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October 27, 2007 — From the community section
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1. COAF gala raises $3.5 million for development projects in Armenia
(by Florence Avakian)
* Daniel and Henry Sahakian, and Sherry Lansing honored
2. Catholicos Karekin lends a hand to provide a home for a Hurricane
Katrina victim (by Antranig Dereyan)
3. U.S. advocated evolution over revolution in Armenia, former envoy
recalls (by Florence Avakian)
* John Evans speaks at Columbia
4. In Texas, Catholicos Karekin sees a different face of the
Armenian-American community (by Antranig Dereyan)
5. "I’m running to make a difference"
* An interview with Joe Ariyan, candidate for the N.J. State Senate
(by Chris Zakian)
6. Homenetmen holds its last big athletic tournament for 2007 (by
* 30th Winter Games host 683 athletes
7. Kohar kicks off U.S. concert tour in Southern California (by Niyiri
8. Lincy Foundation donates $50,000 to the Armenian Community School
of Fresno (by Nyrie Karkazian)
9. Los Angeles City Council supports H.Res. 106
10. St. Gregory Armenian Church holds fundraiser with a casino theme
(by Sarah Soghomonian)
11. Amy Shuklian runs for Visalia City Council (by Nyrie Karkazian)
12. Armenia Fest highlights Armenian culture and history (by Lorig Topalian)
* Dallas/Fort Worth Texahyes introduce Texans to all things Armenian
13. Crime Beat: Money for college was apparently the motive for a
credit-card fraud operation, police say (by Jason Kandel)
14. Nor Or newspaper marks its 85th anniversary (by Adrineh Gregorian)
* A celebration of the Armenian press
15. It’s all in the family at the Anoush banquet halls (by Alejandro Guzmán)
* Two brothers work to keep their father’s business, dream alive
15a. Just how many banquet halls are there in Southern California?
1. COAF gala raises $3.5 million for development projects in Armenia
* Daniel and Henry Sahakian, and Sherry Lansing honored
by Florence Avakian
NEW YORK — A charming Armenian child with dark, soulful eyes looked
down from a large screen on a resplendent crowd on Friday evening,
October 19. The much-anticipated event was the 2007 Children of
Armenia Fund (COAF) "Save a Generation Awards Dinner," held at the
world famous 42nd Street Cipriani’s banquet hall in New York.
The evening raised $3.5 million for COAF’s "Model Village" and
"Model Cluster" programs in rural Armenia, the creative and
far-reaching vision of its founder and CEO Dr. Garo Armen, who himself
pledged to personally match all contributions up to a million dollars.
(The $3.5 million figure incorporates Dr. Armen’s pledge.)
Honored for their extraordinary commitment to this revitalization
program were Daniel D. and Henry D. Sahakian and their families. The
Sahakians are president and chairman of the board, respectively, of
the HFL Corporation.
Also honored was Sherry Lansing, Oscar-winner movie industry
executive and philanthropist.
Participating in the special evening were Ken Davitian, co-star of
the Oscar-nominated film, Borat; Charlie Rose, executive editor and
anchor of the nightly PBS-TV Charlie Rose Show; and Leslie Stahl,
correspondent for CBS’s 60 Minutes and The CBS Evening News.
Among the more than 350 attendees were dignitaries Archbishop
Oshagan Choloyan, Prelate of the Eastern Prelacy; Armenia’s Ambassador
to the United Nations Armen Martirosian; Ambassador John Evans;
Carnegie Corporation President Dr. Vartan Gregorian; Holy Martyrs
Church pastor, Fr. Vahan Hovhanessian; and dean of St. Vartan
Cathedral Fr. Mardiros Chevian, representing Eastern Diocesan
Archbishop Khajag Barsamian.
Following a festive cocktail reception, guests were treated to a
fillet mignon dinner at flower-bedecked tables under the soaring
painted ceiling of the famed Cipriani banquet hall. Well known actress
Andrea Martin, last year’s mistress of ceremonies, welcomed the
assemblage via video, and introduced this year’s emcee, the inimitable
Ken Davitian, dressed in a formal suit — a departure from the
habiliment of his memorable Borat role.
"We’re saving a generation that will eventually save a race,"
Davitian said to deafening applause. "It’s amazing that Garo Armen saw
the problem and came up with the solution. Give the people a fishing
rod, and teach them how to fish, to be self-reliant."
Arpie Balian, Director of COAF in Armenia, reported that 16,000
lives have been changed in Armenia as a result of the organization’s
efforts. "The model starts with people, and they decide how to
change," she said, reiterating the theme of self-reliance. She listed
the most recent advances of COAF, including the creation of roads,
water and irrigation systems, a medical clinic, three schools, a
cultural center, a public park and sports complex, improved
educational curricula and retrained teachers, a journalism program,
jobs created, and health and nutrition centers.
Ovsanna Yeghoyan, COAF’s Operations Head in Armenia, relayed her
moving work experiences with the villagers. Revealing that she was on
her first trip to the U.S., she confessed that she was "worried about
the children waiting for me." Citing just one example, she related the
story of a young boy whose father had returned from Russia where he
was working to support the family. "Their family is together now and
benefiting from this wonderful program. Thank you from all the
children in Armenia," she said to loud cheering.
* Building nests in Armenia
Dr. Vartan Gregorian, introducing his "compatriots from Iran" Daniel
D. Sahakian and Henry D. Sahakian — who were presented with the 2007
"Save a Generation Benefactor Award" — eloquently used the metaphor
of a swallow rebuilding the nest. "The Sahakians have been building
nests again and again. Even though we lost our country through
Genocide, Armenia lives again, and like the swallow builds new nests."
In a gentle reprimand, he declared that Armenians have built homes,
churches, in other countries, but have done decidedly less in Armenia,
which needs jobs and educated people to rebuild. "Without a fishing
rod, one can’t fish or eat," he stated, emphasizing the recurrent
theme. "Give fishing rods to Armenia. The diaspora and Armenia are
like a body with two lungs. They need each other," he said. He
implored the attendees to "build nests in Armenia."
Holding the beautiful crystal award presented to them by Dr. Armen,
the Sahakian brothers expressed their heartfelt appreciation, and
noted that after many trips to Armenia where "we were searching for a
concrete way to support the fatherland," they decided that COAF "would
best serve our goal. It gave us a chance to realize our vision in
"COAF with Garo Armen works in the most efficient way, improving the
quality of life for the people. Even though we have helped in other
countries, our goal is to continue to help the people in Armenia, and
especially the children who are the future of the country," they said
to a standing ovation.
An encyclical from Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II had been
received by COAF, as well as letters from Archbishop Barsamian,
Archbishop Choloyan, Armenia’s Ambassador to the U.S. Tatul Markarian,
and its UN Ambassador Armen Martirosian.
* Teaching people to empower themselves
Leslie Stahl, in her introduction of Sherry Lansing — recipient of
the 2007 "Save a Generation Humanitarian Award," — pointed out that
the honoree was formerly President of 20th Century Fox, as well chair
of Paramount Pictures. "But now as CEO and founder of the Sherry
Lansing Foundation, she has a second career, philanthropy, which
includes cancer and stem cell research, education — and Armenian
Ms. Lansing revealed that since meeting Garo Armen 10 months ago,
she was "struck by his intensity and dedication to helping children,
to helping a country. His enthusiasm is infectious," she gushed. "He’s
not only raising money, but he’s teaching people to empower
themselves, and become independent. You’ve given me a model for
Armenia: people helping themselves."
"This is an undeniably important cause. To know about COAF is to
understand how important this work is," said television personality
Charlie Rose, as he presented the crystal award to his longtime friend
"I am incredibly humbled by this honor," stated Ms. Lansing. "People
who deserve this are those who go to the villages and do the work.
They are the real heroes."
Samantha Feinberg, an amazing youngster whose parents, Cynthia and
Larry Feinberg, have donated very generously to COAF, was introduced
by a beaming Dr. Armen. He revealed that she had asked her family and
friends to give cash to the children of Armenia, instead of gifts for
her 11th birthday. "I love COAF," she declared, handing a check for
the $1,400 she had collected to Dr. Armen. "I love the Armenian
children. They are like brothers and sisters to me," she said to
* Serving, and saving, Armenia’s villages
The man of the evening, Dr. Garo Armen, in his inspired remarks, noted
that though COAF is only four years old, "we have achieved much. From
the success of our first "Model Village" project in Karakert,
impacting the lives of 5,000 villagers — 1,200 of them children —
COAF has expanded to serve five more of Armenia’s 900 villages. This
was done in less than three short years, and with a modest budget of
$4 million leveraged with our partners."
"It’s about doing something so things are less unfair," Dr. Armen
continued. Formerly, he said, "the situation in rural Armenia was a
disaster. It lost its state subsidies following the collapse of the
Soviet Union. Then after the collapse, everything stopped. This led to
a dilapidated infrastructure for two people million people living in
villages. We’re trying to fundamentally rebuild this infrastructure.
And provide them with the tools to help them build their own lives and
their own future. Your contributions have been critical," he stated,
thanking the many contributors.
A live auction of beautiful, donated gifts was conducted by Taline Aynilian.
Dr. Armen’s personal pledge to match the evening’s contributions up
to a million dollars brought on a lengthy standing ovation.
