Armenian Reporter – 10/13/2007 – community section

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October 13, 2007 — From the community section

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1. Armenia Fund raises over $2 million for projects in Armenia,
Karabakh (by Florence Avakian)
* Banquet held at the United Nations
* Vartan Oskanian urges continued commitment

2. Armenian writers of two generations are honored in a book
dedication at the Zohrab Center (by Lola Koundakjian)

3. Ohannes Salibian, 68, was a composer and teacher (by Yvette K. Harpootian)


4. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a clergy meeting (by
Antranig Dereyan)

5. In Boston, Karekin II shows his delight in the youth, but strikes a
more serious note with elders (by Antranig Dereyan)

6. The pontiff’s time in Boston continues with a mix of formal
occasions and informal moments (by Antranig Dereyan)

7. Vehapar goes to Washington (by Antranig Dereyan)

8. Catholicos Karekin begins his tour of the Eastern Diocese by
honoring Jacqueline Dechkounian, a beloved mother

9. Sherry Lansing to deliver keynote at COAF "Save a Generation" dinner
* Ken Davitian to serve as M.C.
* COAF aims to raise over $3 million at the gala

10. Search for the Armenian Genocide Memorial plaque continues
(by Tania Ketenjian)

11. A young Armenian is on Senator Clinton’s campaign trail (by Jon Alexanian)
* Campaign Associate William Bairamian participates in Hillary’s 2008
presidential quest

12. Third-generation cobbler continues family trade (by Lory Tatoulian)
* A Southern California Armenian profile
* Hollywood stars frequent Sous Shoe Repair

13. Young Armenians take to the streets of Little Armenia to clean up
(by Razmig Sarkissian)

14. Southern California engineers and scientists gather for annual
party (by Karineh Gregorian)
* Education, outreach, environmentalism are among AESA’s priorities

15. Leo Diran’s estate donates over $8 million to Armenian nonprofit
organizations (by Nyrie Karkazian)

16. Crime Beat: One of San Fernando Valley’s most wanted is sentenced
to jail (by Jason Kandel)
* Akop "Scooby" Akopyan to serve 21 years for killing

17. Pasadena Library celebrates Armenian Cultural Month
* Display include musical instruments and artifacts

18. Riding Hye: Armenian bikers prepare for annual bash (by Tamar Kevonian)

19. Young Armenian musicians make their mark in the hip hop community

20. William Saroyan’s centennial to be marked with many celebrations
(by Sarah Soghomonian)

21. Forum examines ancient practice of circumcision
* Husband and wife team preach against male mutilation

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1. Armenia Fund raises over $2 million for projects in Armenia, Karabakh

* Banquet held at the United Nations

* Vartan Oskanian urges continued commitment

by Florence Avakian

NEW YORK — "This is nation building — one village at a time. Give
tonight, give to the Telethon on November 22, give generously."

These were the words of Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian of Armenia,
in an impassioned plea to more than 300 attendees of the Armenia Fund
USA 15th anniversary gala banquet, held on Saturday evening, October
6, in the elegant Delegates’ Dining Room at the United Nations
headquarters in New York.

"Give, because our resources are not under the earth, but around the
earth," Mr. Oskanian continued. "You who inhabit lands beyond our
borders are our limitless, self-perpetuating, resource. You are

The event, held to express appreciation to the diaspora for
"Building Armenia’s Tomorrow Today," raised $2.175 million for Armenia
Fund’s Rural Development Program, which aims to revitalize Armenia’s
border villages.

The foreign minister had been one of more than 150 dignitaries
addressing the 62nd session of the United Nations General Assembly
session earlier in the week, and had strongly advocated the right of
the people of Karabakh to chart their own destiny. In his remarks, he
had emphasized that many of the issues the world faces today affect
small nations more intensively than they do larger ones. (See full
story in last week’s REPORTER, page A9.)

In his hard-hitting keynote address, delivered extemporaneously on
Saturday evening, Mr. Oskanian declared that he represented "a country
that has managed to overcome obstacles, compete successfully and
ensure our rightful place in our region."

He said: "Today, we have the strong foundation required to build a
secure and prosperous country, of which all Armenians around the world
will be proud. We have an open economy and solid legislation. We have
better social and educational conditions than any of our neighbors."

But, he hastened to add, "Don’t take Armenia and Karabakh for
granted. Don’t take our ability to survive and prosper for granted."

* Border villages crucial for Armenia

Putting emphasis on rural communities, Mr. Oskanian said that they are
being emptied. This is calamitous for Armenia, which especially needs
the border villages to protect Armenia, he said.

Participate "wholeheartedly and completely — not with conditional
or partial use of your potential, but rallying all your resources,
realizing that you are doing so for your own survival as well as
Armenia’s," he concluded to a standing ovation.

The foreign minister was one of several dignitaries attending the
October 6 banquet. Also present were Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan,
Prelate of the Eastern Prelacy; Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, Diocesan
legate; Bishop Arshak Khachatryan, chancellor of Holy Etchmiadzin; Fr.
Haigazouan Najarian, vicar general of the Eastern Diocese; Armenia’s
ambassador to the United States Tatul Markarian; Armenia’s ambassador
to the United Nations Armen Martirossian; and United Nations official
and former ambassador Dr. Movses Abelian.

* Miraculous achievements

Delivering the evening’s opening prayer, Archbishop Choloyan noted:
"For 15 years, Armenian Fund USA has performed great goals with
sincere dedication. Even the most daunting challenges can be met
through visionary leadership. The fund’s accomplishments are
miraculous achievements. Our obligation to help our brothers and
sisters in Armenia and Karabakh is not a matter of charity. It is a
sacred duty," he stated in his eloquent remarks.

Skillfully performing the role of master of ceremonies, Haig Ariyan
called the evening "a celebration of the vision needed to build
Armenia. The location of the United Nations for tonight’s event is
fitting, since Armenia Fund USA is a global organization committed to
the building and prospering of our homeland." He recalled the great
efforts of the late Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin I in 1993 to
have the fund revive the homeland. And in a personal story, he related
how Mardiros, a young boy who was injured under rubble of his
destroyed school during the 1988 earthquake, was one of countless
youngsters greatly helped by the fund.

Chair of the gala banquet Khoren Bandazian expressed appreciation to
the many who had been instrumental in the achievements of the
organization, in particular founders Hirair Hovnanian and Louise
Manoogian Simone; co-chairs Garo Armenian and Berge Setrakian;
trustees Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan, and
Gagik Haroutiunian; chairperson emeritus Hagop Kouyoumdjian, former
chair Kevork Toroyan; current chair Raffi Festekjian; and executive
director Irina Lazarian.

In brief remarks, AGBU president Berge Setrakian stressed that as
important as monetary contributions is a strong commitment to the
goals of the fund. Hagop Kouyoumdjian expressed appreciation to the
many who have been such an important part of the fund’s
accomplishments. And Kevork Toroyan pointed out that the fund’s focus
has "shifted from bricks and mortar to sustainability. Today," he
noted, "there is good transparency and controls in our work."

In appreciation for their many years of devoted service for the
organization’s goals, an engraved crystal clock was presented by Board
of Directors chair Raffi Festekjian to former chairs Berge Setrakian,
Hagop Kouyoumdjian, and Kevork Toroyan. One was reserved for Garo
Armenian, who was not present.

Commenting on the pride-filled events of Armenia’s independence, and
the raising of the Armenian flag at the United Nations, Raffi
Festekjian noted that Armenia Fund USA "lay the foundation, and
created the proper conditions for the homeland to grow and prosper."
He revealed that since 1992, $170 million had been raised for the
Fund’s many projects, including infrastructure, economic and social
services, health and medicine, road building, culture, and sports.

* Building a can-do nation

Mr. Festekjian noted that there are Armenia Fund affiliates in 18
countries and five continents. "The next 15 years may be more
challenging than the first," he related. "Rural communities are
deprived, even though the cities of Armenia are burgeoning. The fund’s
goal in the next 15 years is progress in jobs, infrastructure, and
self-reliance in the border villages of rural Armenia. There is a
crucial need to consolidate our resources to serve this cluster of
communities. The diaspora today is different than it was 15 years ago.
We will create new partnerships, new approaches, new linkages, and
identify future diasporan leaders to widen our base of support. We are
a can-do organization building a can-do nation."

Bishop Khachatryan — representing Catholicos Karekin II, who is on
a pontifical visit to parishes of the Eastern Diocese — expressed his
heartfelt wishes for continued support to Armenia and Karabakh.

A professionally prepared video, shown on two large screens, relayed
a dream sequence in rural Armenia in the personage of a talented
village potter.

A special recording detailing the many accomplishments of Armenia
Fund USA was distributed to all banquet attendees (copies of the disc
are available from the Armenia Fund USA office in New York City).

The 15th anniversary banquet had started with a festive cocktail
reception, where members of the Shushi Dance Ensemble warmly greeted
the guests. During the banquet, 19 members of the ensemble, dressed in
authentic Armenian costumes, under the direction of its artistic
director Seta Paskalian-Kantarjian, brought a nostalgic flavor from
the homeland, delighting the guests with well-known dance numbers, as
well as a dramatic recitation in Armenian.

In his closing prayer, Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, representing the
Diocesan Primate, predicted that "the day will come when Armenia will
no longer expect us to help, that it will help and defend us."
Archbishop Aykazian who is also the president-elect of the National
Council of Churches, said he was conveying the wishes of 15 million
Christians. "We pray that Armenia will no longer be a land of weeping
and suffering, but instead be a land of hope and life, living
peacefully with its neighbors and all humanity."

********************************* ******************************************

2. Armenian writers of two generations are honored in a book
dedication at the Zohrab Center

by Lola Koundakjian

NEW YORK — On Thursday, September 25, a new anthology on
Armenian-American authors was launched at the Eastern Diocese of the
Armenian Church of America in New York City.

the greatly anticipated 480-page volume is the fulfillment of a
lifelong dream of editor and author David Kherdian.

The book had an official "kinetson," or book dedication ceremony,
under the auspices of the AGBU’s ARARAT quarterly literary magazine
and the Diocese’s Krikor and Clara Zohrab Information Center.

Rachel Goshgarian, the director of the Zohrab Information Center,
introduced the volume briefly and invited David Kherdian to the
podium. Kherdian noted that many of the authors from that early
generation have passed away without the recognition they were due. It
was in light of that regrettable fact that he was inspired to create
an anthology establishing a "new tradition": wherein writers of the
subsequent generation would contribute biographies and introductions
about their predecessors, to run alongside selections from the
first-generation authors’ writings.

Kherdian informed the audience that it took many years to finally
publish the volume, and he thanked contributor Nancy Agabian for
provided valuable contacts with the "second generation"
Armenian-American authors.

In the course of the book launch, David Kherdian read some of his
own poems, and novelist Nancy Kricorian read works by poet Diana Der
Hovanessian. ARARAT quarterly editor Aram Arkun made remarks in praise
of the book, noting both its importance as a compendium of
Armenian-American writers, and the quality and range of the selections

Also offering remarks were contributors Chris Atamian of the city’s
Armenian Gay and Lesbian Association, and Nancy Agabian of the
cultural group Gartal, whose organizations helped to publicize the

The event took place during the week of the opening session of the
UN General Assembly, which annually wreaks havoc on the city’s
transportation systems and was responsible for a major traffic tie-up
in Manhattan that very evening. The general difficulty in getting
around the city clearly took its toll on participation at the event,
which did not receive the expected number of attendees for such an
"all-star" gathering of talent. Indeed, two featured speakers for the
event, Arlene Avakian and Marjorie Housepian, were unable to make it
in time for the program.

Nevertheless, the audience members who did manage to attend provided
an animated Q-and-A session with Kherdian and the featured guests, and
the anthology itself sold briskly at the book-signing which concluded
the program. Those copies of FORGOTTEN BREAD, signed not only by David
Kherdian but by several other authors represented in the volume, are
sure to become collectors’ items in years to come: a suitable reward
for having braved the unrelenting tides of late-September traffic in
midtown Manhattan.

