Archive for July, 2011

ACYOA Profile: Karen Dardarian

July 28th, 2011    |    No Comments »

When Karen Dardarian received the Sam Nersesian Award last year—an award presented by the ACYOA Central Council to individuals displaying Christian values—she said the honor had a special resonance for her.

Three decades earlier, her mother, Mariann  Hovsepian Dardarian, was the first recipient of this award. This passing on of the spirit of love, patience, humility, and understanding through generations of faithful is at the heart of the Armenian Church.

Today Karen serves as the vice chair on the ACYOA Central Council. She has thirteen years of camp experience, and has been involved in chapter workshops, leadership conferences, the Armenia Service Program, as well as Habitat for Humanity.

Most recently, Karen joined 33 other young Armenians on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, led by Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Diocesan Primate, in June.

“I wanted to go to Jerusalem because I wanted to see where Jesus walked and I wanted to learn the Bible in a different way,” Karen explains.

Throughout the 10-day journey, the participants prayed, worshiped, and strengthened their faith together, while exploring the rich history of the Armenian presence in the Holy Land.

For Karen, the most memorable part about the pilgrimage was visiting the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

“Kneeling in front of Christ’s tomb, I had just enough time to say the Hayr Mer; I had a connection, I felt at peace, I felt at home,” she said.

Through this spiritual, inspiring, and meaningful experience, Karen strengthened her understanding of her Armenian identity as well as her Christian faith. Visiting the Holy Land is a physical and spiritual journey Karen believes one must experience to understand.

Karen serves as a role model to other young leaders in her parish—St. John Church of Southfield, Mich.—and she looks forward to sharing her faith with others.

By Melanie Quinn (This is the third installment of a seven-part series profiling members of the ACYOA Central Council. Melanie Quinn, a senior at the University of New Hampshire, is interning this summer in the Diocesan Department of Youth and Education.)

ACYOA Central Council members Karen Dardarian and Alex Ouzounian with Archbishop Torkom Manoogian, the Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem, during a pilgrimage to the Holy Land last month.

Yergir 2 Yergir: A Journey to Historic Armenia

July 26th, 2011    |    No Comments »

Copies of “Yergir 2 Yergir” (Country to Country), a greatly anticipated new 240-page photo-book by Hrair “Hawk” Khatcherian, have just arrived at the St. Vartan Gift and Bookstore, and this publishing milestone deserves attention.  Through the lens of a seasoned photographer, the book illustrates the ruins of historic Armenia standing in present-day Turkish territory—a region which knew the heights of civilization as the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia.

An introduction to these striking images is written by Claude Mutafian, the French-born Armenian historian and mathematician who has published several books on Armenian history.  Prof. Mutafian discusses the history of Armenian Cilicia and writes about the stories behind the images presented throughout the book.

Initially, the book presents panoramic views of fortress remains such as the Kala Fortress, Fortress of Sis, and the Fortress of Feke, that used to house Armenians.  As it progresses, other sites are presented with archival images juxtaposed against Khatcherian’s modern-day photographs.  The book generates interesting thoughts, as one notices the ancient photograph of the village in Zeytun, placed next to the ruins that exist there today, which traverse the mountainside.

Another interesting display in the book is of the St. Gregory Armenian Church of Kayseri, the interior of which has now been converted to a gymnasium.  There are views of other cities like Ani, Garmir Vank, Shabin Karahisar, and Bayburt in ruins, while there are also panoramic views of beautiful and vast nature scenes in cities like Yeshilova, Goghp, and the Dayk region.   A number of neglected monastery buildings and dilapidated church sites are also shown, along with a few pages are dedicated to “khatchkars” in various locations.

Overall, the book details Khatcherian’s collection of photos taken over several years of travel and exploration.  In a biographical statement he explains his efforts as the spiritual dedication of his talents and devotion to the Motherland—the ultimate Yergir.

“Yergir 2 Yergir” by Hrair Hawk Khatcherian is currently on sale in our bookstore.  The price for this exquisite, large-format coffee-table volume (14.75 x 11.25”) is $100—but if you order before August 15, you’ll receive a 20 percent discount off this price.  Note that additional shipping charges of $10.00 will apply.

To purchase, contact the bookstore: (212) 686-0710 ext. 152.

