A Family History Book That Reads Like a Thriller

Excerpted from lifeinhighres.com

Michael Simon is President and CEO of Harry Fox Agency, the nation’s leading  provider of rights management solutions for the music industry. He is also a dogged researcher who left no stone unturned to pull together the family histories of his in-laws, David and Lili Khabie, Syrian Jews who first emigrated to Beirut, Lebanon, before making their way to the United States. Theirs was a long and winding road that included numerous twists and turns.

David’s family left Syria when he was six years old, and he tried to escape Beirut several times beginning in 1962. On one such occasion when he was 21-years old, he was part of a group of young men who planned to make it to Israel on a rubber raft in the middle of the night. They were forced to abandon the effort at the last minute when they heard Lebanese soldiers talking on the beach. The next morning he had to explain the farewell note he left for his parents to the authorities.

After the Six Day War in 1967, it was a particularly dangerous time to be a Jew living in an Arab country. Newly married, David tried to emigrate to America only to have his hopes inexplicably dashed by the U.S. embassy over and over. Without knowing English, he somehow managed to secure a sponsor in Minneapolis, MN, who offered him a job and he was finally able to bring his wife and year-old son to America.

Michael began documenting this dramatic story in 1998 with a series of taped interviews, not all of which were recorded but provided leads to documents that he needed to chase down. Though he had originally intended to distill the messy narrative into a crisp timeline, he eventually realized he had to let the interviews and original documents speak for themselves, and decided to turn the wealth of material he had gathered into a book that could be given to every member of the family.

Together with the art direction, the paper stock gives the interior an aged look that suggest the pages are original documents rather than digital images of them. The book also has a couple of special features: One of the leaves has a fold-out page that accommodates a very detailed illustrated family tree, and there are pages in the back that hold four CDs of Simon’s taped interviews of his in-laws so future generations of the family could hear them tell their story in their own words.

We designed the book cover, the images in the book, the page layout, the images on the CDs and the family tree.

The first print run of 50 copies was reserved for family and close friends, but Michael is thinking of providing copies to the Museum of Jewish Heritage and other similar institutions.