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3. Ohannes Salibian, 68, was a composer and teacher

by Yvette K. Harpootian

BULINGTON, Mass. — His life was like the Armenian songs he wrote
about and promoted through his recording company. For the late Ohannes
Salibian, "the beauty of the beloved is celebrated and often compared
to the beauty of the land."

Mr. Salibian — composer, teacher, and student of music — died on
September 20, 2007 in Burlington, Mass., at the age of 68, after
complications following cancer surgery. Salibian lived for and loved
music. He studied, taught and practiced music for more than 40 years,
first in his native Beirut, then in Soviet Armenia, then again in
Lebanon, and finally in the United States (Iowa, Los Angeles, and

Salibian began his music career as a child in Beirut, when in the
suburbs of Bourj Hammoud he brought together enough money to buy a
used accordion. He took lessons and performed at school functions. In
1960, he enrolled at the Komitas State Conservatory in Yerevan. He
graduated in 1967 with an M.A. in composition and music theory. He
studied under Lazar Sarian and took private lessons in conducting from
Ohan Dourian.

After a brief stint in France, he settled in Beirut. Between 1967
and 1975, he taught at all the major musical institutions of Beirut,
had private students, organized concerts and founded the Icon Wind
Ensemble, a jazz orchestra of talented young performers. The Icon gave
a number of very well-attended concerts in and around Beirut. During
this period, several of Salibian’s compositions were performed by
local musicians.

The civil war of Lebanon forced Salibian to leave for the U.S. He
settled in Iowa City, Iowa, and participated in a Ph.D. program,
graduating in 1980. There, he composed innovative electronic music. In
one work, "Seventeen Months," Salibian used live recordings of the
fighting in Lebanon to compose a deeply affecting elegy for the
victims of the Civil War. He also taught composition and orchestration
to graduate students and worked as a recording engineer.

From there he was invited to head the newly created program in
Armenian Music at USC, until it lost funding in 1984. A few years
later, in 1987, Salibian moved to Boston where he worked for many
years as a recording engineer, editor, and acoustical consultant. He
founded Meg Recordings, which specialized in the recording,
restoration and dissemination of Armenian music in its many forms —
from classical to contemporary. The company has a small but savory
variety of recordings on its website,
Noteworthy titles include "Komitas-Armenian Music for Piano," "The Art
of the Armenian Tar," "Yerevan Women’s Choir of Armenia," and the
"Komitas Divine Liturgy."

He was currently working on a re-mastered edition of the songs of
Armenak Shahmouradian, a CD of sound-text compositions of Vahé
Oshagan’s poetry, and the release of the songs of Glakho Zakharov. He
was also composing a sound-text tape of a poem by Mahmoud Darwish. His
recordings of Armenian music are known for their high standards and
skillful editing. Salibian himself wrote not only electronic music but
symphonic, chamber, and solo instrument music. His works have been
performed in Lebanon, the U.S. and Armenia.

Ohannes Salibian was passionate about Armenian music and was a
pioneer in his field. His wife, Taline Voskeritchian, wrote in a
tribute to her husband: "Ohan lived more than one life, crossed
several oceans, and was open to all cultures of the world. But music
sustained him, kept him buoyant most of the time, and gave shape to
his life. It was his love of music which he gave so generously and
magnificently, that sustained him. Music was the tissue of his being."

His wife puts his goals, passions, and dedication to words so
completely: "He was able to find a place of honor and dignity for our
ancestral Armenian musical culture — to marry his modernist aims with
his national passions. In the end, it was this marriage that was his
home, his homestead and his homeland. May the earth fall gently on
Ohannes. What remains is what he gave."

Besides his wife, Taline Voskeritchian, Ohannes Salibian is survived
by his daughter Tamar Salibian; two brothers and two sisters; nephews,
nieces, cousins and many relatives, friends and colleagues throughout
the world.

A memorial service for Mr. Salibian was held at St. Stephen’s
Armenian Church in Watertown on September 24, and the interment was at
the Newton Cemetery in Newton, Mass.

Memorial donations can be made to the St. Stephen’s Armenian
Elementary School, 46 Elton Avenue, Watertown, MA 02472, or to
Armenian Fund USA, 80 Maiden Lane, Suite 301, New York, NY 10038.

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4. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a clergy meeting

by Antranig Dereyan

MANHASSET, N.Y. — Fresh from his official welcome to the Eastern
Diocese before a capacity crowd at New York’s St. Vartan Cathedral,
His Holiness Karekin II, the visiting Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos
of All Armenians, along with his entourage made a late-night journey
to Manhasset, Long Island, to the St. Ignatius roman Catholic Retreat

There, on the following day, Friday, October 5, Catholicos Karekin
held an official meeting with clergy from throughout the Diocese,
which lasted some five hours.

"It was a very important meeting, and I was very interested in what
Vehapar had to say," said Fr. Shnork Souin, pastor of the St. Mary
Church of Livingston, N.J.

According to priests who attended the private meeting, the
Catholicos’s discussion ranged from spiritually deep to practical
matters. Among the latter, he spoke about how the church might be run
without relying as much on outright financial support, and how the
dispersed Armenian communities might be brought closer together.

He spoke briefly about the possibility of the restoration of
hierarchical unity in the church, but did not give a specific time
frame for when he felt this could happen.

"Vehapar did not speak ‘at’ his priests, nor did he tells us what to
do," said Fr. Souin. "What he did was talk to us about faith, hope,
and what he thinks the future holds for the church."

Following the meeting with his clergy, the Catholicos and his
entourage prepared to travel by private plane to Boston. However,
arrival and air-traffic concerns delayed the expected take-off by a
full two hours.

Nevertheless, 40 minutes after the 7:00 p.m. departure Catholicos
Karekin touched down in Boston to the cheers of gigantic and
well-organized crowd. Working his way through the eager faces, shaking
hands and bestowing his blessing, the pontiff turned to smile one last
time at the greeting throng before entering an awaiting car to proceed
to a gathering of Boston-area young professionals at the city’s
gleaming Two International Place.

And for this leg of the journey, any delays were ruled out thanks to
the efforts of the Boston police, who blocked the roadways to allow
the pontifical motorcade to pass without impediment. "People in the
streets probably think the President of the United States is coming to
town," said one of the motorcade drivers.

* The right time to visit

The event assembled by the young professionals group was something of
a "cultural extravaganza," with speeches given, music performed, and
traditional dances brought to life by the city’s Sayat Nova Dance

As the music, dancing, and speeches subsided, it was time for the
clergy to offer some thoughts about the youth.

"We are very pleased to be here with all the young people of the
Armenian community," said Diocesan Primate Archbishop Khajag
Barsamian. He went on to introduce the Catholicos to the excited
crowd, explaining that "Vehapar chose this moment to come to America
because he felt it was the right time to do so."

Following the Primate’s remarks it was time for His Holiness to
address the crowd — but not before the attendees in the crowded hall
leapt to their feet in a standing ovation for their pontiff.

"This night will be unforgettable to me," Catholicos Karekin said as
the din finally subsided. "This place sounded like a concert hall in

He went on to speak his mind about the youth and the direction he
feels the youth are taking. "The youth show me that they love their
faith and that they will never forget their tradition or language. The
youth of the Armenian community represent our future," he said.

Another ovation greeted the Catholicos as he finished his remarks,
and as he prepared to depart a crowd lined up to kiss his hand and
receive his personal blessing.

"It was so inspiring to see how faith plays a big role in the
Armenian culture," said Nina Kouyoumdjian, one of the city’s young
professionals in attendance at the gathering. "If they heard Vehapar
speak tonight, more Armenian youth would be inspired to go to Armenia,
keep their faith, and preserve their language and culture."

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5. In Boston, Karekin II shows his delight in the youth, but strikes a
more serious note with elders

by Antranig Dereyan

BOSTON — Bearing the title "All Armenians" carries with it a great
deal of responsibility, and His Holiness Karekin II’s actions in these
early days of his month-long pontifical tour have revolved around a
number of his duties: keeping faith strong in the Armenian community;
keeping the youth involved in the church, making them feel pride in
who they are as Armenians; and spreading awareness about Armenia’s
past, present, and future, throughout Armenia and the diaspora.

But this week’s travels around New England found Catholicos Karekin
doing more than simply executing responsibilities of office. His visit
has taken on a more pastoral quality, as he goes out of his way to be
accessible to all his people — clergy and parishioners, elders and

The second day of his trip on Saturday, October 6 saw him visit the
St. James Armenian Church in the densely-populated Armenian enclave of
Watertown, led by Fr. Arakel Aljalian. The Catholicos had an
appointment to meet with the church’s young children, ages 5 to 11.

"I feel happy that Vehapar is here, because it doesn’t happen a
lot," said 11-years old Rebecca Minasian. "Hearing what he has to say
will help me in my future life, I am sure."

His Holiness’s visit to the church was exciting not only was for the
kids, but for the adults in attendance, as well. "It’s a
once-in-a-lifetime event, and it’s an honor to meet him in person and
see the head of our church," said Marian Minasian, a parish Sunday
School teacher as well as the superintendent of the Armenian School.

Later in the morning the Catholicos met with young people from the
next rung of the age ladder: members of the Armenian Christian Youth
Organization (ACYOA) juniors. The Catholicos greeted them in English
— "I am very delighted at seeing all these children here today," he
began — with his subsequent remarks alternating between English and
Armenian, with the pontiff’s American-born aid, Fr. Ktrij Devejian,
translating the latter. Lunch was served in tandem with the ACYOA
gathering, and several of the youth group members had the rare
opportunity to sit with their Vehapar at his table, and enter into
informal conversation with His Holiness.

"He asked me if I spoke Armenian, and if I had been to Armenia,"
said Ani Keverian, an ACYOA Juniors member from St. James Church, who
expressed the clear consensus that the amiable, fatherly Catholicos
was well received by the youth. "I am really glad that I sat at his
table and he spoke with me," she added.

* A more serious tone

Later that night more than 350 people came out for banquet at the
Fairmont Copley Hotel, where the Armenian pontiff was honored by the
community at large, but also by dignitaries from sister churches in
the New England region.

One of those dignitaries was Metropolitan Methodios, leader of the
Greek Orthodox Church in Boston, whose address contained a strong
statement about the need to acknowledge the 1915 Genocide. "The
Genocide must be recognized, the Turkish government most recognize
their wrongdoing" the Greek Metropolitan of Boston said. "It is sad
that the Turkish government cannot say a genocide happened; the
Turkish people and government don’t care, and that is a true shame."

The other prominent figure at the banquet was Sean Cardinal
O’Malley, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Boston. "I pray for the
best for the Armenian people," Cardinal O’Malley said, telling the
Armenian crowd that "Your Catholicos is not only your spiritual leader
[but] is recognized as a strong religious figure around the world."

During a break from the speeches, husband and wife duo Yeghishe
Manuchaiyan and Victoria Avetisyan rendered some classic Armenian
songs. There followed a presentation of the "St. Gregory the
Illuminator Medal" — the church’s highest honor bestowed on laymen —
to James Kalustian for his outstanding service and dedication to the
church in around his community.

"I am very proud to have received this medal; I am just happy to
help out when I can," said Kalustian, who serves as treasurer of the
Diocesan Council and is national chair of the Diocese’s pontifical
visit committee.

When Catholicos Karekin addressed the banquet, he struck a more
serious tone than he had in previous speeches.

"There are issues that face Armenia and the Armenian Church: the
recognition of the Genocide is one of them. The other is the division
of the church within the Armenian community. I feel that in time, with
dialogue, knowledge and patience, both these issues will find a
resolution," he said.

