Archive for March, 2015

A Voice to Future Generations

March 4th, 2015    |    No Comments »

With deep regret, we note the passing this week of Nubar Dorian, at age 92: a longtime leader of the Armenian Church in America, and a prolific writer on community life. The publication of a collection of his essays—Harvests from the Heart: Thirty Years of Commentary, Criticism and Wisdom on the Armenian-American Scene (St. Vartan Press, 2007)—was celebrated in May of 2008 in the formal reception room at the Diocesan Center, under the auspices of Diocesan Primate Archbishop Khajag Barsamian and AGBU President Berge Setrakian. The remarks below, introducing Mr. Dorian, were delivered by Christopher H. Zakian, the editor of Harvests from the Heart.

In the glass cabinet behind us, there’s an Armenian manuscript that dates (I believe) to the 12th century. I was present when it arrived here, some twenty years ago, and I remember the dawning awareness that, before there was a tahlij, before there was a St. Vartan Cathedral — before there was a New York, or even an America — there was this book, and there was also a people that the book was trying to speak to.

Books like that speak to us still. And it’s one of the marvelous characteristics of a literary people like the Armenians that we are able to talk to each other across great expanses of time, through the writings of prior generations. It must have been at once a comfort and a burden for those writers of long ago to realize that many years later, people in unimaginable circumstances would read their words, and glean some knowledge of their concerns and priorities, of the things they feared and the things they loved, of their piety, and wisdom, and imagination.

Those same pleasures and burdens must be familiar to our honoree this evening, Nubar Dorian, whose writings have now been collected in a volume aptly titled, Harvests from the Heart. The essays in this book cover a remarkable expanse of time: nearly 40 years — not quite back to the 12th century, but nonetheless constituting a voice from a critical period in the history of the Armenian community in America.

Nubar Dorian was born in Lebanon, and came to this country in 1947, in one of those incredible adventure tales which, while not uncommon among Armenians, are nevertheless endlessly fascinating to listen to.

His professional life was spent in the business world, through which he made a life for his wife and three children. But parallel to that Mr. Dorian took on what amounted to another full-time occupation as a community activist.

Throughout the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s, his love of his heritage drew him deeper and deeper into Armenian affairs, and higher and higher into the leadership echelons of its premier organizations: the AGBU, the Armenian Assembly, the Armenian Rights Council, the Knights of Vartan, and the full spectrum of church-related institutions, from his local parish, the historic Holy Cross Church of Union City, to the Eastern Diocese, the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, and the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin. Of particular note was Nubar’s tenure as one of a handful of church leaders serving on the Diocesan Unity Committee.

The foregoing achievements alone make him a very unusual figure in our community. But during this same period of intense activity, Nubar took up another task that truly set him apart from others: he began to record his thoughts — frequently, and reliably, for a generation now — in the public forum. Even as he has stepped back from the day-to-day administration of community affairs, Nubar has not relinquished his pen, and continues to be a vital and always welcome voice in Armenian-American life.

This book is a record of that unique voice. It is not a complete record — to publish all of his writings would have required several volumes. But the articles in this book are, to my reckoning, Nubar Dorian’s most significant writings, and also his most characteristic ones. That is, through the writings in this book, the reader will come to know something of Nubar Dorian, the man.

You will see his deep respect for our institutions and their great figures: clergymen, benefactors, men and women of affairs.

You will see his genuine concern for every aspect of community life, a concern that is often critical of the way things are at the moment.

You will also see Nubar change his mind, when circumstances and arguments persuade him that there is a better way to do something. I find that to be one of the most compelling aspects of a collection like this, and one of the most admirable qualities of the writer.

In the course of all the commentary on the “business” of community life, you will also catch a glimpse of some of the personal relationships that have motivated Nubar in his life. Chief among these are his love and undying loyalty to his mother; to his late wife, Sirarpi; to their three children and seven grandchildren. One of the pleasures of working with Nubar on this project was the chance it gave me to witness the love and pride he has for his children and grandchildren, and the love and pride they have for him. I should add that it was his daughter, Dinah, who culled and organized Nubar’s writings prior to my editing them; and it was his grandchildren who found the image of an Armenian landscape that graces the cover.

The publication of Nubar’s book, at this time, reminds us that the presence of disagreement and competing opinions in Armenian life is part of the essence of every community. It is not an excuse for people to withdraw or retire from activity; to the contrary, it should be an encouragement to serious people to become more active participants in the great decisions, and therefore in the greater destiny, of the community. Like the Armenian writers of long ago, I hope that Nubar Dorian, too, will “speak” to future generations about the concerns of our own time — thereby reminding them that they are not alone; that others, too, have grappled with great issues of the day; and that we all have much to learn from the wisdom, grace, and humanity of those who came before us.

At the time of this writing, Christopher Zakian was the managing editor of the Armenian Reporter. He is currently the director of Communications for the Eastern Diocese.

Nubar Dorian

Nubar Dorian