During the evening, several individuals delighted attendees with
their special talents. Nora Armani, an internationally acclaimed
actress who had traveled to Lernagog village during its darker days,
movingly reflected on her experiences with the children. Lorenzo
Laroc, a gifted violinist, and Susan Winter, a well known jazz
vocalist, displayed their special talents. And the hip-hop duo "2Badd"
— Shemar Charles (age 9) and Lamar Johnson (11) from Toronto —
brought down the house with their remarkable break-dancing.
Voicing the feelings of many, Ambassador John Evans called COAF —
on whose Board of Directors his wife serves — "a special
organization, working very effectively to help Armenians, not only
children. When you help the villages, you are helping all Armenians,"
COAF’s Board of Directors includes Dr. Garo Armen (chair), Antranig
Sarkissian (president), Herb Alpert, Khalil Barrage, Greg Ekizian,
Donna Evans, Clare Gregorian, George Pagoumian, Alice Saraydarian, and
Dr. Vartan Gregorian and Craig Winter (advisors).
2. Catholicos Karekin lends a hand to provide a home for a Hurricane
by Antranig Dereyan
NEW ORLEANS, La. — Flying into the city of New Orleans in 2007, one
has expectations about what you’ll see. Sadness? Disruption? The
traces of disaster? Certainly those are some of the things
post-Katrina Louisiana brings to a visitor’s mind.
But on this day in October, a sense of welcome and overwhelming joy
were what greeted the occupants of the Pontifical visit plane, as they
disembarked in the company of His Holiness Karekin II, the Supreme
Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians.
"Vehapar’s visit to us has brought us together as a community. He
has brought unity to us," said Tamar Meguerditchian, who has been
working to publicize Catholicos Karekin’s visit to the state’s
Armenian community centered on the capital city of Baton Rouge.
The Armenians there had suffered their share of misfortunes, it’s
true, Meguerditchian said. But for the time being, with flags waving
and kids in Pontifical visit tee shirts lined up to greet Vehapar,
those thoughts were banished.
Louisiana’s Armenian community is small a small one, with fewer than
100 members. The local church, St. Garabed, does have a visiting
priest in the person of Fr. Nerses Jebejian, who travels once a month
>From Florida. But what the parish lacks in numbers it makes up for in
heart and dedication and faith — which was certainly on display for
"It was an honor to bring Vehapar to Louisiana. No matter the amount
of money it took, we would do it again," Meguerditchian said, voicing
a concern common to many smaller parishes. "It would have been a
tremendous disappointment if Vehapar did not come to visit us on this
tour," she added.
* Raising houses, and profiles
According to the locals, the story of the Armenians in this region is
one of faith, passion, and some creative commitment. The church in
Baton Rouge sits between a catholic gift shop and a furniture store on
Florida Boulevard — a major traffic thoroughfare in the city. The
site used to be home to an antique shop, and was converted into a
church by the Armenians who had come together and bought the property.
There’s not a lot of space inside; but for the community it signals a
step in the right direction.
"Few people in New Orleans or Louisiana know what an Armenian is. I
feel that Vehapar coming here will elevate the general interest in
Armenia and Armenians. With the recent happenings with the Genocide
resolution, more media will be aware of us in this area," said
A significant aspect of Karekin II’s visit to the state involved
working on a Habitat for Humanity project in New Orleans’ needy Ward
9. The job at hand was to help finish a house that would provide a new
roof over a Hurricane Katrina victim. As Vehapar made his way to the
house, he rolled up his sleeves, took a paintbrush in hand, and
started applying the primer coat to the clapboards.
The recipient of the house, Calvin Johnson, Jr., is a musician born
and raised in New Orleans, who lost his house and most everything else
when Katrina hit.
"Having the pope of the Armenian Church here helping me rebuild my
life is an extreme honor. He was very warm and friendly to me. He
speaks English well; and his painting skills are not so bad either,"
said Mr. Johnson, with a smile.
Diocesan Primate Archbishop Khajag Barsamian also lent a hand with
the painting, and helped to lift the spirits of the other Habitat for
Humanity workers. By the end of the work session, his light purple
robe was speckled with the pale green paint that was being used on the
Especially pleased with the occasion was Jim Pate, executive
director for New Orleans Habitat for Humanity. "Having the head of the
Armenian Church and his entourage here with us is a big boost, not
only to the workers and Calvin, but to the other partner families and
staff," he said. "We are trying to bring hope back to the families and
the community. But sometimes the hardest thing to get is hope, and
having the pope come in — it’s an incredible emotional and spiritual
uplift for all involved."
* "It means so much to the people here"
The partnership between Habitat and Catholicos Karekin goes back for
some five years, when Habitat for Humanity in Armenia was established.
Every year, with the help of the partnership between Vehapar and
Habitat, 37 new homes are built in Armenia as part of the "His
Holiness Karekin II Building Project."
"It means a lot for Vehapar to be here with us, because he is able
to inspire the Armenians here in America," said Ken Bensen, the
international faith coordinator for Habitat for Humanity. "We have
very similar situations in Armenia and here in New Orleans, and
Vehapar has come to bless the people in New Orleans and pray for them.
It means so much to the people here."
Two years after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans is still rebuilding,
and work is far from being done. But the people of the state are
trying to move forward, and the Catholicos of All Armenians was able
to witness these early stages of their transformation first hand.
It’s a reality — and a spirit — he’s become accustomed to in
Armenia, as well.
"It is a wonderful thing for him to dedicate his time to help — not
just send a letter, but give time and commitment," said local
clergyman Rev. Raafat L. Zaki. "Sometimes as Christians we preach more
and do less; but for His Holiness to come, help, pray, and visit the
building site and the family, it shows leadership. For His Holiness,
with his stature, to give this kind of effort is very inspiring, and
it will hopefully help show other communities and other leaders how
important it is for leaders to put not only their names, but their
efforts into projects like this."
3. U.S. advocated evolution over revolution in Armenia, former envoy recalls
* John Evans speaks at Columbia
by Florence Avakian
NEW YORK — Back in 2005, some people in Armenia thought the United
States was sympathetic to the idea of an "apricot revolution" in
Armenia. This was one of the recollections offered by former U.S.
ambassador to Armenia John Evans during a lecture at Columbia
University’s School of International and Public Affairs, on Monday
afternoon, October 22. The event was sponsored by the Armenian Center
at Columbia University and the Harriman Institute.
In an assessment of the political, economic, and security situation
in Armenia during his term as U.S. ambassador — which was cut short
by the State Department after he used the word "genocide" to describe
the Armenian massacres of 1915 — Mr. Evans recalled that the election
of 2003 "had not gone well. There were demonstrations in the streets a
year later, in April, 2004, and the opposition was badly divided. Some
opposition politicians were openly calling for revolution."
In May 2005, the U.S. State Department and Agency for International
Development received a report about U.S. assistance to political
parties in Armenia. The report had been prepared by consultants
representing Associates in Rural Development. These consultants had
concluded that U.S. assistance to political parties was not having the
desired effect, and suggested that the effort should not be continued.
The political parties were not doing a good job of articulating the
interests of the voters and did not have clear platforms; they were
excessively dominated by individual personalities.
This was taking place against the background of the Rose Revolution
in Georgia, and the Orange Revolution in the Ukraine, as well as the
"Tulip Revolution" — or disturbance — in Kyrgyzstan. A speech by
President Bush in Tbilisi, Georgia, in May 2005, Mr. Evans recalled,
was seized upon by some advocates of street revolution as a sign that
the U.S. government would not be averse to seeing a similar
development in Armenia.
"The United States was not thinking about provoking massive street
protests leading to regime change in Armenia," Mr. Evans said. But
some observers might easily have drawn such a conclusion, and it could
have appeared that the United States was ready to "give up on
democracy" in Armenia, he averred.
* Evolution over revolution
According to Mr. Evans, in Armenia there definitely would have been
"chaos in the streets, tremendous bloodshed," had a similar movement
gone forward in a country "where there were already colossal problems.
Every person was necessary for the survival of the country," he said,
adding that the necessary ingredient for the mass movements in Georgia
and Ukraine had been the neutrality of the security apparatus, which
could not have been taken for granted in Armenia.
"That’s why we needed to make it clear that we did not
advocaterevolution in Armenia."
Instead, Mr. Evans gave a talk at the American University of Armenia
in June 2005, titled "The Continuing Effect of the American
Revolution," which, despite its title — borrowed from Arnold Toynbee,
the British historian — advocated speedy evolution, not revolution.
Embassy experts and USAID worked over the summer to design a revised
program of urgent assistance to Armenia’s fledgling democratic
institutions and to increase the possibility of free and fair
elections in the next electoral cycle. The program was briefed to
President Kocharian in September, 2005 and presented to the public in
"This was done so as not to send a negative message about our faith
in Armenia’s capacity to develop along democratic lines, but rather a
positive one," Mr. Evans said. "We wanted evolution at breakneck
speed, with six or seven million dollars committed to edging this
along. This was the right choice for Armenia." The program is
continuing to this day Armenia is approximately at the midpoint
between its parliamentary and presidential elections. The May
elections in Armenia were a "significant advance," Mr. Evans said.
"We hope the presidential elections will be even better. Our purpose
in supporting Armenia in strengthening its democracy is that we
believe a more legitimate government will mean a stronger state," Mr.
