TENAC's International Outreach

TENAC’s International Outreach


TENAC’s outreach, spurred on by our motto, “Fair, Safe and Affordable Housing Here and Everywhere,” sometimes gets involved in national and international issues, especially those that have deep roots in a multicultural and international city like Washington, D.C. That is true now more than ever with Donald Trump in The White House. Trump as president is such an historical aberration, it almost seems as though the U.S. has suffered a coup d’etat. It’s as if the U.S. electorate has had a nervous breakdown, or a cerebral hemorrhage, or both. Donald Trump is not Mussolini--yet--but the whiff of fascism is in the air. The key reality, moreover, is that the American people did not elect Donald Trump as their president. Hillary Clinton defeated him by almost three million votes. Trump is the creation of another historical aberration—the ElectoralCollege. We call it the Electoral Kindergarten.



Since the roots of Trump’s fortune stem in significant part from his racial discriminatory housing policies in New York City, and since housing discrimination is a matter of perennial concern in Washington, D.C., Mr. Trump is hugely persona non grata in D.C.’s tenant community. In protest, TENAC has demonstrated against Trump at the White House, and at the Trump Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue, mere blocks from the White House. Many Latino workers, employed at the Trump Hotel, who also happen to be D.C. tenants, wished to demonstrate with TENAC and pose with us and our signs. Displaying great courage, they did so, despite our caution that discovery might cost them their jobs.


The Trump phenomena, which implicitly states that a billionaire can buy anything, including the White House, is relentlessly on display every day in one outrageous act after another. History, however, fortunately anticipated the likes of Donald Trump. The great French writer, Balzac, proved unusually prophetic when he stated: “Behind every great fortune lies a great crime.” We believe Donald Trump is the perfect case in point, especially his discriminatory rental housing history, his phony casino bankruptcy debacles, and his constant practice of under-paying, or “stiffing” contractors, artisans and laborers of their wages.


TENAC’s international outreach has also focused special attention on the Middle East, not merely because it is the center of perhaps the greatest international threat facing the U.S., but because it encompasses both Arab and Israeli issues, of special relevance to TENAC. Among the 350,000 tenants TENAC represents, fully two-thirds of the city’s population, are a significant number of people of Middle Eastern background and heritage--Arabs, Jews and many others. We are constantly made aware of the terrible hardships suffered by these populations. We have demonstrated against the murderous, genocidal rule of Bashar al Assad, who has virtually slaughtered his own nation, and we have also strongly supported the peace movement in Israel.


TENAC’s co-founder, Farouk Youssef, a distinguished Egyptian and champion of democracy in Egypt and everywhere else, has been a long-time tenants’ rights leader in the District. Farouk’s outstanding role in D.C. tenants’ movement is best epitomized by his highly effective tenant advocacy work at in the Rittenhouse Apartments, a landmark rental building in the District. His crucial role in the creation at the Rittenhouse Tenants’ Association and securing basic tenants’ rights in that bell-weather rental building, after an epic battle, resonated far and wide across the District. It also elevated him to the pinnacle of tenant leadership in the District, a vantage point from where he championed the cause of fair and affordable housing in the Nation’s Capital.


Speaking of TENAC co-founders, we also salute another luminary in our midst, Laura Shell, a female African American success story par excellence. A key part of her success was her long-term presidency of The Cambridge Apartments Tenants’ Association, where her selfless leadership benefited tenants there greatly, and inspired tenants all across the city. From a distinguished career at Verizon, Laura brought her talents to TENAC, which benefited enormously from her dynamic and excellent leadership. An example of that was her gifted work in setting up the TENAC “Hotline,” a telephone “call-in” service, which has answered thousands of calls from tenants all over the District, imparting answers to the complex world of rental housing rules and regulations, and helping resolve countless landlord-tenant disputes. Through her intercession, our nonprofit status with Verizon was established, and key telephone service, to undergird the TENAC “Hotline” and the entire organization was created. Laura’s outstanding community outreach career was enhanced even further by her enthusiastic participation in Metropolitan Police Department neighborhood activities and crime fighting efforts. She was also a long-time member of the “Orange Hats,” a group of tenants involved in the “Neighborhood Watch Program,” working to assist on duty rank and file police officers. It is no exaggeration to say that civil rights advocacy at home, and human rights advocacy everywhere, was personified in Laura Shell. It is Laura, moreover, who first inspired Jim McGrath. Longtime TENAC Chairman, to get seriously involved in District-wide tenant matters. The entire TENAC organization treasures the friendship and kindness of Laura and Farouk, and their extraordinary contributions to the organization.


Another key TENAC person reflecting our basic mission for Affordable Housing, Rent Control, and Tenants’ Rights, is Kobi Snitz, our webmaster, an indispensable part of TENAC. Along with the outstanding assistance of Marlon Kautz of Atlanta, Georgia, another IT genius, who gallantly espouses the tenant and other progressive causes there, Kobi brilliantly runs our website from Tel Aviv, Israel, where he also teaches math at the Technion. Kobi has also inspired our international bent and our strong interest in peace and human rights. A native of Israel, Kobi is a legend in his own right as an exceptional and indefatigable fight for peace in Israel. He has helped shape TENAC’s international bent as well. He has been a catalyst driving our protest against Middle Eastern tyrannies People like these epitomize great commitment to TENAC’s basic mission: Rent Control, Affordable Housing, Tenants’ Rights, human rights and TENAC’s enlarged mission overseas.


Farouk and Kobi, TENAC stalwarts, who have personally experienced grave injustice abroad, and courageously seek to alleviate it, along with so many others in TENAC motivated by that same passion, gallantly reflect the widespread wishes and views of so many TENAC members who devoutly seek peace throughout the Middle East and everywhere else. They and so many others in our ranks personify TENAC at its best. TENAC members have generously contributed financially to the cause of Arab and Israeli peace, and to those fighting against tyranny elsewhere in the Middle East, especially those suffering under the brutal yoke of Bashar al Assad in Syria. Significant TENAC donations have been given to organizations committed to those goals. They include, among several others, North American Rabbis for Peace in Israel, and Catholic Relief Services (CRS) for peace in Syria and throughout the Middle East.



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