In one of the lighter moments that arise on such occasions, one of
the visiting priests accidentally bumped into the American flag and it
fell over; a laugh went up from the crowd but one voice rang out with
the observation: "See? The Armenian flag is still standing, tall and
proud. Tall and proud like us."

A funny moment, but emblematic of the evening as a whole, as the
local Armenians came out in force to meet their Catholicos and hear
what he had to say, all in a spirit of pride and reverence. As His
Holiness presided over the banquet, people would approach his table to
speak to him, kiss his hand, or ask for his blessing. Others were just
happy to be in the same room as their Vehapar.

"Who knows the next time he’ll be back?" wondered Karen Hovsepian of
the Watertown church. "I’m just glad he came to Boston for this

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6. The pontiff’s time in Boston continues with a mix of formal
occasions and informal moments

by Antranig Dereyan

BOSTON — The final day of Catholicos Karekin’s trip to New England
began with a breakfast where local Armenian clergy mingled with their
counterparts from other churches. Attending the October 8 event were
Sean Cardinal O’Malley, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Boston, and
officials of the Massachusetts Council of Churches.

Representing the latter organization, Rev. Jack Johnson announced
that the members of the Massachusetts Council, representing 17
Orthodox and Protestant denominations, had passed a resolution
recognizing the Armenian Genocide, and presented the resolution to
Catholicos Karekin.

The resolution "unequivocally recognizes" the Genocide, and asserts
that the Massachusetts Council will "resist and rebuke the deniers of
genocide," and "remember the souls of those who perished in the
horrors of the Armenian Genocide."

With the Armenian Genocide resolution scheduled to come before
Congress this week, and with ongoing discussions of a proposed
Genocide memorial and the Anti-Defamation League’s stance on the
Genocide still making local headlines, the topic seemed much on the
minds of the dignitaries present.

In a stand-out moment, Cardinal O’Malley rose and said, "On behalf
of the Roman Catholic Church, I will also go on record as affirming my
acknowledgment of the Armenian Genocide and the suffering it has
caused the Armenian people, and make clear my support for your efforts
to memorialize the Genocide here in Boston."

Among the Armenian clergy attending the breakfast were pastors from
local churches affiliated with the See of Cilicia, who had been
invited by Cardinal O’Malley. "We are here as a part of the Armenian
Church, the worldwide Armenian Church," said Fr. Antranig Baljian of
St. Steven’s Church in Watertown. "We are here to show our respect [to
Catholicos Karekin] because we believe he has a primacy of honor
within the Armenian Church. He is respected by all members of the
Armenian Apostolic Church, without distinction or discrimination."

The previous day, Sunday, October 7, the local Armenian community
had indeed come out in force for the Pontifical Divine Liturgy at Holy
Trinity Church in Cambridge. Even the region’s largest Armenian
sanctuary could barely contain the overflowing crowd of hundreds of
worshipers. Deacons and choir members from Diocesan parishes
throughout New England all contributed to the service, where the
Catholicos himself celebrated and bestowed his blessing on the

* At the New England Holocaust Memorial

A visit to Boston’s Holocaust Memorial was next on the agenda. His
Holiness was greeted by Rabbi Moshe Waldoks of Temple Beth Zion, who
toured the Catholicos and Diocesan Primate Archbishop Khajag Barsamian
around the memorial grounds in the company of the Anti-Defamation
League’s New England Regional director Andrew Tarsy.

As Rabbi Waldoks explained the inscriptions on the memorial plaques,
the Catholicos laid a bouquet of flowers on a headstone dedicated to
the victims of the Holocaust. Also on hand was James Kaufman, a past
president of the American Jewish Committee, who exchanged expressions
of respect and gratitude with the pontiff, and then offered this: "We
deeply appreciate [Catholicos Karekin’s] demonstration of solidarity
with us, and in turn want him to know we stand in solidarity with him
and the Armenian people who suffered a cruel genocide of 1.5 million
souls between 1915 and 1918."

After exchanging goodbyes His Holiness and his entourage made their
way back to the hotel by motorcade for a brief rest. After several
days of almost nonstop activity, even a catholicos can get tired.

* New beginnings, new unity

An important part of the day’s itinerary was the blessing of four
cornerstones at the site of a new church in Haverhill, Mass. The "Hye
Pointe" parish was formed when two older established churches
dissolved and incorporated their members into a single, larger entity.
Not unexpectedly, the community has endured some minor friction in the
process of coming together; but the visit by the Catholicos of All
Armenians was an occasion for people to come together and look

During the blessing ceremony, Karekin II took holy water from a
small pitcher in the shape of a dove, transferred it to a small cup,
then drew the water from the cup with his hand to trace the Sign of
the Cross on the four cornerstones, which were then placed at each
corner of the church foundation.

When it came time for him to speak to the church members, the
Catholicos said in English, "I need my ‘English tongue’ to come up" —
at which words Vehapar’s aid, Fr. Ktrij Devejian, came forward to
translate the Catholicos’ Armenian remarks. The pontiff had similarly
relied on the American-born priest a number of times over the past
several days.

"With a new church comes a new beginning, new life — new unity,"
said His Holiness.

In a moment revealing the pontiff’s down-to-earth side, Catholicos
Karekin showed mock impatience when his interpreter had paused to
consider how to translate a particular phrase. Turning to Fr.
Devejian, Vehapar prompted in English: "I said, When the people think,
God acts." This brought warm laughter from the Hye Pointe parishioners
— and a happy grin from Fr. Ktrij.

The episode resonated later in the evening, at a dinner with the New
England clergy, when His Holiness unexpectedly decided to speak in
English. "I think since this is not a formal event, I want to try to
speak all in English. Do you want me to try?" he asked.

The response was yes, so the Catholicos told Fr. Devejian to have a
seat and delivered his remarks in conversational English, of which
everyone agreed he showed an impressive command. Vehapar’s personal
warmth and his sense of humor were fully on display, and certainly put
the dinner guests at ease. "I thank you all for welcoming me, and I
invite you all to visit me in Armenia. I pray for you all," said the
Catholicos at the end, concluding not only his remarks but his trip to
the Eastern Diocese’s New England region.

***************************************** **********************************

7. Vehapar goes to Washington

by Antranig Dereyan

WASHINGTON — The early morning of Tuesday, October 9, found the
Catholicos of All Armenians at Field airport in Bedford, Mass.,
handing out crosses to every member of the Massachusetts state detail
that had escorted him during the New England leg of his pontifical

"Thank you; I will always cherish this cross," one of the officers
responded. Vehapar shook his hand, offered a final blessing, and then
boarded the plane for the next leg of his trip.

An hour and a half later he landed in Washington, to a scene that
has already become warmly familiar on the trip: children dressed in
traditional Armenian costume; a blur of waving Armenian flags; bread,
salt and water offered for blessing.

As Vehapar advanced across the tarmac, Armenia’s ambassador to the
United States, Tatul Markarian, was also there to greet him.

Next it was off by car to to the first stop in a new city: a
blessing ceremony at a Habitat for Humanity construction site.

Relita Morgan is the recipient of the house that will be completed
in 45 days. "It means a lot to me and my family. I feel wonderful that
the pope of the Armenian Church came to bless me and my house. It
means my family of two boys, one in college the other in high school,
will be safe," she said.

Later in the day, church members gathered outside Washington’s St.
Mary Church, anticipating the pontiff’s presence and blessing. After a
slight delay the Catholicos arrived to a great show of affection from
the crowd. Joining the Armenian parishioners was a delegation of Roman
Catholic dignitaries — most notable Monsignor Peter Sambi, the
Vatican’s ambassador to the United States.

"Unity among the disciples of Jesus is a duty," said Monsignor
Sambi, referring to the meetings between Roman Catholic and Armenian
Church leaders that have punctuated Karekin II’s pontificate.
"Differences are acceptable, but division is not. I was present when
His Holiness [Karekin II] declared that the rejection of unity is a

Inside the church children in traditional costume lined the center
aisle and tossed roses at Vehapar’s feet as he made his way through
the sanctuary, blessing attendees by pressing his cross to their

The final event of the day took place at the Italian Embassy, where
local Armenian leaders met the Catholicos in the elegant surroundings.

"We have been working on this visit by Vehapar for the past four to
five months, and so far it is going well," said Boris Gazarian,
regional chair of the Washington leg of the trip. "I couldn’t do it by
myself; all the committees and their members have done a great job."

Among the honored guests at the embassy dinner were the present
Armenian ambassador and two former U.S. ambassadors to Armenia.

"I came to this event because I knew His Holiness and had a very
fond relationship with him during my time in Yerevan," said Amb. John
Evans. "I greatly respect him and I wanted to welcome him to
Washington and wish him success in his visit here and throughout the
United States."

"The Vehapar and I have been very close friends from my time in
Armenia," recalled Amb. Michael Lemmon warmly. "He helped me through
some tough times in my life."

************************************* **************************************

8. Catholicos Karekin begins his tour of the Eastern Diocese by
honoring Jacqueline Dechkounian, a beloved mother

NEW YORK — During a luncheon with staff members at the Diocesan
Center, His Holiness Karekin II awarded Jacqueline Dechkounian with
the "St. Nersess Shnorhali Medal."

An employee of the Armenian Church for over 26 years, Jacqueline
Dechkounian has served the Eastern Diocese as its chef and housekeeper
with the love and care of a doting mother. In bestowing the medal,
Catholicos Karekin II explained: "When Jacqueline introduced herself
to me as the Diocese’s mother, I found this extremely touching. So
today we award her this medal, as a small gesture of our

Her dedication "is a rare gift she has given us for so long," he added.

The St. Nersess Medal, granted at the pleasure of the Catholicos of
All Armenians, recognizes a member of the community whose service to
the church goes above and beyond the call of duty.

Jacqueline Dechkounian was born in 1938 in Saida (Beirut) to Suzan
Matic (originally of Mosul) and Michael Kassab Ekmekjian (originally
from Urfa). She was born the youngest girl of six girls and two boys.
Jacqueline and her family grew up on Arakatz street in the Bourdj
Hammoud district of Beirut where she went to the Hripsimeants School
until the age of 11. Her father was a General in the Lebanese Army.
Upon his retirement, Mr. Ekmekjian opened a bakery in Bourdj Hammoud
where Jacqueline worked as a young woman after leaving school.

Always very religious, as a young girl Jacqueline knew she wanted to
serve the church and even contemplated becoming a nun. She worked in
her father’s bakery until she married her husband, Hohvannes
Dechkounian in 1959 at the age of 21.

While Jacqueline was growing up, the lively Bourdj Hammoud section
of Beirut was around 75 percent Armenian, and the local Armenians were
mostly small business owners with shops selling anything from jewelry
to bread. Hovannes Dechkounian started a factory making shoe heels,
which became a family business where many of the male members of the
Dechkounian family worked.

Jacqueline’s maternal aunt, Soeur Philippe Marie, was a nun in Iraq;
a cousin in Haleb was an archbishop. All of her sisters are alive
today, and like many families of the diaspora, they live all over the
world; one sister currently lives in France, another in Syria, and the
other sisters live in the U.S. Jacqueline’s brother lives in
Australia, but sadly her other brother drowned at the age of 18 while
he was serving in the Lebanese Army; he managed to rescue a drowning
man, but lost his own life in the attempt.

The Dechkounians moved to the U.S. from Lebanon in 1980 because of
the Lebanese Civil War. They have been living in Astoria since they
arrived — and since their arrival, Jacqueline has served the Armenian
Church. She has been "cooking for Armenians" for the past 22 years at
the Diocese, and before that was the cook at New York Armenian Home in
Flushing. While Jacqueline is known for her delicious Armenian
cuisine, she is loved for her warmth and her kindness to all. She
makes a comfortable kitchen for dignitaries from around the globe,
just as she does for the Diocesan staff and the young children they
occasionally bring as visitors. She is a truly warm and loving person
who makes the Diocese, and the church, a better place.