The former ambassador did point out that there is still "a lot of
corruption in Armenia, as well as in all the states of the former
Soviet Union. However, Armenia still rates somewhat higher than its
* A new ambassador in Armenia?
Mr. Evans predicted that "in the next few weeks," there is likely to
be a new nominee for U.S. ambassador to Armenia. He called the new
U.S. Embassy in Yerevan a "middle-sized" embassy. The largest one is
the one currently being built in Baghdad.
Concerning the energy issue that is related to the stability and
security of Armenia, he commented that the Medzamor nuclear plant
should have been closed in 2004; the decommissioning is not scheduled
to take place until 2016, he said. Noting that Armenia has no oil or
gas, he declared that a solid nuclear basis is necessary for its
electrical needs. For Armenia to lose its electrical power–generating
capacity would be a "disaster," he said.
Due to Armenia’s poor natural resources, the country needs to rely
economically on regional markets, with exports going to Turkey,
Azerbaijan, and Iran, and continuing with Georgia. Solving the
Karabakh problem and establishing relations with Turkey is "vital to
Armenia for energy reasons," the former ambassador said. "All these
things are interconnected. Pragmatic thinking and diplomacy are
needed. It’s not good for Armenia to be isolated."
Mr. Evans also commented that there is "no intrinsic conflict
between Russia and the U.S. concerning Armenia." But he called
Armenia’s relations with Iran "troubling."
On the Genocide question, which he called "very complicated," Mr.
Evans disclosed that the book he is currently writing is "not intended
to dictate a solution," but rather to provide an account of his own
intellectual journey on the issue and to offer some suggestions as to
what might be done to address the problem. In publicly expressing his
personal belief "that what happened [in 1915] was genocide, even
though it is not the policy of the U.S. government [to assert this],"
he said he knew beforehand that he would probably be removed from his
Mr. Evans said he made his now famous remark because "there was no
progress in getting the issue on the table. It was permanently off the
agenda, and needed a big kick. And I felt that no one above me or
below me in the State Department could do anything about it. As
ambassadors, we are bound to enunciate U.S. policy. I felt I had been
somehow selected to do what I did, and would pay for it, or else there
would be another 500 years with no movement."
The former ambassador stated that delays in the passage of the
Genocide resolution in Congress are "the result of the world’s failure
to deal with this." If adopted by Congress, the U.S. would be the 24th
country to recognize the Armenian Genocide. He concluded his talk by
predicting that the "future of Turkey and Armenia will be brighter"
than it appears today.
On behalf of the Armenian Center’s Board of Directors, member Mark
Momjian presented Mr. Evans with the Near East Relief medal, and a
gave special gift to Mrs. Donna Evans.
4. In Texas, Catholicos Karekin sees a different face of the
by Antranig Dereyan
DALLAS AND HOUSTON, Tex. — As Catholicos Karekin rolled into the Lone
Star State for visits to the Armenian community centers of Dallas and
Houston, one thought dominated all others.
Things really are bigger in Texas.
The hotels alone made the point. In Dallas the hotel contained a
three-story mall and a man-made waterfall outside. In Houston the
hotel had a built-in lake complete with fish the size of a man’s hand.
The events planned by the local Armenians were, if not exactly
bigger, then definitely different from what had come before. For
instance, the youth gatherings that had become part of the routine of
the Pontifical tour had a new focus, quite distinct from the other
In Dallas, Vehapar’s first stop on the Texas leg of the tour, young
people ages 5 to 20 engaged in an "open forum" discussion with the
Catholicos. In a wide-ranging question and answer session, questions
about the Armenian language dominated the topics. The youth showed
concern not only about the use of classical Armenian in church, but
also about the survival of the native language among the Armenian
communities of the United States.
"How many people here know Armenian?" asked Vehapar to the youth
sitting before him — a question he would regularly pose in similar
gatherings. But unlike most of those gatherings, in Dallas nearly
every hand was raised. Vehapar was suitably impressed.
The youth were active in their questioning, and listened attentively
when the Catholicos answered. Unusually, the whole discussion
proceeded in the mother tongue of Armenians. Catholicos Karekin’s
regular translator, Fr. Ktrij Devejian, took the day off.
"It is good to see the youth keeping the language," said Karekin II
at one point, and he was hardly the only one to think so.
"Vehapar coming here to Dallas, showing interest in our youth, makes
us want to learn more Armenian," said Rachel Andoian, a youth member
of Dallas’s St. Sarkis Church. "He is the catalyst for our devotion —
both to the language and to our faith."
The youth gathering in Houston included a talent show featuring two
very talented locals, a violinist and a singer. Later came a young
adult forum where the main topic was again the Armenian language.
Karoun Charkoudian a 28-year-old Armenian-American who doesn’t know
much Armenian — not enough to understand the badarak every Sunday, at
least — asked the usual question directly: "Why isn’t English used
during the badarak?"
Catholicos Karekin took a moment to think about what he wanted to
say. When he spoke, it was in English: "Armenian is our culture; it
makes us Armenians. If one practices one hour a day for one month,
that person will know the Armenian language better than I do."
He added, "If we lose our language, what do we as Armenians have left?"
The youth comprising high school and college students went back and
forth with Vehapar on this issue. When it was over, Charkoudian said:
"Ideally, if we as youth had the time to study Armenian one hour a day
for a month, we all would; but we all can’t. I feel that if the church
starts doing the badarak in English and attracts the people in the
community who do not understand Armenian back to the Armenian Church,
they can then start teaching Armenian to the youth and the youth would
grow up with the language, and the language won’t die."
Certainly, this is one line of questioning that won’t die.
But the larger feeling of solidarity with the Catholicos and the
church prevailed over all disagreements. "Vehapar is very traditional.
I respect him and admire him," Ms. Charkoudian made sure to add as we
* Close calls
Problems are also bigger in Texas.
"Look at all this traffic," said Haik Kocharian, the video operator
traveling with the entourage, at one point. The remark was occasioned
by the fact that, during the stay in Houston, the entourage had no
police escort. Traveling between stops was done "civilian style,"
which meant sitting in traffic.
It also meant exposing the vehicles to the risks of the road. At one
point the car containing the Catholicos narrowly avoided a collision
with a reckless driver in a red pickup truck (in Texas, what else?).
At another point, a few members of the entourage had to endure a
But those problems were soon forgotten in the face of another Texas
staple: the big barbecue. Both cities served up their renditions of
the classic Tex-Mex fare, augmented with Armenian cuisine, and
decorated all around with Armenian flag colors. Dallas offered up a
huge cake with Catholicos Karekin’s picture somehow appearing in the
icing. In Houston the group sampled "traditional foods" from two very
different traditions, now merged in the "Texa-hye" community.
In Houston, members of the city’s St. Kevork Church put on a short
musical performance for Catholicos Karekin’s benefit, this time with
youth and older parishioners joining together, and parish pastor Fr.
Zenob Nalbandian playing the piano.
The formal program took a more serious turn when Edward Djerejian,
the former U.S. Ambassador to Israel and Syria, and the current
director of the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice
University, spoke. Amb. Djerejian spoke with some solemnity of the
dangers facing Armenia as a nation today.
He spoke about the problems revolving around emigration out of
Armenia. He also said that "Turkey and Armenia need to come to a
resolution about the Genocide conflict; it would be a win-win
situation for both countries."
"Armenia also still needs help from us, the American-Armenians,"
Djerejian said. "Armenia is getting better thanks to the help of
Vehapar, but there is still work to be done, for Armenia, both
politically and culturally."
The points were well taken, but perhaps overshadowed by the
generally festive mood, and the genuine delight shown by the Texas
community to be in the presence of the Catholicos.
And the feeling was clearly reciprocated by Vehapar. That fact was
epitomized in the unforgettable image of the Catholicos of All
Armenians donning the ten-gallon cowboy hat that had been given to him
as a keepsake by the St. Kevork Church parish council.
* * *
Daily video and broadcast news clips of Catholicos Karekin’s travels
this month can be found online on the Eastern Diocese’s official
Pontifical visit website: Click on the
"Videos" tab on the homepage menu for access.
The site provides a wealth of information about His Holiness Karekin
II, the Armenian Church, and the diaspora, as well as daily updates of
photographs and videos, to allow people throughout the U.S. and the
world to stay abreast of events and activities on the Pontifical tour.
5. "I’m running to make a difference"
* An interview with Joe Ariyan, candidate for the N.J. State Senate
by Chris Zakian
PARAMUS, N.J. — Since announcing his candidacy early this year,
Armenian-American attorney Joseph Ariyan has been running a vigorous
campaign to become the new State Senator of New Jersey’s 39th
District. The 41-year-old Ariyan — who has been active in Bergen
County government, most recently as the county’s Public Advocate for
Land Use — handily won the district’s Democratic nomination at its
convention last March, and is now running to unseat eight-term
Republican incumbent Gerald Cardinale in the November 6 general
election. In the process, Ariyan has garnered the support of leading
figures in the state Democratic party — including such national
figures as Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr., Sen. Robert Menendez, and Gov. Jon
Corzine, who headlined an "Ariyan for Senate" fundraiser on October
20. Ariyan’s door-to-door campaign has also brought him solid popular
support, and his campaign’s fundraising success has been noted on the
statewide and national levels. Ariyan is a partner in a New Jersey law
firm, and lives in Saddle River with his wife Susan and their young
The following interview with Mr. Ariyan was conducted at the New
Jersey offices of the Armenian Reporter on Tuesday, October 16.
