, a lot of time they come.

STRONG: Great.


STRONG: And so you get news coverage and things that way.

MASOUD: Yes. Every time they -- we have it in newspaper. Yeah.

STRONG: That's wonderful.

MASOUD: Yeah, thank God, yeah.

STRONG: So do you think more stores will start to follow this example of, you know, 100% halal and good prices, or do you think the Balady will remain unique?

MASOUD: Listen, we don't know about other people. Believe me, you know. You know yourself. We don't know other people, if they're honest, 100% halal. We don't know. God know. We don't know about other people. If they want, okay. Like other 55:00people, like open other halal, no problem, you know. Everybody, you know, come from God.

STRONG: I didn't even ask. For the recording, tell me about the importance of halal. What does halal mean, and -- ?

MASOUD: Uh-huh. Halal mean when they, when they kill the animal, like the lamb or the cow or the chicken, they say Allahu akbar, bismillah Allahu akbar. They say -- that's why it come halal. And the way that they cut it with the knife -- not machine, like that --

STRONG: Not ripped.

MASOUD: No, not ripped. Like, you know, with the knife. That's why. They say bismillah Allahu akbar, and they do that (Masoud gestures as if with a knife). 56:00That's why it come halal. When the blood come out, it's more clean. When they do that (Masoud gestures as if ripping), the blood come in -- no good. That's why halal, like, the right way.

STRONG: The right way.

MASOUD: The right Islam way. Yeah.

STRONG: And it goes farther -- I mean, when you say 100% halal, it goes farther than just the way the meat is butchered. You look carefully at the ingredients of everything you sell.



MASOUD: Yeah, of course, yeah. Yeah, everything, yeah. Like, you know, the cold cut, also halal. Everything, what they do, everything halal. Yeah.

STRONG: Thank you for explaining.

MASOUD: No problem.

STRONG: What else should I ask you about? Tell me, you know, is there something in your life that you want to get down in this recording? Something you hope 57:00people listening to this interview will know about you, about your family? What should I have asked you about today? Anything else?

MASOUD: I don't remember now. [laughter] I don't remember now, you know. I wish -- I wish, you know, the Arabic community and Islamic community, you know, do the right way and teach the kids on the right way. That's the most important, and honest way. And peace. That's it. That's it, nothing else.

STRONG: All right. Well, thank you so much for your time --

MASOUD: No problem.

STRONG: -- and for your stories.

MASOUD: Anytime, anytime. No problem.

STRONG: And I look forward to being in touch with you again soon, as we get this transcribed and you have time to review it.

MASOUD: No problem, no problem. I want to prepare for you lunch.

STRONG: Oh, really? All right, I'll stay. I'll turn this off.


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Interview Description

Oral History Interview with Ferial Masoud

Ferial Masoud was born in 1950 in the city of Jerusalem during a period of changing political boundaries. She immigrated to the United States after marrying her husband in 1972. After settling in the Bay Ridge neighborhood of Brooklyn, they owned a series of small businesses, the most notable of which is the Balady Halal Market.

In this interview, Ferial Masoud shares her memories of growing up in Jerusalem, including the detrimental impact the Six-Day War had on her safety and the broader culture of Jerusalem. She also speaks about her marriage to her husband, her feelings of isolation following her immigration to the United States, and her efforts to maintain her American-born children's link to their culture. In addition, she talks extensively about her husband's small businesses in Brooklyn, especially the Balady Halal Market, and their family's work to make the businesses successful.

This collection includes oral histories conducted and arranged by Brooklyn Historical Society in 2018. The interviews reflect varying approaches to religious observance among Muslim Brooklynites in relation to a wide range of communities and traditions within Islam, including Sunni, Shi'i, Sufi, Nation of Islam, W. D. Mohammed community, Five Percent, Dar ul Islam, and Ansaarullah. Collectively, there is particular focus on cultural and religious customs, practices, and gender roles within these communities; education and the arts; immigration from South Asia and the Middle East; the Nation of Islam; Islamophobia in the wake of the 1993 and 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center as well as after the 2016 presidential election; political activism and engagement; and community relations with law enforcement and government officials.


Masoud, Ferial, Oral history interview conducted by Liz H. Strong, February 13, 2018, Muslims in Brooklyn oral histories, 2018.006.04; Brooklyn Historical Society.


  • Balady Halal Market (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Masoud, Ferial


  • Americanization
  • Family-owned business enterprises
  • Grocery trade
  • Immigrant business enterprises
  • Immigrants
  • Muslim families
  • Palestinian Arabs
  • Small businesses


  • Bay Ridge (New York, N.Y.)
  • Jerusalem


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Muslims in Brooklyn oral histories