Michigan Archives - StoryCorps

It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Ramadan: Couple Reflects On Their New Holiday Tradition

Suzanne Jaber grew up in Lebanon, and while her family is Muslim, they were surrounded by many Christian neighbors and their holiday traditions. After moving to the United States and raising a family of her own, she wanted to create her own traditions that melded the celebrations of both cultures. With the help of her husband, Ali Jaber, Suzanne ended up creating something new entirely: a moon tree.

Suzanne’s creation is shaped like a crescent moon — a symbol of Islam — and it’s covered in Christmas tree branches. Now, Suzanne makes moon trees for people all over the world, who are celebrating all types of holidays, including Ramadan.

In 2019, Suzanne and Ali came to StoryCorps to talk about what originally inspired Suzanne to make her first moon tree, the process of it all coming together, and what the month for Ramadan symbolizes for them.

Published on May 7, 2021. 

From Lock-up to Lawyer: Couple Stands By Daughter’s Ex As He Turns His Life Around

When Bob VanSumeren first walked into his eighth grade math class taught by Mike McKenney, neither of them imagined it would be the beginning of a lifelong friendship.

A few years later, Bob started to date Mike’s daughter, becoming close to the McKenney family. But by the time Bob turned 18, he had dropped out of school, began drinking and using drugs, and wound up homeless. Desperate to make money, Bob robbed a gas station and a bank. He served nearly six years in prison for those crimes.

Bob VanSumeren looking out into the woods as a late teen in the 1990s.

Even though Bob and Mike’s daughter were no longer dating, the McKenney family never gave up on him. Instead, they became the most reliable people in his life, visiting him regularly in prison and helping ease his reentry when he got out. After his release from prison, Bob went back to school, eventually becoming a lawyer.

(L) Becky McKenney, Bob VanSumeren, and Mike McKenney on a prison visit in 2003, at the Camp Kitwen detention center, in Painesdale, MI.
(R) Becky, Bob, and Mike after Bob VanSumeren’s swearing-in ceremony, where he was sworn in as a lawyer by the same judge who sentenced him. 

Bob spoke with Mike using StoryCorps Connect to thank him for his support during this time.

Top Photo: Mike McKenney and Bob VanSumeren after their StoryCorps interview in Jackson County MI. Courtesy of Mike McKenney and Bob VanSumeren.

Originally aired October 23, 2020, on NPR’s Morning Edition.