Armenian Reporter: Why are you running for the New Jersey State
Senate, and what qualities would you bring to that role?
Joe Ariyan: I’m running to make a difference. Because we need a
representative in the 39th district who is responsive to the peoples
needs, who’s going to be responsible with our tax dollars, and who
actually cares. And the most important thing that our representative
should have is integrity, which should carry over to fiscal and social
responsibility. Right now we are lacking that in not only our 39th
district, but in a lot of New Jersey.
I plan on being part of a new wave of legislators, in particular a
large portion of the State Senate, which will be new in 2008.
AR: Your opponent, incumbent Senator Gerald Cardinale, has a very
long record in the State Senate. On the other hand, the state
Democratic Party clearly has a lot of confidence in your abilities and
in your prospects for election — you’re getting support from the
major figures in the state party. What would be the biggest difference
between a Senator Joe Ariyan and a Senator Cardinale?
Ariyan: He has a long history; I’m not sure about a long record.
He’s been fairly ineffective for quite a long time. He went in in
1979, originally to Trenton, and moved up to the Senate in 1982.
To answer your question, the greatest distinction between the two of
us is that I reflect and represent the district as it is today. He
more accurately reflected the district from the 1980s.
AR: Do you believe in term limits for elected offices?
Ariyan: Yes. Eight terms in 27 years is plenty.
* Property taxes, education, health care
AR: Let me ask you about your campaign. What major themes are you
touching on in your campaign? I know at various points I’ve heard you
mention environmental issues, and also stem cell research. Why are
those important to you? Are they major themes, or just things you are
Ariyan: It’s major in the sense that a lot people care about it in
New Jersey. I think we have a moral obligation to expand research and
development to help people who are sick. We’re on the cutting edge of
finding cures for a lot of horrific diseases, and I think we need to
invest in that opportunity.
The largest theme though of the campaign — and the campaign is
reflective of what people tell me: I’ve been going door to door for
six months plus talking to people since last December — is all about
property taxes. It’s about education. It’s about health care. Its
about seniors that I’ve spoken to who have to buy their medicine over
the Internet or through some random 800 telephone number, to buy from
Canada because they can’t afford it here in the United States, even
It’s about people going bankrupt because of a medical catastrophe:
50 percent of people that go bankrupt in the United States do so
because of a medical issue, and almost half of those have health
insurance. Health insurance is largely ineffective, and yet its very
expensive, so what we need to do is have a coordinated effort between
private industry, including the insurance companies, government and
the people, to make sure people are afforded the coverage they need
with quality, accessibility, and affordability.
They all have to work together. It can’t just be insurance companies
dictating to the people anymore, because it’s costing the people money
AR: A theme of the upcoming presidential campaign will likely be
health care, and one of the proposals involves a government-run
national health insurance program. Would you be in favor of that?
Ariyan: No. I’m not sold on national or universal health care. What
I am sold on is a program like S-CHIP [the State Children’s Health
Insurance Program] — which President Bush is now cutting back on —
because that is not a hand out. That is a helping hand to help lift
people up. The program that the President is now cutting is providing
insurance; it’s a subsidy for private insurance for families that are
working yet can’t afford health insurance. So it helps them afford
private health insurance. It’s Americans helping Americans. Why we are
making it more difficult for middle class Americans to take care of
their families, to me is terrible.
* No excuses for high taxes or corruption
AR: You mentioned tax relief. It’s a big issue in New Jersey, whose
resident are supposed pay the highest rate of property taxes in the
country. Is that right?
Ariyan: We do, yes.
AR: And that high tax rate is credited with the flight of residents
>From the state. That is one classic New Jersey issue. The second is
government corruption; recently a police operation arrested a number
of officials across the state. What are your thoughts and responses to
Ariyan: Well the first issue is true. People are leaving the state
because of high property taxes, and it unacceptable. We have to fix
our Number One issue in the state, which is the property tax issue. We
have revenue from the Atlantic City casinos, we have the Garden State
Parkway, we have the New Jersey Turnpike. Three huge items that help
generate income, in addition to the New Jersey State Lottery which
helps fund education programs and higher education.
There is no excuse for us having the highest property taxes in the
country. That is why I support Governor Corzine’s implementation of
the Controller position, whose job it will be to handle the financial
business of the state as an overseer, as a watchdog in a sense; to
make sure the money is being appropriately and wisely spent without
waste. And if there is fraud or corruption, which leads into your next
question, lets find out where it is.
To jump to your next question: fraud and corruption are personal
issues within each person, within each individual. It’s not
attributable to one particular political party. There are good
Democrats and there are some good Republicans that are fine
representatives for their districts. If anyone betrays the public
trust they should go to jail. There is no two ways about it: they
should be fired, or resign, or voted out of office and prosecuted. And
if convicted they should go to jail.
AR: Do you feel that there has to be some attention, investigative
attention, on the current group of elected officials in the state,
given the New Jersey’s reputation.
Ariyan: Well the reputation is unfortunate. There should always be,
this is one of the themes in my campaign, "transparency and
oversight." It’s our money; if someone’s stealing it, whether it is a
legislator or corporation or whomever, we need to find out who it is
and stop it. But what’s happened recently with a couple of the
legislators, that was personal to them; there was one out of Newark I
believe, one out of Passaic. They were taking bribes, and that is
* Passionate about public service
AR: Let me ask about your prior career in politics. Obviously this
State Senate race is built on the foundation of your earlier
achievements in state and local politics. What do you consider the
greatest achievement in your political career to this point and what
has been the greatest difficulty you have encountered so far in
Ariyan: I don’t like you talking about my "history in politics." I
don’t have a history in politics; I have a history in public service.
I’m a strong and passionate public server. When I was in college, I
was a member of the local JC’s, a community service group. When I was
in law school I participated in what’s called VITA, an acronym that
for Volunteer Income Tax Assistants, where for free I did income tax
returns for people who could not afford accountants and senior
I served as public defender in the town of River Edge from 2000 to
2001. I served four years on the ethics committee as a lawyer,
investigating complaints against lawyers and prosecuting if necessary.
That was completely volunteer. I have been the public defender in
Hillsdale, also in the 39th district, as well as River Edge, since
2004. And since 2004 I have been Public Advocate for Land Use, where I
help fight over-development, traffic congestion, and help protect the
citizens of Bergen County.
AR: Was that appointed?
Ariyan: Public Advocate is appointed by the freeholder.
As public advocate I’m proud of helping stop the development of
Route 17 in Mahwah. An out of state corporation wanted to put a large
travel center in there, which would have diverted trucks, truck after
truck after truck, off of Route 287 or the New York Thruway down Route
17 into Mahwah, which would have led them down through Allendale,
Saddle River, Paramus, Ridgewood — and we helped stop that.
As public defender I help people who can’t afford a lawyer. They are
entitled to a defense, and when you see the look on someone’s face
after you’ve helped them to the best of you ability, and they
appreciate you because they know you actually care — there is great
satisfaction in that.
AR: What would be the greatest difficulty you’re encountering?
Ariyan: Well, now that I am involved in a political campaign there
are personal attacks, and that’s a bit difficult — especially because
it’s largely untrue.
* The Armenian factor
AR: Is there something in your family or personal or ethnic background
that has led you into politics, or has made politics a path for you?
Ariyan: I would say there’s an ethic of public service — like many
Armenians in America. We came to America with nothing — our parents,
our grandparents, our great-grandparents — and I was raised to
believe that it’s the greatest country in the world. You have an
obligation to your community and your country. I believe in that. That
is why I can’t sit without contributing, and this is public service.
It’s a contribution to help make Bergen County better, to help make
New Jersey better, and to contribute to society.
AR: If you had to advise other Armenians about public service and
political involvement, what would you say? What do think is the most
effective way for Armenians to serve, and the most effective level at
which they should participate?
Ariyan: There isn’t one most effective level. The volunteers that
help on the campaign, the local moms or PTA groups that help bake
things for picnics, are equally as important as big fundraisers or big
donors. It’s a combined effort, so the level of involvement is
particular to the person. Everyone does what they can do, and that’s
great and everything is appreciated.
But when I speak to young people at April 24th commemoration events,
or at the AYF Olympics on Labor Day Weekend, I tell them to get
involved because influence and representation, as far as being
recognized in America, comes with involvement — and that’s the bottom
line. Whether it’s at the board of education level, on the town
council, or contributing your time to the Lions Clubs, Kiwanis Clubs,
or churches, be involved in your community. Not only the
Armenian-American community, but the American community, because
that’s where representation and recognition starts.
AR: Has your Armenian background been a help during the campaign,
and how so? Is there something in it that non-Armenians respond to,
Ariyan: I can certainly tell you that Armenians as a community in
New Jersey are now once again being recognized as a force. Chuck
Haitayan [former State Assembly Speaker and U.S. Senate candidate]
hasn’t been active in politics in more than 10 years, and now it’s
come up again and I think that’s good. It’s a good thing.
AR: Do you find Armenians crossing over party lines to support you
and the campaign?