Just four years ago, Jaqueline lost her beloved husband. They had
two children together: Maral Serce (secretary at the Diocese) and
Roupen Dechkounian (a pharmacist). Jacqueline has been blessed with
three grandchildren: Maral has a daughter and son, Tamar and Jack, and
Roupen has a son, Zareh. All of Digin Jacqueline’s grandchildren speak
Armenian, which is a great source of pride for her.

Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, the Diocesan Primate, said after the
presentation: "It is a pleasure to have an employee like Jacqueline
Dechkounian. Her hard work and dedication to the Diocese and to her
church remind us all of the selflessness taught by the life of Christ.
Jaqueline Dechkounian is a very deserving recipient of the St. Nersess
Shnorhali Medal, and I am grateful that she is a part of our church."

*********************************** ****************************************

9. Sherry Lansing to deliver keynote at COAF "Save a Generation" dinner

* Ken Davitian to serve as M.C.

* COAF aims to raise over $3 million at the gala

NEW YORK — The Children of Armenia Fund (COAF) has announced that
Sherry Lansing, Oscar-winner of the Humanitarian Award in 2007 and
former chair of Paramount Pictures, will deliver the keynote address
at the fourth "Save a Generation" awards dinner, to be held Friday,
October 19, at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York.

COAF will also honor Daniel D. Sahakian and Henry D. Sahakian for
their support in advancing key educational programs for children in

Ken Davitian, co-star of the 2006 blockbuster BORAT, will serve as
master of ceremonies. Ms. Lansing’s keynote address will be in the
context of an interview hosted by Lesley Stahl, a 60 MINUTES
correspondent for 17 years.

During almost 30 years in the motion picture business, Ms. Lansing
was involved in the production, marketing and distribution of more
than 200 films including Academy Award-winners FORREST GUMP (1994),
BRAVEHEART (1995), and the highest-grossing movie of all time, TITANIC

In 1984, she became the first woman to head a major film studio when
she took the top job at 20th Century Fox. Later, as an independent
producer, Lansing was responsible for such successful films as FATAL

When Ms. Lansing was named chair of Paramount Pictures she became
the first woman to head a major studio. By 2001, she was named one of
the 30 most powerful women in America by LADIES HOME JOURNAL. She
stepped down as Paramount chair in 2005 and during her tenure the
studio enjoyed enormous creative and financial success. In the same
year, she created The Sherry Lansing Foundation, a philanthropic
organization focusing on cancer research, health, and education. In
2007, the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and
Sciences gave Lansing the "Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award" — an
"Oscar" statuette presented during the 79th Academy Awards broadcast
last February.

The Children of Armenia Fund works to help Armenia’s children by
revitalizing Armenia’s villages and implementing projects that provide
immediate and sustainable benefits to children and youth.

****************************************** *********************************

10. Search for the Armenian Genocide Memorial plaque continues

by Tania Ketenjian

SAN FRANCISCO — The fog was just lifting over the Cross at Mt.
Davidson when a group of dedicated Armenians and non-Armenians
gathered to canvass the mountain in search of something
extraordinarily dear to them. A few weeks ago, it was discovered that
a plaque weighing 160 pounds and measuring 3 ft. by 4 ft. had been
stolen. To this day, the plaque has not been returned, and officials
and lay people alike are both stunned and saddened. The reason why
Armenians are so concerned is because the plaque which was mounted at
the foot of the Cross is a memorial plaque commemorating the Armenian

Charles Paskerian, president of the Council of Armenian-American
Organizations of Northern California (CAAONC), the association of the
owners of the Cross, was one of a dozen men and women who went in
search of the plaque last Saturday morning. But their search was in

While the community was somewhat hopeful, the facts seem to show
that this was a meditated act, well planned and executed.

When Charles Paskerian first heard of the theft, he was quite
depressed. "We live in a wonderful country where people can say what
they feel. We have freedom of expression but when somebody steals
something like this, which is a memorial, they cross the line. It’s a
disturbing mindset."

Charles Paskerian immediately turned to the authorities when he
realized the plaque had been stolen. And although their efforts have
been strong, they remain stumped.

Inspector Jeff Clark, who grew up in the Bay Area and would visit
the Cross during Easter, has been searching the metal yards thinking
that this theft might have been done for cash. But to date, no one has
turned the plaque in and as time passes, it seems less likely that
someone will do so.

Charles Paskerian himself has offered to pay the equivalent of what
one might get for the plaque if turned into a metal yard. However, the
plaque is valued at $4000 making the theft of it a felony.

There has been very little coverage of the incident in the press and
Charles Paskerian is quite disappointed by this.

If this is a hate crime, then it would seem like the press would
want to cover it, especially in a city like San Francisco that doesn’t
have tolerance for hate. But to date, very few papers have written
articles on the issue and the search continues.

Paul Tour-Sarkissian is a prominent lawyer in San Francisco and
member of CAAONC prior to and upon its purchase of the Mount Davidson
Cross. He has represented the Council in all aspects of the litigation
involving the Mount Davidson Cross since 1997 and continues to do so.

According to an article written by Mr. Tour-Sarkissian, "The
Armenian Council’s purpose is to preserve, repair and maintain the
Cross and adopt it as a memorial for the martyrs of the Armenian
Genocide of 1915, when approximately 1,500,000 Armenians were deported
and massacred in Eastern Turkey at the hands of the Turkish Ottoman

The process of gaining ownership of the Cross was both long and
arduous but after a 13 year battle, the Armenian organization got what
they rightfully deserved.

The Cross was built in 1934 at an elevation of 1000 feet, the
highest peak in San Francisco. It is surrounded by 40 acres of
woodland and has sweeping views around it. There is a certain
solemnity that one feels as they walk up toward the cross.

Within the moist underbrush and the eucalyptus leaves, the wind
rustles and one invariably takes a moment of silence or two. The
surroundings beg for it and once at the Cross, the significance of its
history is felt and recognized.

When the Armenians gained ownership of it, after an auction where
they were the highest bidders, it seemed like the perfect symbol to
honor the victims of the Armenian Genocide. As it is well known, the
Genocide still remains in question according to the Turkish
government. This continued ambiguity and the challenges it raises are
what Charles Paskerian believes perpetrates crimes like these.

"If the Turkish government would simply admit that that the Genocide
occurred and say that they are sorry, it would neutralize a lot of the
anger that is felt and and offer a sense closure. We can’t get closure
when they won’t even admit it and this tension is what promotes this
type of activity," says Charles Paskerian.

The search is still on and Attorney Paul Tour-Sarkissian maintains a
sense of hope. "There is an ongoing investigation and certainly we
hope that the perpetrators will be caught, prosecuted and brought to

www.mountdavidsoncross .org

****** ************************************************** *******************

11. A young Armenian is on Senator Clinton’s campaign trail

* Campaign Associate William Bairamian participates in Hillary’s 2008
presidential quest

by Jon Alexanian

LOS ANGELES – As he spoke to a classroom of students about the
importance of the political process and how to get involved locally,
UCLA graduate and political advocate William Bairamian was asked by a
high school student, "How can I become president?"

Well prepared for a plethora of questions, he responded, "Funny you
should ask, I was looking for that same answer myself!" and continued,
"but to be a bit more serious, the first step in participating in the
political world is to get involved in something you believe in."

In August 2007 Bairamian decided to contribute his time and efforts
full time to Senator Hillary Clinton’s campaign in his year prior to
enrolling in a graduate-level international relations program.
However, the path leading him there was very atypical.

During the last three years William attended Sciences Po — the
popular name of the highest-ranked political science and international
relations institution in France — returned back to the United States
to complete his undergraduate degree in political science and French
and then flew to Armenia to work for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Soon thereafter he took on a role with Shell Trading in their natural
gas operations department in San Diego, Calif.

In his time leading up to joining the Hillary campaign both his
frequent-flyer miles and travel experiences increased exponentially,
but William knew his passion was in politics and not in the oil and
gas industry.

Ultimately he decided to sign up to get some real life experience.
"I discussed my situation with my cousin who was born in Baltimore and
exposed to life in Washington. He advised me to work on a national
campaign since we were nearing an election year."

William later explained that although he was willing to relocate in
order to help the campaign, he was glad to be participating in his
native Los Angeles. He said, "It gives me the opportunity to be close
to my family and participate in a national campaign."

Bairamian believes that one of the most important fields in
government is foreign policy and that Senator Clinton is the most
qualified candidate to take on the job of restoring America’s image

"I have been thoroughly disappointed with America’s approach in
dealing with world affairs in the recent past and I sincerely believe
that Senator Clinton will be the most ready to reestablish America’s
stature abroad: she is already well-respected in foreign countries by
the people and leaders alike".

Furthermore, he also shares similar beliefs with other segments of
Senator Clinton’s platform such as healthcare reform.

Initially, William signed up to become a "Hillstar" (the term used
for volunteer members of Hillary Clinton’s campaign) but was later
encouraged to take on an associate role in order to increase his
responsibilities for the campaign.

"Each associate," he explained, "is assigned to a committee (or two)
and their daily responsibilities are then formed around each
committee’s objectives. I am mainly responsible for, though not
limited to, setting up various programs in local high schools and
universities throughout Southern California in order to encourage
student participation in the political process. We are constantly
thinking of new ways to get young and motivated individuals in the

However, he is not bound to one location in his sphere of participation.

The most recent event William helped organize was a rally entitled
"Club 44" (the 44 eluding to the 44th president) in Oakland, Calif.
His tasks ranged from speaking to the press, calling up the public to
inform them of the event, distributing campaign information packets,
and training volunteers to help with various tasks.

The objective of the rally was to have Senator Clinton, who was
accompanied by Senator Diane Feinstein and Mayor Gavin Newsom of San
Francisco, discuss the important issues in American politics today.
Topics such as the war in Iraq, healthcare and education, along with
policies pertaining to the middle class were addressed during the

According to William, "Alhough days leading and preceding various
campaign events can be arduously long, there are encouraging moments
when campaigners get to meet various prominent members of society."

He has recently met with Senator Clinton, President Bill Clinton,
Terry McAuliffe, and also basketball celebrity Magic Johnson.

"It has been a lot of work but seeing how an organized presidential
campaign operates is wonderful. Especially now, since California has a
renewed importance in presidential primaries, the environment has been
intense and lively."

Bairamian added, "I would be gratified if Armenian-American youth
became increasingly involved in the electoral process, not only
through Armenian organizations but with elected officials and
government institutions, as well."

William believes Armenians are not sufficiently engaged in politics
and he traces the roots of what he calls "apathy" to Armenian history.

"Coming from where we did historically, living under emperors,
dictators, and autocrats, we could never expect our voice to count for
much. The United States of America affords every one its citizens the
opportunity to be a part of the decision-making process that decide
the course of this country. Each one of us needs to understand this
and internalize it. Vote, participate, be vocal. It’s your right."

************************************ ***************************************

12. Third-generation cobbler continues family trade

* A Southern California Armenian profile

* Hollywood stars frequent Sous Shoe Repair

by Lory Tatoulian

BURBANK, Calif. — "People don’t realize how important the comfort of
their shoes are. If you are wearing the wrong shoes, it can throw off
your alignment and cause much discomfort, which will ultimately ruin
your mood," says Eddie Icabouian, a third-generation cobbler who has
been designing and repairing shoes for the past 64 years.

Eddie’s affinity with shoes is transgenerational and can be traced
back to his great grandfather who was a mid-19th-century cobbler in
Western Armenia in a town called Adaman. Over a hundred years later,
Eddie is continuing the tradition of mending shoes just like his
forefathers on a busy street in Burbank.

Eddie’s store, Sous Shoe Repair, is nestled on Magnolia Boulevard,
situated right behind the towering hub of media conglomerates’
studios, such as Warner Bros. and the Disney studio lots. The
redheaded shoe technician has been working day and night at this
current location for over 21 years, where he built the trust of
Angelinos and their shoes for over two decades.

