Together, We Can Sustain Each Other

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During the month of Ramadan Keffiyeh Masks are generously donating 20% of their revenue to Anera and the communities where we work.

We both live in Washington DC. Bshara grew up outside of Bethlehem in Palestine, on his family’s educational farm, called Tent of Nations. He came to the U.S. in 2011 to pursue his master’s degree. He’s always been passionate about sharing Palestinian culture and telling their story as a people. In 2014 he started the first iteration of what became the Museum of The Palestinian People as a traveling exhibit.

Kiersten was born and raised in Mechanicsburg, PA. She studied peacebuilding and development at Eastern Mennonite University in Virginia, which is where we met. Her background is in refugee resettlement and integration and it remains a strong focus — working with communities and cultivating communities that welcome everyone and allow them to feel safe.

Bshara, having grown up in Palestine, has been familiar with Anera and the great work that they do for most of his life. And he’s attended events hosted by Anera in DC. Through our projects we’ve partnered with Anera several times now because we want to support refugees and vulnerable communities.

We’re committed to trying to make sure that the world works and we’re fortunate that we’re able to expand our work and partnerships. We believe that by coming together, we can sustain each other.

Bshara Nassar and Kiersten Rossetto Nassar
Bshara Nassar and Kiersten Rossetto Nassar

We founded Keffiyeh Masks as a company in response to the pandemic. Bshara had to close down the museum because of the COVID restrictions. So we thought, what do we do now?

Bshara has lots of ideas that sound crazy and yet often end up working well! So last spring he had this one: What if we made masks out of keffiyehs? We realized it would be a way to support the museum.

We didn’t anticipate that it would end up turning into a full business. It started with a small group of volunteers in the DC area sewing masks for us. But then the dozens of initial orders turned into 500 orders.

We had to decide what we wanted to do. We realized we could use this revenue stream to extend opportunities to others during this time of need. We wanted to extend it beyond supporting the museum to the broader community and especially Palestine and Palestinian refugees.

Fulfilling all the new orders meant we had to scale up production. We worked with a factory in Bethlehem, Palestine to produce the masks. It worked out for them because their business had been slowing because of COVID. They buy the material from the Hirbawi keffiyeh factory in Hebron. So the project is supporting both businesses.

Initially most of the interest in the masks was local, in the DC area. But after we got some national exposure we saw an expansion throughout the US, and even all over the world. We get orders from all across the country.

We always donate a portion of the proceeds to worthwhile causes. We could have continued to focus exclusively on supporting the museum — but we think that too often people get stuck in their own silos. We wanted to forge connections. We believe that partnering with Anera and other organizations working in Palestine, in Lebanon, and in local communities in DC.

One of the things that has been so rewarding about the masks project is that it has allowed us to connect with lots of communities. We’ve supported a wide range of organizations from Black Lives Matter to groups in Lebanon after the explosion in Beirut last August. The unifying thread for us is supporting causes through organizations that are grassroots and on the ground and really necessary to support during this difficult year.

Right now during the month of Ramadan we’re partnering with Anera to donate 20% of the proceeds of Keffiyeh Mask’s sales to Anera’s programs.

We’ve just launched a new product: decorative vaccination buttons. We see these tatreez embroidery buttons as a stylish way to share your status and get the word out about the importance of getting vaccinated, while also supporting Palestine, through a portion of the proceeds. There’s been a lot of talk about vaccine passports and things like that. So we thought about how we could tap into that while supporting Palestinian organizations. Just as with the masks, it starts with making a statement and sparking an interest. Provoking people to think, “What is this about? What is this pattern?” It’s a conversation starter.

We’re also excited to reopen the museum next month! We’re starting with limited hours but we have a new exhibit on calligraphy that we think visitors will really enjoy.



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