Ariyan: Some. I think with any candidate, and I believe more so with
myself, I have friends of all political persuasions, I have friends in
different towns, and everyone has come out. And what I find inspiring
is that I know Republicans have come out and I know there are
Democrats who are to the left of me politically that have come out. I
am truly a centrist — I believe I bring a pragmatism and diligence to
the issues, and people see that and they respect it. I’m not
AR: The Armenian Genocide resolution has been a big national story
the past weeks. Does it surprise you that people are talking about it
on the news and in newspapers?
Ariyan: No, it doesn’t surprise me, because it’s the result of a lot
of hard work from all the Armenian grassroots and lobby organizations.
It’s been the culmination of a lot of hard work on the part of all
these organizations. And it’s not done yet, it’s not done.
So is it surprising? No. Armenians are hardworking and diligent
people; and we have a goal, and that is to be recognized; and I have
no doubt that we are going to get there.
AR: Do you see a role for yourself as State Senator in advancing the
cause of Genocide recognition, or other Armenian issues.
Ariyan: Absolutely. I look forward to helping.
AR: I’m not aware whether New Jersey has affirmed or recognized the Genocide.
Ariyan: Well, what’s interesting is that my opponent went to Trenton
in 1979, and only in June of 2007 did he submit a resolution calling
for April 24 to be recognized as a commemorative day for Armenians.
AR: Do you believe that’s a good thing?
Ariyan: I would agree with you if it weren’t so blatantly political.
Then it just becomes an insult to think that we can’t see through it.
AR: Finally: When is Election Day? And is there anything else you’d
like to add?
Ariyan: The Election Day is Tuesday, November 6. I urge anyone who
is reading this that knows someone in the 39th district of New Jersey,
Bergen County, to please tell them to come out and vote. It’s
important; it’s an important election.
Anyone who is willing to contribute to the campaign financially —
whether it’s $25 or $100, whatever they can do — the address is:
"Ariyan for Senate," 20 Court Street, 4th Floor, Hackensack, N.J.
AR: Thank you.
6. Homenetmen holds its last big athletic tournament for 2007
* 30th Winter Games host 683 athletes
by Shahen Hagobian
PASADENA, Calif. — In the third week of the 30th Homenetmen Winter
Games, there is much excitement and a lot of sweat in the air.
Hundreds of athletes from Southern California and the lower parts of
Nevada have come together to compete in what many claim to be "a
friendly and mellow competition."
The games are hosted by the Pasadena "Azadamard" Chapter and
organized by the Regional Athletic Council. Members of the council
Khajag (Jack) Keshishian, Fred Babadjanians, and Sevag Garabetian kept
a constant eye on the schedule and the teams to make sure they could
squeeze in as many games as possible.
This year’s games, which began on October 6, are hosting 68 teams
with 683 athletes over the course of four weeks and will end on
"We really need to keep everything on time and running smoothly,"
said Garbetian. "We try to get all the high-school-age teams done
first, so they won’t conflict with the high school season that starts
Garabetian adds that there are three major tournaments that happen
through the year; they include the San Diego Games that usually start
on Presidents’ Day in February; the Navasartian Games, which take
place from the beginning of May to the end of July; and the Winter
Games that start at the end of September and wrap up at the beginning
* The winners
In the 13–16 year-old division, Azadamard beat Shant in basketball,
44 –36; while Massis beat Ararat 38-34.
Fifteen-year-old Demetri Kazandjian of the Massis team said, "It was
a fun and intense game."
Massis was trailing for most of the game but was able to bring it
back and win.
"We had good teamwork and a lot of us have been playing basketball
together since we were kids," said Kazandjian. "So I think that helped
in tightening up our game."
Kazandjian and a lot of the other players also participate in
non-Homenetmen or Armenian related basketball leagues but claim that
the Homenetmen games are more enjoyable because of the rivalries that
certain teams develop.
Arin Safarian, who was also on the Massis team plays for his Crespi
High School Basketball team as well, and gets involved with other
sports like tennis.
Coaches Burag Celikian and Mike Aintablian of Massis said, "These
games have been great so far. Very well organized. And the current
team has only been practicing together for four weeks, so we’re really
happy with them."
Aren Rostamian, coach for the Ararat Team said, "I love working with
this team. These kids are my favorite because they listen and they
need work. I prefer to work with kids that have room for improvement.
I get more satisfaction out of that."
When asked about how the games were going he said, "It’s been good
so far, but the referees aren’t paying enough attention."
Both Rostamian and Celikian constantly barked directions and plays
to their teams, but didn’t forget to support them and congratulate
them on good plays.
* Girls’ competition
In the girls 18-and-over division, the Massis team dominated a less
experienced Shant team beating them 60-15.
Massis member Karolin aka C.K. was as passionate off the court as
she was on the court about being involved in the Winter Games.
"We play a lot of tournaments and the competition can be pretty
tough, but it feels great to play in these games just to play," said
C.K. "Everyone is a lot friendlier in the Winter Games than in the
other tournaments, and I like how it keeps us all under one roof as
C.K. has been playing basketball since 1997 and enjoys the physical
aspect of the sport the most.
"There aren’t enough female competitive tournaments for us too play
in, so I try to play with the boys as much as I can," she said. "They
play tough and really push the game forward, and not too many girls
However the girls’ games seemed to be just as aggressive and
fast-paced as the boys’ games.
Both the Massis team and the Shant team hustled up and down the
court, constantly pushing the other team to make quick decisions.
Twenty-year-old Andrew Vartanian, who played in the 18-and-over
men’s divisions said, "The Winter Games are a lot of fun because
everybody knows each other, so it’s not as competitive as say, the
Vartanian has been playing basketball for 10 years and has played in
High School as well as College.
"I get involved in the intramural games at U.C. Irvine when I’m not
doing Homenetmen-sponsored tournaments," said Vartanian. "That way I’m
constantly playing and being competitive. But its nice to come to
these games and just have a friendly match against people that you’re
* Fouls and keeping order
But the games aren’t all just fun and games; sometimes the competition
escalated to such an aggressive level that the referees had to step
"We’ve had a few technical fouls we had to call, usually for vulgar
language or disrespectful gestures" said Lucy Banuelos, one of the
Banuelos and the other referees are members of the California
Basketball Officials’ Association, the organization called upon by
Homenetmen to monitor and referee the tournament’s games.
"For this tournament, we are using high school level rules, which
are different than the college level and the pro level," said
"One of the differences is the absence of the traditional 24 second
shot clock," explained Banuelos. "It doesn’t exist for high school
level game play. Most importantly we try to make sure all the players
and coaches act according to guidelines."
Indeed the referees for the day had as much work to do as the
players; however, they could also end up being verbal punching bags
for players and coaches alike.
"We try not to let them get to us and we stay focused on the game,"
said Banuelos. "It’s our job to make sure the games run smooth and
The Winter Games are divided up by age groups and skill levels,
ranging from 13 year olds in the C division to 30 years and older in
the AA division.
Sevag Garebetian explained, "We have for example, 1-A division,
which is comprised of 18 and over teams with a high skill level."
Garabetian said the 2-A division is comprised of 18 and over teams
with a lower skill level.
"In order for a team to move up to level 1 from level 2," said
Garabetian, "they have to show a big improvement through the season.
The same applies to the higher level teams, who run the risk of being
bumped down to level 2, if their performance record reflects poorly."
****** ************************************************** *******************
7. Kohar kicks off U.S. concert tour in Southern California
by Niyiri Manougian
UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif. — Moments before their North American debut on
Thursday, October 18, the 180 members of the Kohar Symphony Orchestra
and Choir were backstage at the Gibson Theatre in the heart of the
entertainment capital of the world, talking, laughing, and waiting.
Kohar’s 12-city North American concert tour has taken months to
organize and years to realize.
The 6,000-seat auditorium is full, and the audience waits for Kohar
with giddy anticipation.
Kohar was conceived by patron Harout Khatchadourian, a
Lebanese-Armenian, and his brothers Shahe and Nar in memory of their
late father and as a tribute to their mother, Kohar (see Arts, October
The stage is draped with orange and red flowers cascading to the
amphitheater floor. On both sides of the backdrop are banners from
ceiling to floor with gold letters reading "Kohar."
As the lights dim and the performers begin to fill the stage,
thunderous applause fills the theater.
Camera crews with a "steady-cam" and two large cranes provide the
audience close-up shots of the performers on two large screens on
either side of the stage.
When the performers are in their places, mime artist Hamlet
Chobanyan appears on stage and pulls back imaginary curtains. With a
wave of his baton, conductor and Kohar Artistic Director Sebouh
Abcarian brings music to life.
After the opening Valse, the program turns to traditional Armenian
songs featuring the duduk and kanon — traditional Armenian
* Hear the violins
While performing a piece called Tchoutag, some of the violinists stood
up and played their violins while surrounding solo vocalist Satenik
The mime, who escorted the soloists on and off stage and performed
during the transitions from one piece to another, also had a role to
play during Tchoutag.
He brought out a broken violin that the vocalist was referring to in
her song. Sargsyan sang of the broken violin displaying the emotions
of her mourning through her expressions.
The applause at the end of the piece came with the traditional
delivery of a bouquet of flowers to the vocalist.
Tchoutag was followed by an all-time favorite, Hayr Im, performed by
Vahan Grigoryan. During this performance, the Armenian alphabet, the
ayppenkim, was projected onto the stage and throughout the
Zeytountsinerou Yerke compelled the audience to participate by
clapping along with the beat of the symphony.