To establish his exclusive brand of shoe workmanship, Eddie has
crossed many seas and opened and closed many shoes shops in different
cities, until he was finally able to establish himself in the heart of
Los Angeles.

Eddie opens his shop every morning at 8 A.M. to start his day with
resoling, stitching, and repairing vintage shoes and handbags of all

With all the trodden shoes that await his treatment, Eddie mentions
that the favorite part of his job is socializing with his customers.

As he patches and polishes, Eddie travels back and forth from his
work bench to the foyer, where he sits down and converses with his
male friends about all the social and political problems that plague
the earth. It’s as if his humble workspace transforms into a United
Nations Security Council meeting where the elderly men engage in
discussions over Armenian coffee and cigarettes.

"This store is my life," Eddie said. "For 21 years, the bulk of my
customers have been the same and every day when people come to my
store I always have a smile on my face."

Eddie’s began his career as a cobbler when he was very young, living
in Beirut. His father had a shoe repair store that was located in the
densely Armenian populated city of Bourj Hammoud, where he was well
respected for his craftsmanship.

Because of the socioeconomic repercussions of the Armenian Genocide,
many Armenians struggled to put their lives back together. Bourj
Hammoud became a nexus of communal support where Armenians formed a
thriving community and rebuilt their cultural collective identity on
foreign soil. Because of this distressful situation, Eddie was forced
to drop out of elementary school at the age of 8 and work for the
family business in order to help sustain his family’s livelihood.

"At this point, my father couldn’t afford my schooling. I didn’t
want to leave my school and my friends, but we really didn’t have a
choice," Eddie recalls. "I was so bored when I was working at my
father’s shop, but with the living conditions in those days, where our
parents were survivors of the Armenian Genocide, we had to do what we
could to get by."

In his youth, Eddie quickly grasped the artistry of shoe repair and
arduously worked night and day to maintain the family’s modest
enterprise. Calamity struck the young boy’s life again when his father
died when Eddie was only 12 years old. Now feeling even more obliged
to care for his family and five siblings, Eddie threw himself into his
work and then would come home to help out his mother with domestic

By the time Eddie turned 21, the girl who lived in the apartment
building across the way had caught his fancy. Virtually all of the
inhabitants of Bourj Hamoud during this time in the 1950s were
Armenian. But, Eddie was gravitated toward a woman who had olive skin
and spoke a romantic language that was different from his native

Her name was Josephine. She was Italian. And she was 15 years old.
Eddie courted and eventually married her seven years later. They had
three children together.

"My wife was not Armenian, but she spoke perfect Armenian. It’s
almost impossible for anybody who was living in Bourj Hammoud not to
speak the Armenian," Eddie said.

They raised their three children, Vicky, Lena, and Peter while
maintaining an impressive shoe factory called Liberty Shoes that
employed over 90 workers.

Eddie and his wife eventually moved the family to America in 1963
because of the uneasy political climate of the region. "I came to
America because I have always loved the United States. Growing up, I
always knew that I was going to live in America," Eddie said.

Eddie and Josephine began working at a tailor factory in Rochester,
New York, called Hickey Freeman. The couple then eventually opened up
their own business called Eddie’s Park Avenue Shoe Repair in the same
town in 1983.

Even though Eddie’s business was successful in Rochester, his
thoughts always gravitated toward California, the state where so many
others had materialized their dreams under the sheath of perpetual
sunlight. Eddie headed west to California and not only found
opportunity, but a burgeoning Armenian community that reminded him of
his native Beirut.

In California, Eddie built his clientele and proved his cobbler
prowess by transforming tattered shoes into immaculate footwear that
had residents from all over Los Angles flocking to Eddie’s Shoe Repair
for all their shoe woes.

Eddie not only attracted common folk, but created a base of patrons
of movie stars who were drawn to his shop from the surrounding move
studios in the area.

Now, the inside foyer of Sous Shoe Repair is covered with black and
white signed headshots of all the movie stars who have done business
with Eddie.

"I have so many famous people walking through this door," Eddie says
as he points to Jay Leno’s loafers. Just this week he repaired Ron
Howard’s shoes and the dancing shoes of Annette Charles, the famed
actress from the movie GREASE.

With hundreds of photos of stars gracing the frayed walls of his
store, Eddie says that he has become famous for his skills in
Hollywood circles because of the word-of-mouth marketing strategy of

Despite extending his services to the elite of Hollywood, Eddie
works on 60 additional pairs of shoes a day whose soles have seen
pavements near and afar.

The spectacled, energetic cobbler is a little disconcerted though,
because he sees that the demand for shoe repairs is slowly decreasing.
"Everybody is buying cheap, plastic shoes from China these days,"
Eddie explains. "They wear them once and then throw them in the trash.
Nobody has respect for the well-made Italian shoe anymore"

* Canine sponsors

Eddie also attributes the survival of his business to his canine
sponsors: I love dogs because they keep my business going. If it
wasn’t for them tearing all the shoes apart, then I wouldn’t have half
my clients."

Eddie’s workmanship is done with precision and attention to detail.
All the clients that walk through the shop door not only praise his
spirited disposition, but they carry on about his talents.

"He is a master of what he does and he is very kind and honest man,"
says Artin Bakmazjian a regular customer at Sous Shoe Repair. "What he
is able to do with is hands, others can’t do. I have seen people bring
shoes that should be thrown way, but Eddie takes that shoe and
transforms it into the most beautiful shoe you have seen. He is truly

Artin goes on to illustrate all the other talents that his friend is
endowed with, "He will not only fix your shoes, but belts, purses and
zippers. There is nothing this man can’t do when working with

None of Eddie’s children took to the family business or learned the
craft of the cobbler. His older daughter Vicki works at a fire
department and his younger daughter Lena, is a computer programmer. As
for putting his hopes on his son Peter, well, he moved to Colorado to
work in petroleum engineering, rather than apply his engineering
faculties to the stitching of shoes.

"This line of work will end with me," Eddie says as a point of fact.
"The new generation has no interest in shoes. It’s a dying art because
there is no money in it."

Sadly, his first wife Josephine passed away 11 years ago. He married
a gentle-natured Ecuadorian woman named Sylvie. At that time, Eddie
unofficially retired from his job, but he couldn’t quite remove
himself from the shoes, his work, or the shop.

"I really am not retired, I could never sit at home and watch TV.
That is so depressing," Eddie said as he greeted a stream of customers
and friends though the door. "As long as God gives me good health, I
will get up every morning and come to this shop, because this is what
I know and this is what I love."

************************************* **************************************

13. Young Armenians take to the streets of Little Armenia to clean up

by Razmig Sarkissian

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — They showed up with brooms, shovels, and garbage
bags. Approximately 150 young Armenian volunteers from across Los
Angeles County gathered at Rose and Alex Pilibos School on October 7
to take part in the 5th Annual Little Armenia Cleanup organized by the
Armenian Youth Federation (AYF).

"We want to beautify the streets of Little Armenia and show its
residents that our youth cares about this city," said AYF Central
Executive member Shant Melkonian.

The day began at 9:00 a.m. with a prayer and a word from California
State Assembly member Kevin de Leon, who called the Little Armenia
district a "beautiful jewel." The 45th district Assembly member
stressed the importance of "sticking to our roots" and contributing to
the community.

"Little Armenia, here in Los Angeles, has been the cultural and
economic hub . . . for all Armenians worldwide," said Mr. de Leon.

The Little Armenia cleanup "should be embedded as part of the
responsibilities of every child regardless of who they are, where they
come from or where their parents come from, but I’m particularly very
impressed with the Armenian youth who have come here early this
morning to give back," he added.

Helen Leung, field deputy for council member Eric Garcetti,
presented a certificate of commendation to the AYF for their past and
recent contributions to the community of Little Armenia. Ms. Leung
stated that she was very touched and humbled by the efforts exhibited
by the youth and expressed hopes to see them back every year.

"By coming together as a community to clean your neighborhood," Ms.
Leung added, "you’re inspiring people who live here that may not be
Armenian because they see a huge group coming in here who are
passionate about their community, and I think that is a great way to
build a community."

Among other prominent representatives was Aram Hamparian, executive
director of the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA), who
lives in the Washington area. "My personal opinion is that this is a
tribute to the Armenian Youth Federation and its long history of
giving back to the community, giving its resources, giving its time,
and giving the intellect of our youth back to the community."

The organizers then separated the youth into three large groups by
color: red, blue, and orange. The groups dispersed into various
directions of Little Armenia, each sub-dividing yet again to maximize
their efforts on the major streets in the district.

With the brooms, rakes, and shovels provided by Mr. Garcetti’s
office, the youth picked up every kind of litter that plagued the
streets of Little Armenia, from cigarette butts, broken glasses, and
empty soda cans to food wrappers and old newspapers.

The volunteers filled up dozens of garbage bags and left them on
street corners where they would be later picked up by AYF organizers.

After a couple of hard hours under the sun, the youth returned to
Rose and Alex Pilibos for lunch. All in all, over 50 bags of garbage
were collected.

"We’re working on a little piece of land . . . named after our
homeland," said Nora Injeyan, an AYF member and volunteer who was
participating in the cleanup. "As our forefathers respected and worked
on the land, so will we. I think this is our way of staying connected
to home and showing the world that no matter where we are or what we
do, we’re still connected to one another by working alongside each
other and staying Armenian."

Five years ago, the AYF saw a need to organize something to help the
district of Little Armenia, leading the Central Executive at the time
to get in touch with Mr. Garcetti’s office to arrange the organization
of Little Armenia Cleanup.

"We’re very happy and proud to have the opportunity to do something
like the Little Armenia Cleanup," said Mr. Melkonian. "We hope that we
can tackle this event head-on every year, constantly making it better
and more productive."


***** ************************************************** ********************

14. Southern California engineers and scientists gather for annual party

* Education, outreach, environmentalism are among AESA’s priorities

by Karineh Gregorian

GLENDALE, Calif. — The annual Armenian Engineers and Scientists of
America (AESA) garden party brought together dozens of professionals
and their families last week at the Kenderian residence. The event
attracts engineers, scientists, architects and others from a variety
of disciplines and fields, who throughout the year work to advance a
number of AESA projects benefiting Armenian students, Armenia and the

"Our mutual passion is to help Armenians in the engineering,
scientific and technical arena," said AESA President Shant Kenderian,
PhD, PE. "As with any other professional society, the main benefit is
to network with peers and be up-to-date with new developments in the

Dr. Kenderian said members pay an $80 membership fee to participate
in AESA, but the support they receive is invaluable.

"There were times in my career when I wished I knew about AESA,"
said Dr. Kenderian. An organization like AESA could have "eased the
struggles I went through to get to where I am today," he said. "There
is no dollar value that I can place for that kind of support."

* Beginnings

AESA was founded in 1983 to address the professional, technical, and
scientific needs of fellow Armenians throughout the world. Its mission
is to create technical and social interaction among Armenian
engineers, scientists, industrialists and architects, and those
aspiring to build a career.

"Sometimes, the desire to become an engineer or a scientist starts
from a very young age," said Dr. Kenderian. "I knew I wanted to be an
engineer from as far as I can remember. For those who are inclined
toward these fields, we hope to encourage them and remove the
obstacles from their path."

Among AESA’s objectives are to establish communications and promote
technological exchange with experts in science, engineering, industry
and architecture from Armenia; to disseminate of the knowledge of
these fields; to conduct educational activities and assist Armenian
educational communities in these fields; and to recognize outstanding
technical achievements by Armenian professionals.

"Our vision for the future is to establish an AESA Center in Armenia
and another in Northern California," said Dr. Kenderian. "We want to
strengthen our Student Committee activities, to secure better jobs and
networking for our young professionals, continuously strive for a
larger membership base, and widen our collaboration horizon with other

Dr. Kenderian hopes that AESA, a non-partisan, non-sectarian and
philanthropic entity, will also play a role in inspiring and nurturing
young Armenians’ desire to be engineers.

