Franklin Reporter & Advocate’s 2016 ‘Man of the Year:’ Alex Kharazi

Alex Kharazi, leader of the township Interfaith Coalition, is the Franklin Reporter & Advocate’s Man of the Year for 2016.

The idea of the peacemaker – those who seek to build bridges rather than walls – is extolled in every religious tradition and is celebrated in just about every culture.

Sadly, the actual peacemakers are often overlooked because much of what they do is behind the scenes, out of the public eye.

Which is why we chose Alex Kharazi as the 2016 Franklin Reporter & Advocate Man of the Year.

Kharazi has done much to bridge the varied cultures and faith traditions that comprise Franklin Township: he rejuvenated a moribund township Interfaith Council, he has organized candlelight vigils and other commemorations of the victims of terrorist attacks while condemning the attackers, and he has laid the groundwork for at least one social program that is designed to help the neediest of township residents.

Kharazi also serves on other boards in the township and the state, including the township Planning Board, the township Human Relations Commission, the Franklin Township Dr. Martin Luther King Community Foundation – which hosts the hugely successful annual MLK Breakfast – and the state Interfaith Coalition.

Indeed, Kharazi’s raison d’être was summed up early this year in comments he made at the Masjid-e-Ali mosque – for which he serves on the board of directors – at the celebration of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad’s birth:

“We must always remember that America is our home and it is our duty to give back,” he told his fellow Muslims. “Be engaged in the community and be visible.”

And Kharazi is nothing if not engaged.

He’s run, albeit unsuccessfully, for the Board of Education and for a nomination to the Township Council. But that hasn’t stopped him from working “in the trenches.”

In addition to the vigils, Kharazi and the Interfaith Council have held “get-to-know-you” meetings with township officials, and have promoted the “Stand Up For The Other” pledge, through which people pledge to not sit idly by when they hear hate speech.

Kharazi is also involved in establishing a way to help the township’s neediest receive hot, nutritious meals.

A 30-year township resident, Kharazi is retired from a major chemical company and is the founder of Educational Excellence, a local company which tutors students for SAT, PSAT and ACT tests. He is also an administrator for a weekend school with an enrollment of 200 students, and holds a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering.

Kharazi’s efforts have not gone unnoticed by his peers in the religious community.

Kharazi is an “ambassador of peace” from Masjid-e-Ali to the outside community, and is a “hard worker” for the mosque, said Dr. Manzoor Rizvi, who, along with Kharazi, helped establish the mosque.

Kharazi is “a well-mannered well-educated, straight-forward man,” he said. “He never interferes in anybody’s affair but is always there if help is needed. He treats every one equally. He is a professor and a gentleman.”

“Alex Kharazi has been the example of a drum major of collective peace and togetherness throughout the Franklin Township community,” said the Rev. Sharon E. Culley of Somerset Presbyterian Church. “Alex has lived the command Jesus left to his disciples in John 13:34, 35; ‘A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another’ (NIV).”

“And so Alex continues to show us the examples of love by the way he treats ‘all people,’ ” she said. “We are so honored and blessed to have him as an active member and leader of the Interfaith and Franklin Township community.”

Rabbi Eli Garfinkel, of Temple Beth El, said that Kharazi “has had a wonderful impact on the Interfaith Council and interfaith relations in Franklin Township. The council had gone dormant for a number of years, and Dr. Kharazi is largely responsible for resuscitating it.”

“He has reminded us that we, the various religious groups of the township, need each other and that we should not exist as independent islands,” Garfinkel said. “Because of Dr. Kharazi’s inspirational work as a community leader, Franklin Township is immunized against the hatred and strife that plague other communities. He has taught us all to respect and love each other. For that, I am sure that I speak for many when I say that we are grateful to Dr. Kharazi for his dedication to our township.”

“I wholeheartedly endorse the selection of Dr. Alex Kharazi as The Franklin Reporter and Advocate’s 2016 Man of the Year,” said the Rev. George H. Montanari of Middlebush Reformed Church. “Alex works tirelessly as a leader of the township’s interfaith community to foster understanding and respect among the township’s faith traditions and to encourage us toward common service for the wider township. He represents his own faith tradition with distinction, building bridges by so warmly welcoming others to come and learn more about the Muslim tradition.”

Kharazi “serves with effectiveness to organize the interfaith community to meet regularly, to consider common avenues of service for our youth, for our elderly, for our neighbors in need, and to keep about the work of peace,” he said. “He leads with a patient, compassionate and generous spirit. His impact has been so large because his heart is so large.”

The Franklin Reporter & Advocate will annually recognize one person who, in our opinion, has made the greatest impact on Franklin Township in the preceding year. Franklin residents: Take notes during the year of people you think should be considered for the 2017 “Person of the Year” award. We’ll let you know when to send in your nominations for this award.


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