The large screens showed a close-up of the conductor smiling. He
knew he had given life to the audience and owned them now; he had won
* Dancers in beautiful costumes
The costumes of the Kohar dancers who accompany the orchestra reflect
each song’s meaning. For example, during Pari Arakil (Kind Stork), a
popular hit in the 1970s, a mannequin-like dancer came on stage
wearing a white costume. It seems as though the dancer had the wings
of the arakil.
During one patriotic song, the costumes resembled military uniforms
of ancient Armenian soldiers adorned with bold geometric shapes.
The dancers themselves went from delicate movements to strong,
sharp, and powerful dances.
The last song of the first half of the show was Arpa-Sevan,
performed by Vazgen Ghasaryan.
Ghazaryan was a commanding presence on the stage. In Arpa-Sevan he
was asking Lake Sevan to have hope, because the Arpa River would bring
the dying lake back to life. The song was written in the Soviet era as
a celebration of a major engineering project.
The song was more than just a performance; it was like a finale from
an opera. It was a chorus, a drama, a prayer asking the thirsty Sevan
to take a breath and be a bit more patient.
Perhaps the request was also a metaphoric call to Armenians to hang
on and be patient: better days were ahead.
This dramatic conclusion to the first half of the program left the
audience in awe. They sat, waiting, mesmerized until a voiceover on
the loudspeaker announced the intermission.
* They return
The second half of Kohar’s North American debut program opened with a
piece called Tetmajazz. True to its name this piece was pure jazz
accompanied by jazzy theatrics. Even the cellist got into the groove,
spinning his cello. The unlikely combination of jazz and the duduk was
worked into the piece, creating a unique and haunting number.
The second part of the program included Armenian patriotic and
These longtime favorites energized the audience as they applauded,
chanted, and sang along.
During a medley which encompassed a piece called Zinvori Mor Yerke
(The song of a soldier’s mother), the conductor transformed into a
dancer, performing a ballet with his baton, conducting not just the
orchestra, but turning to the audience and acknowledging them. All
Abcarian had to do was point the baton to the 6,000-strong audience
and they would sing along right on cue.
It was as though the whole thing was orchestrated and rehearsed. It
was perhaps the first time in the history of the Gibson Theatre that a
conductor induced the audience into an instant sing-along.
With Artyok Ovker En, the audience did not only sing along — they
became a single entity, a loud and proud community. They sang along
and with every "hey" in the song, they thrust their fists into the
air. There was an incredible energy in the air.
It was also during this number that the three flags of the Armenian
Cilician kingdoms were brought on stage to the roaring applause of the
By the end of Artyok Ovker En, the audience gave a standing ovation,
the first of many to follow.
* Culture at its finest
The Kohar dancers came back on stage once again with Sareri Hovin Mernem.
They acted out the motions of passing a needle and thread through a
large piece of white linen. As the dance progressed, the linen was
tossed up and flown over the dancers’ heads. And then the audience saw
that an intricate and beautiful design had been sewn onto it. At the
end of the performance the dancers held the linen up at an angle,
showcasing the Armenian alphabet.
After the last song of the evening was performed, the mime came out
onto the stage and closed the invisible curtains.
There was a standing ovation for nearly ten minutes, during which
time the mime opened the curtains once again, and the orchestra played
* The audience sings along
Following a series of standing ovations — and by this point the
audience had decided to keep standing — Kohar performed Kedashen,
Hayer Miatsek, Aykeban Aghchig, Khorodig Morodig Im Yare, and Hoy
In the midst of this festive celebration the dancers came down from
the stage into the aisles and invited audience members to dance.
Dozens of thrilled people accepted the invitation. The theater was
transformed and became a sacred place, an Armenian home, a church
hall, a private place.
Abcarian, the conductor, was so inspired that he also began to dance
on stage. The dancing conductor surprised the orchestra and choir
members, and they continued to perform, but now with even more
With sparks in their eyes the talented musicians of Kohar continued
to perform — no longer for the audience, but with the audience.
In this atmosphere the lines between the performers and the audience
were blurred, and everyone was transported back to the ethereal
homeland. In that moment, the homeland was the Gibson Theatre, and
everyone felt a connection to that moment, to the Motherland.
* Final bows
At the end of the must-see concert of the year, Sebouh Abcarian
invited Kohar Khatchadourian — the ensemble’s namesake to the stage.
At this point the audience had been on their feet for 15 minutes,
continually, unwaveringly applauding.
There were a dozen encores, long ovations, applause, bravos, and
abreeses, and at long last the audience began to understand that the
time had come for them to leave.
Many fans flocked to the stage to meet Mr. Abcarian; they engulfed
him in a wave of appreciation.
It wasn’t until security and the production staff came out to remove
the instruments and equipment that the crowd around Abcarian began to
Being at the concert reminded one of having guests over: "You bring
out the best china and best desserts. You put on your Sunday best.
Kohar is that Sunday best."
Kohar brought out the best in Armenian culture and offered it to
Armenians and non-Armenians.
The ensemble, orchestra, dancers, and choir, even the conductor
proved to be a "kohar," the Armenian word meaning jewel.
Kohar took Los Angeles by storm. The music, the show, that evening,
the whole experience will remain an Armenian "jewel" in the hearts and
minds of all those who came to see them at Universal City.
* * *
For photos see the print edition of the paper or pdfs on reporter.am
8. Lincy Foundation donates $50,000 to the Armenian Community School of Fresno
by Nyrie Karkazian
FRESNO, Calif. — The new site of the Armenian Community School of
Fresno is well on its way with a generous $50,000 donation from the
"Without this donation it would have been hard to complete
construction of the new site," said Principal Rosie Bedrosian. "The
money will ensure the continuation of an Armenian school in the
Bedrosian said the money donated by the Lincy Foundation will be
used to buy new computers for the computer lab they will be building
for the new school. Some of the money will also be used to update the
English and Armenian curriculum and for any other classroom needs.
Construction on the new site is on schedule. The school should be
completed at the end of December — just in time to ring in the New
"It’s just a matter of getting things done, ready, and movable for
the kids to be there so it is nice and safe," Bedrosian said.
The new location is in Clovis, but until the move, the school will
continue operating in the facilities at St. Luke’s Calvary Community
Church in Fresno.
"Everything is going well here. It’s a little small for us, but were
managing," Bedrosian said.
The school is undergoing many changes and along with new classrooms,
new amenities, and a new playground there will also be a new name. The
school once known as the Armenian Community School of Fresno will now
be renamed as the Charlie Keyan Armenian Community School.
Charlie Keyan donated the money to buy the property for the new
school, hence his name in the title.
Ara Karkazian, an school board member said that he is excited about
the move and that the school gives their students a very well balanced
education. He also said they are building a strong foundation for
these children so that they do not get into harm’s way when they grow
"I’m grateful to all the organizations that have donated money to
the school; they make it possible to keep it afloat," Karkazian said.
"We are very, very excited about having our own site where we can
expand and grow rather than having to tiptoe around someone else’s
9. Los Angeles City Council supports H.Res. 106
The Los Angeles City Council has unanimously supported House
Resolution 106 which reaffirms the United States record on the
Armenian Genocide. According to the Los Angeles Daily News, the City
Council took this decision on October 24, 2007.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa urged the council to support the
resolution, which was authored by Rep. Adam Schiff, D.-Pasadena.
President Bush has led the Turkish effort to defeat the resolution,
claiming that it would cause Turkey to undermine U.S. interests in
Iraq and Afghanistan. Turkey is considered a key U.S. ally.
Mayor Villaraigosa said, "It’s time to end the tradition of
holocaust denial that has only deepened the pain of those whose
parents and grandparents suffered the unspeakable horror of ethnic
cleansing. When we don’t speak up, when we are silent, what we see is
a continuation of a cycle of violence."
Council member Eric Garcetti added, "We will never be a healed world
and the 1.5 million lost people will be just that — lost not only in
history but lost in memory as well."
10. St. Gregory Armenian Church holds fundraiser with a casino theme
by Sarah Soghomonian
FRESNO, Calif. — Dice were rolling and cards were being dealt for a
good cause on the evening of October 20.
Supporters of Fowler’s St. Gregory Armenian Church took a new
direction with fundraising.
Organizers replaced their fall wine-tasting event with a
casino-themed bash held at the Californian Armenian Home in nearby
"The younger generation is taking more of a leadership role," said
Mike Missakian, 33, the church’s parish council chair. "We wanted to
try something different."
Missakian said committee members brainstormed and decided "A Night
in Monte Carlo" would be a hip way to raise funds for St. Gregory.
"We are modernizing things," he said. "We figured a wide age range
would have fun with this event."
About 250 people enjoyed a night of food, drinks, music, and fun. A
silent auction and raffle took place. And everyone tried his or her
luck at blackjack, craps, roulette, and poker.
At the end of the night, chips were cashed in for raffle tickets and
lucky players left with prizes.
"It’s a very nice event," said Richard Hagopian of Selma. "I don’t
gamble in real life, but I did tonight because it was for the church."
The atmosphere was electric. Tables were decorated in red and black
and drapery hung from the ceiling. Dealers were dressed in tuxedos.
Cheers and laughter filled the room.