Melanie Panosian, a junior at Muhlenberg College, is interning this summer in the Diocesan Communications department.

Hrair Hawk Khatcherian's new photo-book "Yergir 2 Yergir" features color images of historic Armenia.

The Fortress at Sis is one in a series of photographs of Cilician citadels.

The Monastery of the Virgins at Ani.

An Unexpected Find in an Old “New Yorker” Issue

July 25th, 2011    |    No Comments »

Sifting through a box of books recently donated to the Zohrab Center, I came across a copy of the “New Yorker” dated February 3, 1975. At first, it seemed puzzling as to why this issue would have been placed among books pertaining to Armenian history and literature.  Flipping through the magazine–its pages by now yellowed, its retro ads enticing readers to getaway to Bermuda or buy “sophisticated” gowns at Saks Fifth Avenue–I was surprised to find “A Passage to Ararat,” the first installment of a three-part memoir by Michael J. Arlen.

The son of Dikran Kouyoumdjian, a prominent writer who took the pen name Michael Arlen, the younger Arlen was a respected “New Yorker” TV critic when he embarked on a trip to his ancestral lands to learn more about his Armenian heritage and his own unanswered questions of the Genocide. Following its debut in the “New Yorker,” the memoir was published as a book and went on to receive high accolades, including the 1976 National Book Award.

Click here to view an excerpt from the 1975 article.

—By Taleen Babayan (coordinator at the Diocese’s Krikor and Clara Zohrab Information Center)

ACYOA Profile: Adrienne Ashbahian

July 20th, 2011    |    No Comments »

Adrienne Ashbahian, chapter relations coordinator of ACYOA Central Council, has always been an active member of the Armenian Church.

Influenced by her parents’ strong faith, Adrienne has sought to immerse herself in the Armenian community by attending church, Armenian summer camps, leadership conferences, and other church-related programs.

For Adrienne, the ACYOA is important because it provides unity in Christ through the five circles of the cross.

“The five circles—worship, witness, education, service, and fellowship—say everything about who we are as an organization. To me, the ACYOA is a family. It is an organization where I can share my love of being Armenian, and most importantly my love for others as a Christian,” Adrienne explains.

To strengthen the ACYOA, Adrienne and the other Central Council members plan to provide more spiritual programming and opportunities to reach out to the organization’s alumni this year.

Youth involvement in the ACYOA is very important, Adrienne says, as is a long-term commitment to supporting the organization.

“I feel that if we can get more people to connect with their spirituality, they will feel a responsibility to the church, and more youth will want to assume leadership roles in the church,” she explains.

By Melanie Quinn (This is the second installment of a seven-part series profiling members of the ACYOA Central Council. Melanie Quinn, a senior at the University of New Hampshire, is interning this summer in the Diocesan Department of Youth and Education.)

Adrienne Ashbahian serves as the chapter relations coordinator on the ACYOA Central Council.

Adrienne Ashbahian serves as the chapter relations coordinator on the ACYOA Central Council.

Jerusalem Tiles: Inspiration

July 18th, 2011    |    No Comments »

Working on the production of a YouTube  video on the Diocese’s recent Jerusalem pilgrimage got me interested in the Armenian presence and tradition in the Holy Land. There is such a rich history of Armenian culture and religion in Jerusalem that a lot of people do not realize.

Jerusalem is broken up into four quarters: Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Armenian. The Armenian Patriarch resides in the Armenian Quarter, which houses seminary buildings, the Sts. James Cathedral, the Gulbenkian Library, and other sites. Armenians also have strong ties to sites in the Christian Quarter, like the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which is jointly maintained by the Oriental and Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholics.

One tradition in the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem is the art of ceramic tile making.  It originated in the city of Kutahya, in Turkey, with members of the Ohannessian, Balian, and Karakashian families.

Balian, a potter, and Karakashian, an artist, were brought over to Jerusalem from Kutahya in 1919, to restore the ceramic tiles on the Dome of the Rock, the iconic mosque in the Muslim Quarter.  That project never seemed to launch, but once in the region, Balian and Karakashian opened a workshop in 1922, producing their hand-painted tiles and pottery for other people.  The descendants of these families continue to run a few studios in present-day Jerusalem.