"Most often, students turn away from engineering and sciences,
because they do not know exactly what these fields mean or which
specialty to choose," said Dr. Kenderian. "Other times, the course
work may seem difficult. Much of the responsibility to nurture and
inspire their desire to become engineers and scientists is on their
families and on the student himself or herself."

Dr. Kenderian said he calls on other Armenian professionals to join
the ranks of AESA so that the organization can do more for students
and accomplish all of its missions.

"We do what we do, and sometimes we attract students," he said. "We
reach out to them, and when they come, they follow their own desires.
And so, most of the credit goes to them, not us."

* Early projects

After the devastating Spitak earthquake in Armenia in December of
1988, the focus of AESA turned to providing technical and other
assistance to Armenia to help the Republic recover from the
catastrophe. AESA welcomed industrialists to the organization in 1989
and architects in 1994.

AESA has developed several projects to serve the Armenian community.
One particular project that caters to middle and high school students
is the Science Olympiad (SO).

The Olympiad was established six years ago by Marina Guevrekian,
Ph.D., C.O.A. The goal of SO is to increase interest in the areas of
science and engineering among Armenian students and to enhance
students’ knowledge beyond the confines of the classroom.

Students are encouraged to create their own science project in the
fields of Biological Sciences, Physical Sciences, or Engineering. SO
provides recognition for outstanding achievement of students by
electing winners in each category. Over 20 financial awards are given
out every year.

"We would like to start a program similar to the very successful
Science Olympiad in Armenia," said Dr. Kenderian. "We would like to
create other programs to provide an expertise exchange platform with

AESA plans include inviting American-Armenian professors that are on
sabbatical to teach a course in Armenian universities or arranging for
U.S. professors to deliver a short course or workshop via satellite.

* Mixers

University Student Mixers with Professionals are held twice a year to
give students an opportunity to talk and network with professionals in
the science and engineering fields. Annual membership fees are reduced
to only $10 for current students to encourage more students to get
involved for their own benefit.

The Fast Growing Tree Project was established in 1994. Since then,
it has grown over 130,000 genetically engineered hybrid poplars trees
that have been used as biomass for energy, reforestation, and erosion
control projects. The future plan for this project is to establish
hybrid poplar plantations between 2,000 to 2,500 hectares, which will
serve different purposes.

"The basic benefit will be the improvement of environmental
conditions and the reduction of greenhouse gas effects," said Dr.
Kenderian. "These plantations will become the major source for the
softwood lumber production. Using trees for lumber will create jobs in
saw mills and furniture factories."

Dr. Kenderian says Armenia has large furniture factories; however,
these factories are presently operating at 10 to 15% of their
capacity. AESA hopes that improving the saline soil conditions is also
a major benefit of this project. Farmers who cannot afford to plant
and irrigate their land can also gain from this project, said Dr.
Kenderian. "They can use the spaces between tree rows for growing
different vegetables."

One of the lesser-known crises in Armenia today, according to AESA
members, is the increasing lack of technical books and academic texts
written in Armenian. These books are either unavailable, have become,
or are falling apart due to age.

"Because of the lack of financial resources, no new books are being
written and printed in Armenia to replace and update the old texts,"
said Dr. Kenderian. "Instead, books written in Russian and English are
being used. As the more technically skilled Armenians continue to
leave Armenia, it is likely that technical education will be in
English and Russian, and thus the Armenian technical literary base
will be lost."

The AESA Research and Education Committee is helping to ameliorate
this problem by providing funding to engineers, scientists, and
architects in Armenia to author and publish academic books in
Armenian. The Committee, working with the Armenian Ministry of
Education and Sciences, has commissioned over forty authors from the
State Engineering University of Armenia (SEUA), Yerevan State
University (YSU) and Yerevan Institute of Architecture and
Construction (YIAC) to publish their books.

Over 15 of these books have already been published since 1994. These
books have been and are being used by hundreds of students as
textbooks in the universities and technology institutes of Armenia.

The funding of these books is provided by generous donors.

"These books are dedicated to the donors or to their loved ones who
are acknowledged as the sponsor of the book on the first page," said
Dr. Kenderian. "Today, the cost of writing and publishing 500 copies
of a book is from $1,500 to $5,000, depending on the number of pages
and the amount of artwork. Any amount of contribution is welcomed.
However, contributions over $1,500 will offer you the opportunity to
have a book dedicated to your loved ones and thus immortalize their
names. A few copies of the published books are available for sale at
$20 each."

AESA’s Informational Technology (IT) committee collects used
computers for educational institutions in Armenia and Artsakh. In
2002, AESA has collected more than 180 computers for Armenia and
Artsakh. The computers have been tested and set up by the AESA
Computer Committee members and are being sent to Armenia.

"This is a completely non-profit effort performed by volunteers,"
said Dr. Kenderian. "Donations and/or old computers, printers, modems,
network cards, and scanners are greatly appreciated, accepted, and are
tax deductible."

AESA also provides scholarships to students in Armenia who attend
the Annual Yerevan Polytechnic Institute (YPI). On November 3, 2007
YPI alumni and friends will commemorate the 75th anniversary of YPI.

In his keynote speech, Dr. Kenderian said, "We may not have numbers
in people because we are a small country, but we have numbers in
manpower and we can compete with the world in this field."


(818) 547-3372

**************************************** ***********************************

15. Leo Diran’s estate donates over $8 million to Armenian nonprofit

by Nyrie Karkazian

FRESNO, Calif. — He lived a humble and reserved life as a vineyard
farmer, never craving a glimpse of the spotlight. But Leo Diran, who
died last year at the age of 98, has stirred a considerable amount of
attention with his generosity. He has left over $8 million to three
Armenian nonprofit organizations. The California Armenian Home in
Fresno, the Armenian Missionary Association of America, based in New
Jersey, and the Armenian General Benevolent Union, based in New York,
were listed among the estate’s beneficiaries, each receiving $2.7
million. Part of the estate went to the University of California at
San Francisco, which also received $2.7 million, bringing the total to
about $11 million.

Bob Garabedian, an Armenian Home board member, said that the home
knew it was being included in Mr. Diran’s estate as a beneficiary, but
had no idea of the size of the legacy. "I didn’t know that it was
going to be so big," said Mr. Garabedian. "He was a quiet man. He was
a man of humility, with a high regard for other people’s time."

Mr. Garabedian added that Mr. Diran had been a longtime supporter of
the Armenian Home, aware of how well the home took care of his sister,
Mary, who lived there for a while.

"He always spoke well of the Armenian Home and appreciated the care
he got there," said Ron Bergman, a neighbor and longtime friend. Mr.
Bergman also said that Mr. Diran’s family had donated something else
to the home years ago in memory of his father.

Not many people knew of Mr. Diran’s wealth. He was a simple man who
kept to himself and went about his business of farming until he was 90
years old.

Mr. Diran’s family moved to Kingsburg, California from Boston in
1912. He graduated from Kingsburg High School in 1926 and was drafted
into the U.S. Army at age 34.

Mr. Bergman had known Mr. Diran for about 40 years and said that he
would be turning in his grave if he could see all the publicity his
donations have attracted.

"He was a humble man. Reserved, but very humble," said Mr. Bergman.
"A very intelligent man and a good friend of mine."

The Armenian Home plans to put the donation to good use within the
next five years by making an addition to the facility. The money will
either go to build assisted-living apartments, a rehabilitation
facility, or an Alzheimer’s facility. Although there are no final
plans at the moment, Mr. Garabedian said that whatever the board
decides to build will definitely carry Mr. Diran’s name.

"We knew that he didn’t want a lot of publicity, but I think that
people need to know how generous he was," said Mr. Garabedian.

According to an article published in THE FRESNO BEE, the donation to
the Armenian General Benevolent Union is meant to go toward an
endowment for the American University of Armenia in Yerevan; to
Armenia, providing schools with support; and to students of Armenian
descent from around the world with scholarships. The Armenian
Missionary Association of America will use the donation for
educational, social, and religious service projects in different
countries around the world.

"He liked very well what the society was doing," said Mr. Bergman of
Mr. Diran’s feelings about the AMAA. "It was a Christian society and
Leo was a Christian."

"What more could I add?" said Mr.Bergman. "Just that he was a very fine man."

************************************** *************************************

16. Crime Beat: One of San Fernando Valley’s most wanted is sentenced to jail

* Akop "Scooby" Akopyan to serve 21 years for killing

by Jason Kandel

LOS ANGELES — Seven years ago last month, Garnik "Tyson" Madoyan told
his wife, Melina, that he had to go meet a friend. He instructed her
to go home, make dinner, and that he’d be back soon to eat.

He never made it.

He was shot and killed as he sat in his Toyota Camry on a North
Hollywood street on Sept. 4, 2000. He was 22 years old.

At the Sylvan Street address, detectives found the Camry’s
passenger’s-side door open, six .380 spent shell casings lying on the
curb next to the car, a live round near the passenger door, and a
spent projectile resting on Madoyan’s lap near his left pocket, court
records show.

His own loaded, but blood-smeared semiautomatic 9 mm Ruger P89
pistol was found wedged between the seat and the center console,
barrel down. He never fired off a shot.

Police identified the friend as Akop Akopyan, a.k.a. Scooby, a man
documented by Glendale police as a member of the Armenian Power street
gang and with whom he had had a long-running beef over disrespect. A
year earlier Madoyan humiliated Akopyan by beating him in front of his
wife, according to both his attorney, James Blatt, and police.

And now he was a wanted man on a murder warrant. Local police called
in a federal fugitive task force headed up by the Federal Bureau of
Investigation, which quickly figured out he had fled to his native
country of Armenia and worked with Armenian officials to try to find
him. Officials did not find him until about five years after the

Eventually in August 2005, Akopyan, who had been working there,
either turned himself into a local police station there, or was turned
in by a friend, depending on whose version you believe, said Los
Angeles Police Detective Martin Pinner, who investigated the case.

A month later back in the United States, he was booked on a murder
charge into the Los Angeles County Jail where he was held without

After seven years the case is closed. Akopyan, now 32, was sentenced
last month to 21 years in state prison after pleading guilty to
voluntary manslaughter and to the personal use of a gun.

Akopyan’s last-minute plea came as a surprise to many because it
came after a jury had been selected to begin hearing arguments in a

If he had gone to trial and been convicted of the original charge —
first-degree murder with the gun enhancement — he would have faced 50
years to life in prison. Blatt said his client chose certainty.

With credit for time he’s already served, Blatt estimates that
Akopyan will likely do 15 years in prison.

In a few weeks, Akopyan will be transferred to a California state
prison facility, somewhere near Los Angeles. After he completes his
sentence, Akopyan, who is an illegal immigrant, will be ordered
deported to the country he originally fled to as a fugitive.

Transcripts of the preliminary hearing from July 2006 outline what
happened the night Madoyan was killed.

About 4:30 p.m. that day, Scott L. Palmer said he was at his North
Hollywood apartment with "Judge Judy" on the TV in the background when
he heard five pops that sounded like gunfire.

Through a sliding-glass window looking onto Sylvan Street, he he saw
a dark green sport utility vehicle with tinted windows turn right onto
Beck headed north, and he saw two men headed south on Beck toward a
white four-door Mitsubishi with no license plate and no markings.

He described one of the suspects as 6-feet-tall, between 150 to 160
pounds, with short hair and a goatee. He described the other man as
5-foot-6 to 5-foot-8, 150 pounds, and wearing a white T-shirt,
according to the court transcripts.

He said the second man was wearing a gold chain and had a goatee as
well. Both were thin and were either Armenian or Latino, Palmer

"What the hell is going on here?" Palmer said he asked himself at
the time, according to the preliminary hearing transcripts. "Do I
really want to be involved in this? Then I decided that I had to do
what was right."