"Most Armenian’s love to gamble," said Jeff Stepanian, 33, a
committee member. "Tonight’s turnout is a good building block for the
While Stepanian said planning for the event went fairly smoothly, he
added that next year they would hold the event when the weather was
more predictable. "Rain wasn’t an issue, but wind was," he said. "It
was an unexpected enemy."
Tables were set up both inside and outside. But because of the wind,
most people stayed inside.
This event is one of several fund-raisers held each year by St.
Gregory Armenian Church. A Fathers’ Day Picnic, Merchant Lunch and
Harvest and Christmas banquets are held each year.
St. Gregory has a congregation of nearly 500. It is located in a
farming community and has a dedicated following.
"The church is a passion for me," said Missakian. "I’ve sat on every
committee in the church."
Missakian, who went from an alter boy as a child, to an ACYO member
as a teen, to a deacon member as an adult, describes the makeup of St.
Gregory, which opened in 1910, as "a mix of old and new generations."
While most members have roots in agriculture, Missakian says, that
is changing a bit.
"We are a close family," Missakian said. "This church teaches us the
importance of family values."
Jeff Stepanian also says St. Gregory has had a positive impact on
his life. "Armenian Church has brought me spiritual guidance, a wealth
of friends and memories that will last a lifetime," he said.
Stepanian estimates 95 percent of his friends are people he meet
through church summer camp and ACYO. "St. Gregory still has a small
feeling," he said. "It has a sense of family."
It is that sense of family that keeps people like Stepanian attending.
"This church is my home," Stepanian said. "It is everything."
11. Amy Shuklian runs for Visalia City Council
by Nyrie Karkazian
FRESNO, Calif. — From stand-up comedy to running for city council,
Amy Shuklian does it all.
"Humor has always been a big part of my life," said Shuklian, but
humor is not the only thing she will bring to the Visalia city
"I think I am probably the most informed candidate, I know what’s
happening in the city. I’d be able to step into the position pretty
much with my feet running," Shuklian said.
Shuklian recently announced her candidacy for the Visalia city
council and is confidant that she will be an essential asset to the
"Things are going very well, but we are getting into those last few
weeks so if anybody has any friends or family in Visalia call or email
and have them vote for Amy Shuklian. We’ll have an Armenian on the
city council," Shuklian said.
Not only would Shuklian be the only Armenian on the city council,
she would be the only woman as well.
Being born and raised in Visalia, a small city near Fresno, Shuklian
knows the needs of the city well and is currently involved in many
projects. She is presently Chairwoman of the Parks and Recreation
Commission, Vice Chair of the Parks and Recreation Foundation,
President of the Valley Oak SPCA Board of Directors and a member of
the Smart Growth Task Force.
"Visalia is still a place where you can get involved and have an
influence in the city," Shuklian said. "You can have an influence in
making changes in the city, you can have an influence in decision
making in the city and you still have a voice, that’s the thing about
Shuklian describes Visalia as a city that still has that small town
feel. "You can walk down Main Street and run into people you know,"
said Shuklian, "we’re growing, and as we grow I don’t want us to loose
that heritage and that feeling."
Shuklian incorporates this important quality of the city into her
campaign. While running for the position she has not been backed by
any sort of interest group or business community, which she believes
makes her a stronger candidate.
"I am looking at what is good for Visalia overall and not just for
some special interest group. I do not have any preconceived notions,"
Shuklian says the biggest issue facing Visalia right now is the
escalation of gang violence. She says that there has been a history of
gangs in the area, but recently there have been numerous shootings and
killings. These events weigh heavy on the minds of Visalia residents
as well on Shuklian.
Shuklian is determined to take this situation and turn it around by
working with law enforcement officials. She says it is not a one
person job, the city must join together to solve their gang problems
"We need to look at the intervention and prevention and get to our
youth before it gets to the point that they are in a gang," she said.
Shuklian began her involvement in the community by starting an
off-leash dog park when she moved back to Visalia from Fresno.
"I got that [the dog park] going and from there it just snowballed
into getting involved in the community and being on different
commissions, boards and non-profits," Shuklian said. "Now it’s
progressed to running for the city council."
Shuklian moved back to Visalia from Fresno to help her mom after her
father had passed away in 1999.
"He died on the tractor, that’s where he loved to be," said Shuklian
of her father who was a Visalia farmer for many years.
Shuklian had moved away from her home to attend Fresno State where
she earned a degree in Recreation Administration in 1987. She worked
as a recreation therapist in Fresno before moving back and currently
works as a therapist in Visalia at Kaweah Delta Rehab Center where she
takes her two dogs, both Labrador Retrievers, into work with her as
part of the therapy.
"I’m a people person so just meeting people in the community and
moving back home again was a real special thing," Shuklian said.
"Sometimes they say you can’t go home again, but you can."
Besides being a Recreation Therapist and staying involved in the
community, Shuklian is also a stand-up comedian.
According to Shuklian, she began her comedy career straight out of
the womb, but her real break came in college when she entered a radio
station comedy contest with the encouragement of her friends and won.
>From that point on she began performing more often and it became part
of her life.
Shuklian performs for private parties, corporate events and at
different clubs throughout California.
"I’ll travel wherever they’ll have me," Shuklian said.
Shuklian has not been doing a lot of stand up these days because of
her focus on the campaign, but most recently she opened for Kenny G.
when he came to Visalia. As for larger venues, she opened for Cindy
Lauper and Carrie Underwood last year and was a finalist in the San
Francisco regionals for a reality TV show called Last Comic Standing
"It’s a lot of fun and I have some great Armenian material too,"
Although she may joke about Armenians in her comedy routine Shuklian
also holds the Armenian community in high regard and attends St.
Mary’s church in Yetem.
"We have a very strong Armenian community and they have been behind
me, which is very nice," Shuklian said.
Shuklian welcomes the Armenian community outside of Visalia to
support her in her campaign. Even though the extended community cannot
vote they can support her by making contributions or getting to know
her better by visiting her.
The Visalia Times Delta recently stated in an article that "Amy
Shuklian is bright, energetic, with the vision and community activism
that will give Visalia the new ideas and a fresh outlook that keeps
the city vibrant and growing intelligently. She will be dedicated to
what is best for Visalia, and she has proven that she knows how to get
"I think that’s from my Armenian background," said Shuklian in
response to the comment about her dedication and activism,
12. Armenia Fest highlights Armenian culture and history
* Dallas/Fort Worth Texahyes introduce Texans to all things Armenian
by Lorig Topalian
CARROLLTON, Tex. — St. Sarkis Armenian Church presented its 12th
annual Armenia Fest on October 12–14. More than 100 volunteers came
together to present the event parish council chairperson Stepan
Tabanian calls "the heartbeat of the community."
The festival aims to bring together Armenians throughout the
Dallas/Fort Worth area, share Armenian food, culture, and history with
the community at large, and help young Armenians maintain their
cultural pride and heritage.
The three-day program included traditional folk dances, Armenian
food, informative exhibits, and cooking and weaving demonstrations.
Founded and organized by Boghos Kirazian, "Armenia Fest helps bring
the community closer together and also let’s us have a lot of fun at
the same time," Tabanian said.
This year’s theme was Armenia Land of Noah.
* Noah and the Ark
"Religion is very important in this area. This [Noah and the Ark] is a
story that is close to everyone’s hearts and that everyone can relate
to," said Tabanian.
The theme inspired an exhibit that highlighted the connection
between Armenians, Mt. Ararat, and the story of Noah and the Ark.
While the story may be familiar to most Armenians, organizers used
this opportunity to inform the public about how Armenia and Armenians
are intimately connected to Christian history.
During the course of the festival, the church’s dance troupe,
Groung, presented 12 dances under the direction of dance instructor
and choreographer, Datevig Gharibian. Gharibian, who teaches at the
Institute of Dance in Yerevan, spends several weeks each year before
the festival working with the Dallas dance troupe.
"Whenever I have been asked by the wonderful people of Dallas to
come to the United States, I have not been able to refuse," said Ms.
Gharibian. "I have come to appreciate their love for their heritage
and the culture that their ancestors passed on to them. It is a great
honor and pleasure for me to help this community strengthen its love
and enthusiasm for Armenian Dance."
Dances ranged from traditional folk dances to modern ones
choreographed to popular Armenian music.
The youngest members of the group also learned various traditional
steps and combined them to present an energetic and entertaining
Groung, an amateur, volunteer-based group, has members ranging from
preschoolers to adults and has also been invited to perform in various
* Armenian home cookin’ Texas style
Another big attraction at Armenia Fest was, of course, the food. The
majority of the food sold at Armenia Fest is made by church members,
who come together each year to spend a marathon night of cutting and
skewering meats and vegetables for kebab, wrapping grape leaves, and
making boregs and kofte.
Men, women, and children from all over the Metroplex make time for
this evening filled with memories of home.
Not only does this night help the event committee get ready for the
big day, but it’s also educational for the young men and women of the
Tabanian noted that "People have a good time. They come in and say
that it smells just like their grandmother’s house. It also gives
people of the younger generation a chance to practice or learn
After a long night, volunteers go home with a delicious souvenir: a
to-go bag of food filled with a sampling of goodies.
* Down home fun
Anastasia Stewart, who came to the festival at the suggestion of a
co-worker, was glad she made the trip.
