Culture pulls them together

Nearly 50 people gathered to celebrate their heritage – and to solidify their sense of unity – as the Order Sons of Italy in America (OSIA) launched in Howard Beach.
“There is a lot of rich culture we can be a part of,” said Thomas Lupo, first state vice president of OSIA.
After months of searching for meeting space, Father Anthony M. Rucando of Our Lady of Grace (OLG) opened his heart – and the parish — to the new arm of the national organization.
Through the hard work of Eleanor Panzarella-Jobbagy, state trustee for District 3 OSIA, Rosemary Ciulla-Frisone, member, District Council 37 Italian Heritage Committee, representative SSEU Local 371 and Nicholas M. Mauro, membership co-chair, the first meeting was held on Thursday, October 21.
“Tonight is a special night because we have Joseph Sciame with us,” said Lupo.
“As a national and state past president of OSIA, and now as president and chair of the Italian Heritage and Culture Committee, NY,” said Sciame, “I am excited OSIA is finally getting established in Howard Beach. I am encouraged by the enthusiasm and sense of energy [in the community].”
He continued, “In this community you need an OSIA lodge – you need a strong sense of identity.”
“The number of Italian-Americans who have distinguished themselves in Howard Beach – including the late Joseph Addabbo – have helped to open a lot of doors,” said Mauro.
But more than just a social organization, OSIA, he explained, is a community-minded group whose “number one goal is to promote our Italian culture and heritage” through outreach, including contributing to charities such as Cooley’s Anemia, Alzheimer’s, Autism, and various other programs. They even have a gift of sight program and a bone marrow registry.
And they have raised $100,000 for a 9/11 memorial to be dedicated on the 10th anniversary of the tragedy.
In fact, statewide, OSIA, whose motto is “liberty, equality and fraternity,” just raised $235,000 for an earthquake-ravaged autism school in Italy.
Additionally, since 1982, the New York Grand Lodge Foundation, Inc., Order Sons of Italy in America, has awarded over $2.5 million in scholarships to students. They also donate various educational supplies to schools.
And, in keeping with its goals of promoting a “positive image of Italians and Italian-Americans,” explained Panzarella-Jobbagy, another of OSIA’s “jewels” is the Commission for Social Justice, of which she is treasurer.
It is the anti-defamation arm that “aggressively promotes the study of the Italian language, history and culture.”
“We always have to portray a positive image,” said Sciame, who also explained that OSIA members are entitled to discounts.
With 10,000 Italian-Americans in the state and 600,000 or 700,000 in the U.S. the newest OSIA lodge “will help you build your pride,” said Lupo.
“More so than ever we have to keep our culture,” agreed Ciulla-Frisone.
Membership in the 105-year-old organization is easy and is open to men and women over 18. Italians or their spouses can become full members; non-Italians are eligible for social membership.
There’s even an OSIA singles group.
“You’ll learn so much about who we are and be so proud to be Italian-Americans,” said Lupo.
The next meeting of the Howard Beach OSIA will be on Thursday, November 18 at the OLG convent. For more information, visit www.nysosia.org or contact Panzarella-Jobbagy at 516-358-9151 or Ciulla-Frisone at 917-734-2411.

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