The two men had been in an argument while they were seated in
Madoyan’s car. And at some point, Akopyan got out of the car and shot
the victim before taking off in a Jeep Cherokee that had pulled
alongside of the victim’s car, allegedly to wait for Akopyan.

Pinner said Madoyan’s family told police that Madoyan had gone to
meet "Scooby" that night.

A LOS ANGELES DAILY NEWS article a year later listed Akopyan as one
of the San Fernando Valley’s top-10 most wanted fugitives. "Scooby"
was his nickname. He had a shaved head or short black hair and a
mustache or goatee, and tattoos, one reading "My Crazy Life."

************************************* **************************************

17. Pasadena Library celebrates Armenian Cultural Month

* Display include musical instruments and artifacts

PASADENA, Calif. — The Knights of Vartan Chapter in Pasadena has put
up a display at the Pasadena Public Library in recognition of
Armenian Cultural Month. The two glass cases at the Library display
three glass tiers of Armenian instruments, literature and artifacts
that reflect the rich cultural traditions and lore of Armenia. The
exhibit offers an introductory glimpse into the roots and treasures of
the Armenian people especially to those who might be unfamiliar with
Armenia’s culture and customs

All of the items displayed have placards placed beneath the
artifacts as an informative tool to help patrons better understand the
articles that are featured. Some of the instruments displayed in the
glass cases are the Kamancha, which has a placard attached below that
explains that the instrument is a spiked fiddle that is held on the
knee with four strings and it is shaped like a parabola. The exotic
Shui flute is also on display, mentioning that it is a rare instrument
made out of apricot wood and produces a high pitched sound that is
perfect for reproducing a variety of bird calls.

Also showcased are poems by Hovaness Toumanian, mini-Khatchkars,
stone jewelry and literature that provides information about the roots
and evolution of the Armenia language and its heritage.

Laurie Whitcomb, who is the head librarian for the Pasadena Public
Library says, "The Pasadena Public Library believes in cultural
diversity, and we have different people who are a part of our
community come and display their unique artwork."

One of the organizers of the exhibit and member of the Knights of
Vartan is Mike Mateossian. Mr Mateossian stresses the importance of
introducing and integrating Armenian culture into the mainstream in
whatever capacity it may be. "As way to celebrate our unique culture,
we [Knights of Vartan] thought it would be essential to highlight all
the achievement of our vast and impressive culture."

The Knights of Vartan takes on projects on the micro and macro
level. Established in 1916, the Knights of Vartan have made
substantial financial contributions to other charitable organizations,
churches, and to the Armenian communities in the Diaspora and the
ancestral homeland of Armenia.

**************************************** ***********************************

18. Riding Hye: Armenian bikers prepare for annual bash

by Tamar Kevonian

PASADENA, Calif. — In these days of snap judgments based on shallow
observations, it would be easy to form a negative opinion about the
men of the Hye Riders motorcycle club simply based on how they look.
This rough and tumble bunch with their tattoos and leather jackets
notwithstanding, are committed to doing good. On Saturday, October 20,
2007, they are hosting their 4th Annual Hye Riders’ Dinner Dance to
thank all their supporters with an evening of fun, food and music.

Started in 1999, Hye Riders is a product of Berge Kasbarian’s love
of riding motorcycles, specifically Harley Davidsons, an iconic brand
with an avid following, immortalized in the film EASY RIDER.

"It’s (the club) changed. It’s still about riding Harley’s but we’ve
been blessed with other work," explains Kasbarian. The "other work" he
refers to is the charity work the club, and Kasbarian personally,
carry out both in Armenia and Los Angeles.

Berge Kasbarian is a large man who has taken on a large task.
Looking at him in full Hye Rider’s regalia and tattoos on display, he
is an imposing figure. Rarely raising his gravely voice when he
speaks, he communicates with few words. It’s this unseen but much felt
strength of character that has drawn the other 250 global members to
the club.

Koko "Kreeks" Garabedian has been the "Number two guy since day one
– after Berge," he says pointing towards the club President. They’ve
been childhood friends and had wanted to start a club since their

"Ever since we moved to the U.S. we were leaders in our group —
Berge more than me," says Garabedian. They saw a need to pull
Armenians together, wanting to create something positive. It is
exactly this that draws the other members to the Hye Riders.

Edvard Gevorkian, a member since 2004 and a rider for 34 years,
describes his attraction to the club as the only place where he’s
experienced kindness, respect and unconditional giving to all races
and religious beliefs. "It’s a unique group that doesn’t exist
anywhere else. You can’t explain with words. Only those in it know
what is involved and what we do."

Spurred on by Armenia’s independence, their goal was to open an
orphanage in the country. Their desire to help the children led to the
establishment of their annual toy drive where they collect toys and
clothes to distribute during their yearly trip to Armenia. Soon after
one of their early trips they were approached by local motorcycle fans
to start a chapter of Hye Riders in both Yerevan and Gyumri.

Thus began their exploration of the outlying villages where they
discovered the horrifying conditions of those living outside the
capital and determined that the fate of some of the villagers was much
worse than the orphans. Although they avidly continue their toy and
clothes drive, the focus has shifted.

"We’re still on track with what we started," Garabedian says,
explaining how the main goal was to help those in need in Armenia but
now, instead of opening an orphanage, Kasbarian has shifted his
attention to the elderly. He envisions the Hye Riders owning a
building in Armenia that functions as a homeless shelter for them with
beds and meals provided. "It’s so those people (the elderly) have food
and a place to sleep instead of sleeping under stairs," he says.

The club has no formal application method for those needing help but
somehow, through word of mouth, the requests find their way to Berge’s
desk. Like the motorcycle accident victim in Los Angeles who was
totally paralyzed, homebound and too short of funds to seek medical

The Hye Riders stepped in, hired and eventually purchased a van for
him along with an electric wheelchair, and arranged medical
acupuncture treatments that have helped him enough to regain the use
of one arm.

There is the young leukemia victim who must find a donor from within
the Armenia community and the club is helping spread the work and
collect DNA samples.

Then there is the mother in Armenia writing a letter beseeching for
help on behalf of her paralyzed son. A member from the Armenia chapter
was quickly dispatched to assess the request and determined that what
the family of two really needed was gas in the house: a basic but
vital utility that would give them access to heat, hot water and
cooked meals.

"All requests are verified," stresses Kasbarian. "We don’t give out
money but we give things like food, utilities, medical services: every
gift disbursement is recorded with letters, photos and receipts. I
don’t want people to think I’m building a mansion for myself," he
makes sure to point out.

In fact, the weekly Thursday night poker tournament at Atlantis
restaurant in Pasadena started for exactly this reason — as a way to
raise the necessary funds.

"I started going broke doing the toy runs (provided food and
entertainment for those who attend) and sending money to Armenia,"
explains Berge, estimating that he’s personally contributed $180,000
over the years to the various programs implemented and the cases
supported by the Hye Riders.

With 30 to 50 attendees each week, the tournament, while paying to
winners, still nets $1000 to $1500 each night. Although not enough
for everything the club wants to do, it is enough to continue the work
they’ve already started.

The club’s most current project is to feed needy families in and
around Los Angeles and have a fast growing roster of forty families.
"I was angry at the last toy run," Berge says, "I realized that this
(toy run) happens once a year but people are hungry every day."

So what does an angry president of a motorcycle club do?

He calls the presidents of other motorcycle clubs and convinces them
to join forces. "I was lucky and able enough to make it succeed," he
states modestly. Not an easy task considering that the other clubs —
the Vago’s Mongols, Vietnam Vets, Four Horsemen, and the Chosen Few —
are some of the biggest clubs with reputations of being the toughest
in the city.

Kasbarian had the opportunity to acquire the food and invited the
others to join the Hye Riders in this project. "They could have done
this on their own but we gave them the opportunity to look good," he
says, "to show people they’re not hoodlums."

Kasbarian firmly believes in altruism unencumbered by racial,
ethnic, religious or geographic divisions. "We cannot help ourselves
if we cannot help others," he says. He works through both Armenian and
non-Armenian organizations explaining that "we (Armenians) need to get
stronger working through other (non-Armenian) organizations in helping
others so we don’t portray the image that we’re just about Armenians."

He goes on to explain that Armenians live in the United States and
have to show that they are a part of their communities.

Recently, as a way to reach a wider audience, Kasbarian produced a
short documentary film, LIFE UNOBSERVED, about a simple family in
Armenia and the way they live. He wanted to show how differently
families live from those in the United States.

"They have nothing but have everything. Here we have everything but
have nothing," he laments. The film is a true story of young boy who
covets a pair of tennis shoes to replace his tatted ones and the
circuitous and unexpected route of how he finally comes to own them.

Berge’s ultimate goal in life is to erase differences: amongst
Armenians, ethnic groups, clubs and organization. Believing that
everyone has a purpose in life he explains that he was brought into
this world to be a bridge and wants to get people to meet each other
top help fade away the differences. It is the main reason for
organizing the Hye Riders Dinner Dance — to bring under one roof all
the people from all walks of life that help them to their work.

******************************************* ********************************

19. Young Armenian musicians make their mark in the hip hop community

Definition of Hip Hop: Hip hop music is a style of popular music
composed of a rhythmic, rhyming vocal style called rapping.

GLENDALE, Calif. — Though hip hop is grounded in poetic roots, it’s
most recently associated with street culture and the thug life.
Nothing could be further from the truth at Beyond the Stars Palace,
where rapper R-Mean headlined a sold-out concert featuring Profit, Ras
Teo, Duce One, Josephina, Capital Z and Soseh. These young musicians
are all college educated artists, who are taking their love for music
and writing to new heights with rap music.

The evening’s event was hosted by radio DJs, Tha Goodfellas. The
featured artists rapped in part about love, friendship, but also the
Genocide, Zankou Chicken, and plastic surgery.

R-Mean’s reaction to his first headlining concert was "crazy." He
went on to say, "I got in the building late, and I heard a crazy crowd
from backstage. I was like, ‘wow, that sounds like a LIVE crowd.’
Then, when I was in my dressing room chillin’, a few people came in
and told me, ‘yo, the place is completely sold out. You can hardly
move in there!’ I was like, ‘u kiddin me? That’s crazy!’"

Walking into the concert venue was more like walking into a high
school prom. The audience was mostly comprised of teenagers, but
scattered throughout the concert goers were parents and young
children. Rap may mainly attract the younger generation, but this was
still a family affair.

Watching Armenians perform rap on stage to cheering fans is not very
familiar to many, who are more used to seeing Harout Pamboukjian
pounce on stage, while adoring fans shoorj bar (circle dance) on the
dance floor or seeing an Armenian rock band perform in a club on
Sunset Boulevard.

* Collective Pride

Interestingly enough, the concept of Armenians in the rap world makes
sense. Hip hop music is closely associated with autobiographic tales,
pride, and urban life – many of the same elements that Armenian youth
today are saturated in.

Pride in this music, however, is not solely associated with
individual pride, but a collective pride, community and respect.

The crowd roared when rapper Profit yelled out, "Armenians in the
house!" Fans went completely ballistic when the Armenian flag was
walked across the stage. This audience was not cheering to lyrics
promoting violence, promiscuity, drug use and misogyny; they were
applauding their community, a community they are proud and
enthusiastic to be a part of.

Both R-Mean and Profit perform at Genocide commemorations at
universities and high schools across Southern California.

* What the youth is rapping about

Modern-day Armenian youth reflect the diverse community of Los
Angeles. Hip Hop is also about bringing together people from all
backgrounds, and this was apparent by the guests brought on stage.
"I’m proud of being Armenian," said Profit (Arts & Culture June 9,
2007). "At the same time, I respect other cultures. Coming together is
what it’s all about."

This isn’t ‘gangsta’ rap, it comes from a positive place. This is
"music that plays like a soundtrack to life," said Profit. An event
like this "is all love," he went on to say. "It’s the opportunity to
bring artists that we respect together."