The tiles depict biblical scenes, symbols, and symmetrical patterns. The most characteristic color on the tiles is a deep cobalt blue; yet turquoise, greens, browns, yellows, and sometimes pinks are also popular choices for illustrating birds, angels, saints, vines, leaves, flowers, and Armenian lettering.

Artists still keep this tradition alive, invigorating it with new perspectives.  Linda Ganjian—an Armenian artist with a background in three-dimensional sculpture—recently turned to tile-making with fellow artist Elif Uras for Neery Melkonian and Defne Ayas’ “Blind Dates” Project shown last November in the Pratt Manhattan Gallery.

“I thought it would be interesting to try to portray my family history through the visual vocabulary of the Kutahya tile,” she said in a recent interview, describing how she discovered her interest in the “the simplicity, the decorative, floral and even surreal elements” of Ottoman-era ceramics. On her collaboration with Elif, Linda said that they “weren’t trying to create a coherent patterned look,” and that in fact inspiration came from “images of old church and mosque walls, where tiles are damaged and replaced with completely different tiles, lending a kind of patchwork-like effect”—an effect that their finished piece “Navelstone” (pictured below) reflects.

It is exciting to see contemporary artists rework age-old customs in this way, making them relevant to our day, while the Balian and Karakashian studios still stand in modern Jerusalem, preserving the history of the custom by producing art in their classic style.  Visitors to Jerusalem should take time to notice the Kutahya tiles that still decorate the walls of the Sts. James Cathedral in the Armenian Quarter.

Melanie Panosian, a junior at Muhlenberg College, is interning this summer in the Diocesan Communications department.

Clockwise from top: A tile from Sts. James Cathedral in Jerusalem's Armenian quarter, Linda Ganjian and Elif Uras' "Navelstone," and two details from the sculpture.

A detail from "Navelstone."

Eastern Diocese Takes Part in Pan-ACYO Assembly

July 14th, 2011    |    No Comments »

Some 150 young delegates gathered for the international Pan-Armenian Church Youth Organization (Pan-ACYO) assembly in Tsakhadzor, Armenia, from July 7 to 10.

Gevork Vartanian, secretary of the ACYOA Central Council, represented the Eastern Diocese at the four-day meeting.

Having only been to Armenia twice before, Gevork was excited about visiting the homeland again, while also gaining the opportunity to meet Armenian youth leaders from more than 30 countries.

“While the main purpose of the meeting was to go over the bylaws of the ACYO, this event was also a good opportunity for ACYO members from dioceses around the world to meet each other, create bonds, and exchange ideas,” he said.

The assembly opened on July 7 with a visit to St. Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral in Yerevan, followed by a drive to Tsakhadzor for the start of the sessions.

Participants began working on a long-term goal to establish a set of bylaws for the Pan-ACYO. They also elected 15 people to a Pan-ACYO Council—an important step for the young organization.

The young people also had the opportunity to worship together, share experiences from their dioceses, and plan activities and programs that will be carried out at the local level. In addition, they took part in social and cultural activities.

On July 8, the group made a pilgrimage to Kecharis monastery in Tsakhadzor. They took part in a morning service, and heard an address by Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, Primate of the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church of America, who served as a spiritual leader of the Pan-ACYO assembly.

Archbishop Derderian encouraged the young people to remain strong in their faith. “Every step in our lives should be informed by our conversation with God,” he said. “If we live our lives in this way, our deeds will serve a greater purpose and glorify our Lord.”

On July 10, the young leaders traveled to Holy Etchmiadzin, where they took part in the celebration of the Divine Liturgy. They were also received by His Holiness Karekin II, the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians.

“Your visit to the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin is a sign of your love and commitment to the Armenian Church,” His Holiness told the group. “May this experience strengthen your spirit so that you may continue your service to the Armenian people.”

As a three-year veteran on the ACYOA Central Council, Gevork says his service to the Armenian Church has been extremely rewarding. Being involved in Diocesan summer camp programs and other youth activities has helped Gevork maintain a strong connection to his Armenian heritage and has nourished his deep commitment to the ACYOA.

By Melanie Quinn (This is the first installment of a seven-part series profiling members of the ACYOA Central Council. Melanie Quinn, a senior at the University of New Hampshire, is interning this summer in the Diocesan Department of Youth and Education.)

His Holiness Karekin II blesses the participants of the Pan-ACYO assembly.