January 11, 2012 - Hurriyet Daily News
The Washington-based Turkish Coalition of America (TCA) facilitated an important event a few days ago in Istanbul.
It has made possible a get-together among the United States House of Representatives chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and her relatives in Istanbul, who she did not even know existed.
I had the opportunity to talk about the background of this meeting with TCA President Lincoln McCurdy.
McCurdy, who is a very successful lobbyist in Washington, sometimes working on a one-to-one basis with members of Congress, had learned a while ago that Ros-Lehtinen's grandfather, her mother's father, had immigrated to Cuba in 1913 from the northwestern town of Kirklareli in Turkey.
A book that was written about the family titled "Once upon a time Jews lived in Kirklareli: The Story of the Adato Family" became a valuable resource because a person mentioned in the book, a Sephardic Jew named Çelebi Adato, is the grandfather of Republican member of Congress Ros-Lehtinen, regarded as one of the most powerful women in Washington.
McCurdy, who has served in the United States Consulate in Istanbul as a commerce attaché, started finding Ros-Lehtinen's relatives one by one in Istanbul.
Taking advantage of Ros-Lehtinen's Middle East tour, which included a stop in Turkey, with eight other members of Congress, McCurdy organized the historic meeting in Istanbul.
I am calling it a "historic meeting" because Ros-Lehtinen learned about the fate of her great-uncles who were serving in the Ottoman Army during the World War I and other members of the family in this meeting in Istanbul during her fist visit to the city.
That is exactly 100 years after her grandfather Çelebi Adato left for Cuba.
According to information I collected from TCA Vice-President Başak Kizildemir, who lives in Istanbul, the annual budget of TCA in 2010 had reached $3,580,000. From this sum, $549,000 had been allocated for congressional work.
A while ago, TCA had marked another achievement just as significant as facilitating the meeting between Ros-Lehtinen and her relatives in Turkey. It was able to facilitate the approval of Resolution 2362, the "Indian Tribal Trade and Investment Demonstration Project Act of 2011" by the House of Representatives' Committee on Natural Resource. If the resolution is approved at the General Assembly of the House of Representatives, then Turkish businesspeople will be able to invest in six tribal zones and partner with tribal Indians.
What I can call the sister foundation of TCA since it was founded in 2000, the Turkish Cultural Foundation is also working to promote Turkish arts and cultural heritage in the United States. Along with festivals, concerts, exhibitions and conferences, the Turkish Cultural Foundation also prioritizes education.
The name behind both the TCA and the Turkish Cultural Foundation is Turkish
businessman Yalçın Ayaslı and his family, residing in Boston for many years.
These two institutions are more active and have come a longer way compared to renowned lobbying firms in Washington to which the past and present Turkish governments have paid loads and loads of money.