Profit performed his popular "Zankou Chicken" song, while passing
out Zankou Chicken to the audience. "Put some garlic on that," he
repeated as the audience went wild. He also brought his little cousins
on stage when he rapped his Genocide tribute called, "Armenia."

The Profit says his Genocide tribute song is a song that his cousins
can appreciate, as can other generations who are able to listen and
learn about his people’s history.

* R-Mean on Stage

The crowd was chanting R-Mean with fervor waiting his arrival on
stage. R-Mean performed tracks off his BROKEN WATER album, which has
sold thousands of copies without the backing of any major record

For R-Mean this night was particularly special. Though he has
performed for Armenian audiences at universities and high school, this
was his first major concert.

"When I’m performing, I just go off of the crowd’s energy. That’s
why this show was so easy for me," said R-Mean. "The energy of the
fans was so amazing. It made me feel even more comfortable on stage
than usual."

R-Mean says when it was time for him to make his first appearance,
the crowd was so loud that he could hardly hear the music.

"When the lights came on, I saw how big the crowd was," said R-Mean.
"Completely packed. It just pumped me up more. I just thought to
myself, ‘alright, let’s rip this up.’ And I just gave it my all."

"It is really important to incorporate Armenian music with different
genres," says Soseh Keshishyan, who sings with R-Mean on "Open
Wounds," a song about the Genocide.

"The collaboration with R-Mean helped introduce Armenian music to a
younger generation of Armenians and non-Armenians," said Soseh. "Using
‘Kilikia’ as the hook also made the song more accessible to an older
generation of Armenians, while introducing them to hip hop."

Keshishyan went on to say, "I think young Armenians have connected
with the song, because it speaks about the Armenian Genocide in a
language that they can understand and are familiar with – Hip Hop. It
has been an honor to be a part of the movement."

R-Mean summed up the night’s event best when he said, "It just
seemed like everyone was having such a good time. It was a real

The rappers who participated said the reaction and feedback they
have received since their concert has been unbelievable.

"The feedback I’ve been getting since then has been crazy," said
R-Mean. "Everyone is talking about how much fun they had and that’s
the most important thing. It’s all about involving the crowd, making
sure they’re feeling it."

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20. William Saroyan’s centennial to be marked with many celebrations

by Sarah Soghomonian

FRESNO, Calif.- For the past three years, a group of William Saroyan
enthusiasts, have been hard at work planning the centennial
celebration of the Pullitzer Prize winning author’s birth.

William Saroyan was born August 31, 1908 in Fresno, Calif. Over
Saroyan’s lifetime he called several cities home, but it was the
memories he made during his childhood in California’s Central Valley
that were often the inspiration for his work.

"He’s from Fresno and he wrote about Fresno," said Larry Balakian,
chairman of The William Saroyan Centennial Committee. "His writings
take you to the place and time. If you read something he wrote 50
years ago, that feeling is still there today."

The William Saroyan Centennial Committee, along with The William
Saroyan Foundation of San Francisco and the Stanford University
Library are planning and organizing events throughout 2008 that honor
and recognize Saroyan and his accomplishments.

Nearly 40 organizations have already signed up to participate in the
Centennial Celebration. Each organization plans their individual
event and the William Saroyan Centennial Committee helps publicize it.

"We want awareness throughout the state," Balakian said. "We want
people in their own communities to do projects that are suited in
their own area."

In Fresno and its surrounding communities over 20 events are already
planned. Organizations such as the Fresno County Library, California
State University, Fresno and the Fresno Art Museum are scheduled to
hold Saroyan theme events in 2008.

The centennial committee is working with the Fresno County Office of
Education, to help get Saroyan’s writings in the classroom.

"We want to inform people of his contributions to Fresno and the
Central Valley," Balakian said. "We want his works to be read."

From short stories and novels to abstract paintings and
theater – Saroyan had his hand in everything. "He was known as a writer,
but he was a supporter and enthusiast of all forms of art," Balakian

Saroyan’s variety of work and interests will be noted throughout the
different events. The Tulare County Historical Museum will display
paintings by Saroyan January 3 through February 24.

The Fresno Art Museum will feature a presentation by Carol Tikijian
titled "Why Abstract? Reflections on Saroyan." It will be on display
March 25 through May 18.

On a musical note, the Fresno Philharmonic has a Saroyan program
planned for its 2008 season. And Fresno’s Edna Garabedian and the
California Opera is planning a Saroyan theme opera program summer

A documentary about Saroyan’s life will run on Public Television and
a selection of readings will air on Valley Public Radio.

On April 25, The Fresno County Library will screen, Saroyan’s
Academy Award winning film, THE HUMAN COMEDY, and its star, Mickey
Rooney, will make a special appearance.

Balakian said getting all of these organizations to participate is
no easy task. "It does not happen overnight," he said.

More help is needed to make the Centennial Celebration a success.
"Anyone who wants to be a financial sponsor will get proper
recognition," Balakian said.

It is not too late for an organization to plan an event to celebrate
Saroyan’s 100th birthday. "If there is an organization, who would
like to participate anywhere in the country, we will publicize it,"
Balakian said.

California State University, Los Angeles is planning a stage
production of Saroyan’s CAVE DWELLERS. Balakian said he would love to
see other events scheduled in the Los Angeles area.

The William Saroyan Foundation of San Francisco is planning events
in Northern California. In September, Stanford University will
display an art exhibit and a concert will take place.

The Centennial Celebration is a direct result of a smaller Saroyan
festival, which took place in 2002. The Fresno based group, Friends of
Saroyan, organized a festival showcasing aspects of Saroyan’s work and

Balakian said it was after the success of that project, that the
group began thinking about what could be done to celebrate Saroyan’s
100th birthday.

While Saroyan’s work can be celebrated by all, he says for
Armenian’s there is a special connection. "He writes things that are
innate to us," he said. "It is a natural understanding."

Prior to Saroyan’s death in 1981, Saroyan returned to Fresno to live
the remaining years of his life. He was often seen riding his bike
throughout the city streets, Balakian said.

During the 1970s Balakian owned a retail-clothing store in Fresno.
He says Saroyan would frequent the store. During his visits, Balakian
and Saroyan would chat about current events.

Balakian says it is important for others to share their stories of
Saroyan because it helps his memory live on.

On January 12, in Fresno, a Saroyan Symposium will take place. A
panel of guests will discuss different aspects of Saroyan’s life.

In the coming months Balakian says the committee plans to announce
additional events. A complete list of all the happenings will appear
several times in the Fresno Bee.

January 10 will mark the official kick-off of the Centennial
Celebration. Each year the Fresno Chamber of Commerce holds a dinner
event. This year, a tribute to Saroyan is planned.

On the eve of Saroyan’s 100th birthday, the Centennial Committee
will host a birthday bash at Fresno’s Saroyan Theater. The dinner and
program, Balakian said, can’t be missed.


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21. Forum examines ancient practice of circumcision

* Husband and wife team preach against male mutilation

GLENDALE , Calif. — Expectant mothers and parents gathered last
Friday at the Artek Cultural Center in Glendale to hear a presentation
opposing the practice of male circumcision.

Appearing at this public forum were lecturer Astrik Vardanyan, who
is a medical anthropologist, her husband, Dr. Arthur Pogosyan, who is
a child psychiatrist, Dr. Vigen Zargarian, who is a pediatrician, and
Danielle Gladding, who is an activist who lobbies against the

Ms. Vardanyan, the mother of three boys, said she was confronted by
the issue of whether to circumcise or not circumcise her sons. This
dilemma prompted her to pursue a graduate degree in medical
anthropology at California State University, Northridge.

What resulted from her graduate research was a lengthy thesis that
explored all aspects of the issue, including the historical roots, as
well as the cultural codes and reclamations of circumcision.

Ms. Vardanyan said she wants to do all she can to inform the
Armenian community about this "most urgent issue." She hopes that
forums like this will take place and inform many other Armenian

* The forum

Discussion began with information that circumcisions are virtually
nonexistent in Armenia but are a routine practice in diasporan
community like the ones in the United States and the Middle East.

"This is not a medical issue but a social issue," said Ms. Vardanyan
to a crowd of about three-dozen attendees. She offered clinical data,
personal testimonies and the historic roots of circumcision via a
15-minute videotape and a lecture.

She went on to explain circumcisions are not an Armenian cultural
practice. She explained that Armenians made it a point to leave their
children "intact," to differentiate them from their Muslim neighbors.

One of the tools of forced assimilation, according to Ms. Vardanyan,
was Turkish government policy to systematically and coercively convert
Armenians to Islam. Ms. Vardanyan said that one of these methods was
circumcision and giving Turkish names to Armenian boys.

"I don’t know how Armenians who had grandparents who survived the
Armenian Genocide still practice circumcision, considering their
forbearers were forced into this," said Ms. Vardanyan.

From a global perspective, Ms. Vardanyan mentioned other ethnic
groups and human rights organizations that oppose circumcision such as
Jews Against Circumcision and No Circ, the organization represented by
Ms. Gladding.

Advocates who are against circumcision do not believe that there are
medical benefits to routine circumcisions. The American Academy of
Pediatrics and the American Medical Association support the same view.

Based on research, advocates against "male mutilation" say that the
clinical argument that circumcision promoted better health and hygiene
is a myth. In fact, some claim that the foreskin has benefits such as
antibacterial and antiviral protection and ten to twenty thousand
sensitive nerve endings.

"The foreskin is nature’s design and serves a function," said Ms.
Gladding. "It should not be seen as a defect." She also believes that
circumcision is wrong, because it is imposed on babies without them
having a choice.

"If you study this issue, and you believe that children are human
beings, who have human rights," said Ms. Gladding, "it’s important to
protect their rights."

* Trauma and shock

A circumcision board with straps was held up by Dr. Pogosyan to show
those attending what he called an "inhumane" procedure. "Circumcision
can cause emotional and physical trauma to infants," said the child

"The baby goes through a period of shock after the circumcision, and
you can see the baby close its eyes and fall silent and go to sleep,"
said Dr. Pogosyan. "This is not because the baby is tired, rather the
baby has just gone through a traumatic experience. It breaks my heart
every time I see this."

Rosie Baghdassarian, who works as a lactation consultant at Glendale
Memorial Hospital, attended the forum and told those participating
that she has seen a lot of circumcisions.

"I really feel that the Armenian community needs to be educated
about this issue," said Mrs. Baghdassarian, who is also expecting.
"There are so many myths that revolve around this issue, and these
myths needs to be broken. I have seen that babies don’t breastfeed
well after circumcision, and this ultimately breaks the
mother-and-baby bond."

* Supporting the ritual

Those who advocate circumcision say that benefits included the
prevention of problems associated with the inability to retract the
foreskin or constriction by the foreskin, reduction in inflammation of
the glans, reduced urinary tract infections by 12 times, decreased
sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), elimination of penile cancer in
middle-aged men, and a decrease in urological problems and infections
in older men.

Advocates for circumcision say the lack of circumcision is the
biggest risk factor for heterosexually-acquired AIDS virus infection
in men and is associated with higher incidence of cervical cancer in
the female partners of uncircumcised men.

"Circumcision doesn’t offer much of a medical benefit," says Dr.
Vicken Sepilian, who has performed more than 500 circumcisions. "My
feelings on it is that it is purely cosmetic. It does not offer much
of a medical benefit, however, it is easier to keep the penis clean
with the foreskin removed."

Dr. Sepilian, however, says, he would not go as far as equating
circumcisions to mutilations. "I counseled my patients at the time as
that the procedure was purely cosmetic. Most Caucasian and black
patients had it done anyway; most Hispanics opted out."

One of those attending the forum last weekend was Rosie Miller, an
Armenian-American and the mother of three. "The Armenian community
needs to focus more on subjects that are considered taboo," said Mrs.
Miller, who believes that circumcision is a personal choice. She said
she is happy that these issues are being discussed.

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