"The food was incredible and the dances were great to watch," said
Steward. "I love international dance. It interesting to see the
similarities between Armenian dances, Greek dances, and Bosnian dances
In addition to the exhibits on Noah, the church hall also housed
live cooking, baking, and weaving demonstrations.
The cooking and baking demonstrations helped share the special
techniques that help make various Armenian dishes successful ones.
These demonstrations were also featured on the television program
Good Morning, Texas.
Carpet weavers brought their looms to Armenia Fest to show the
public what they do and share the story of Armenian carpets.
While the event was free to the public, the festival has become the
single most effective fundraiser the church has all year based on food
sales, gift shop sales, and a charity raffle.
* Festival history
Armenia Fest began 12 years ago with a simple idea: to share Armenian
culture with the Dallas community.
According to Tabanian, "Boghos and I had gone to the local Greek
festival, Lebanese festival, and all the other festivals in the area
and thought to ourselves ‘Our food is great. Our dances are great. We
have a lot that we want people to know about Armenians. Why don’t we
have a festival of our own?’"
At that point, Kirazian took it upon himself to organize an event
which started off simply and evolved into the elaborate, multi-facted
celebration of Armenian history and culture presented today.
Past themes have included the Georgetown Boys and the Year of Nareg.
"It’s an incredible thing to see Armenian here from all over the
world and all walks of life!" Tabanian exclaimed.
*********** ************************************************** **************
13. Crime Beat: Money for college was apparently the motive for a
credit-card fraud operation, police say
by Jason Kandel
NORTH HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — There was something so suspicious about the
man going in and out of the North Hollywood 7-Eleven over a three-hour
period that the clerk working at the store called the cops, who wound
up unraveling a credit-card fraud operation. It was a two-man crew
using stolen credit card numbers and dummy cards to wire themselves
tens of thousands of dollars in cash, police said.
Arrested Aug. 18 was Khachik Gezvkarayan, a 34-year-old convicted
forger, healthcare fraudster, and auto-parts salvaging business
manager from Glendale and 18-year-old Luis Dela Vega, who told police
he was roped into the scheme with the promise of money for his college
education, police said.
The two were arrested after trying to outrun cops from the Burbank
Boulevard 7-Eleven store, where they were accused of trying to wire
themselves money from the automated Western Union machine inside. They
are accused of possibly hitting a few 7-Elevens over six hours and
taking as much as $950 a pop, just under the amount that one can pull
out at a time so as not to set off any alarm bells, police said,
adding that local and federal law enforcement were looking into the
men’s activities in connection with other similar heists.
Police found some $23,000 in cash on a wheel well of a parked car
that one of the suspects was hiding behind, and later found 74 dummy
credit cards that had people’s stolen credit information encoded in
them, and more cash, said Los Angeles Police Detective Louis
D’Alessandro, who works the Valley Forgery Section.
A third man, described by Dela Vega as the brains behind the
operation, was nowhere to be found. And Gezvkarayan wasn’t talking to
"It’s a very creative line of work," D’Alessandro said. "If the
suspects put their creative minds to use for something positive it
could be beneficial to the world."
Gezvkarayan’s lawyer, Garo Ghazarian, said he was unable to comment
for this article.
Police are piecing together how the men got the stolen credit card
information in the first place, unsure whether they used some device
that scans information from a gas station, for example, whether they
shoulder-surfed, meaning that someone watched people enter their
information at ATMs, or whether they had a source working from the
inside of a bank.
This is not the first time that Gezvkarayan has had encounters with
law enforcement. At the time of his arrest, D’Alessandro said,
Gezvkarayan was on probation for a credit card scheme out of Glendale.
And back in 2003, Gezvakarayan was sentenced to four month in
prison, ordered to pay restitution, and barred from being a Medicare
healthcare provider after being convicted in 2003 on federal
healthcare fraud charges, records show.
According to a Jan. 7, 2000, indictment filed in the U.S. District
Court for the Eastern District of California, Gezvkarayan owned
Pacifica West Supplies in North Hollywood, a shop that purportedly
sold medical supplies wholesale to various medical supply companies.
He also used a slew of nicknames like John, Joel, and Chris, and
created an alternate personality, "Arman Balyan," by using a phony
Social Security number and bogus California and Hawaii driver’s
license numbers, court records show.
In 1998, he provided phony invoices to unnamed conspirators who
falsely billed Medi-Cal, the state’s healthcare program for the poor
and disabled, for nearly a half a million dollars in medical equipment
and supplies that were not delivered to patients, then created phony
records that showed the deliveries were made, court records show.
Court records from September 2000 show that Gezvkarayan was also
charged with operating another business, Broadgates Medical Supply out
of Los Angeles, that also cheated Medi-Cal out of $150,000 in phony
prescriptions for incontinent supplies and equipment that were never
delivered between April 1999 and March 2000.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has been inquiring about
Gezvkarayan’s activities, possibly in connection with a multistate
fraud ring that has been working from Washington state, Las Vegas,
Orange County, Calif., and Arizona, a source close to the
According to federal healthcare records, Gezvkarayan has a
connection to Eloy, Arizona. He was listed in a database as the owner
of a durable medical supply company on East Hanna Road, a business
that is listed as having been barred from participating as a Medicare
benefits provider since Oct. 20, 2003.
Los Angeles County Superior Court records show that Gezvkarayan was
convicted of making false statements on a financial statement,
forgery, and grand theft of property in August 2005.
In February 2006 he was convicted of acquiring access cards for the
purposes of fraud. He also has misdemeanor infractions for being an
unlicensed driver and speeding from March 1997, according to the L.A.
Superior Court Web site.
Gezvkarayan is being held without bail at the Los Angeles County
Jail. He faces forgery and theft charges on Nov. 1.
14. Nor Or newspaper marks its 85th anniversary
* A celebration of the Armenian press
by Adrineh Gregorian
HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — Nor Or celebrated its 85th anniversary with a
banquet at the Walter and Laurel Karabian Hall at the Tekeyan Cultural
Association’s Arshag Dickranian Armenian School here.
The hall was filled with supporters, writers, and members of various
Armenian organizations and the press, who appreciate the work of this
"From the first day of its existence, Nor Or has been the vibrant
voice of the Armenian Democratic Liberal Party [ADL]. It has stood
strong to defend, inform, and educate the Armenian-American community
of California," said Rita Aharonian in her welcoming remarks.
Nor Or is a weekly Armenian-language newspaper that was launched on
Oct 20, 1922, in Fresno, California.
"From its first day it was a liberal voice," continued Ms.
Aharonian, saying that the paper has stood strong in supporting the
Armenian community and its causes.
Ms. Aharonian said the the ADL had a staunch belief in freedom and
also supported the Armenian Genocide resolution in the House of
Representatives, H.Res. 106. "As John F. Kennedy once said, ‘We stand
for freedom. That is our conviction for ourselves, that is our only
commitment to others,’" said Ms. Aharonian.
"This can be considered the preamble of all media outlets including
Nor Or," said Ms. Aharonian. "Freedom of expression is a valuable
privilege that we tend to take for granted, and I’d like to take this
opportunity to encourage all of you to exercise your right and express
your support for H.Res. 106 by simply taking a few minutes to contact
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi as well as your congressional
representative to thank them for their efforts and encourage them to
support H.Res. 106."
* Nor Or
Together with Arev (Sun) daily of Cairo, Egypt, Nor Or (New Day) is
the oldest ADL newspaper in circulation. Published at times as a
semiweekly and now as a weekly, Nor Or adopted its current name in
1922, continuing a rich tradition that had its roots in Aror (Plough)
newspaper, founded in 1919 in Fresno by the Reformist Hunchak Party.
In 1964, the newspaper moved its editorial office from Fresno to
greater Los Angeles.
Over the years prominent writers, such as Vahe Haig and Antranig
Antreasian, have taken part in editing this newspaper.
Antranig Poladian, Nubar Berberian, Misak Haigentz, Osheen
Keshishian, Vatche Semerjian, Nubar Agishian, Asadur Devletian, Lutfi
Tabakian, Sarkis Minasian, Minas Kojayan, and Vatche Ghazarian, among
others, have served as editors during various periods.
It currently has about thirty contributors, a combination of
professional writers and others who work on a volunteer basis.
* The ADL and the Press
Over the decades the newspapers and periodicals published by the ADL
and by organizations, movements, and individuals that share the ideals
of the ADL has numbered over 200, covering more than 50 cities in 22
Today, the ADL Central Committee, district committees, and chapters
publish many newsletters, newspapers, and periodicals such as The
Armenian Mirror-Spectator, Watertown, Mass.; Arev, Cairo, Egypt; Nor
Or, Altadena, Calif.; Zartonk, Beirut, Lebanon; Nor Ashkhar, Athens,
Greece; Sardarabad, Buenos Aires, Argentina; Abaka, Montreal, Canada;
and Azg, Yerevan.
* The importance of the press
The importance of the press was the theme of the evening.
Emcee Lora Kuyumjian, an AGBU Pasadena High School teacher, said
Armenian teachers and the Armenian press have a responsibility to
continue instilling Armenian culture and traditions to the new
The emcee acknowledged the various organization leaders who were in
attendance, including members of political parties and multiple
Armenian press outlets. They included the Armenian General Benevolent
Union, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, the Hunchakian Party,
the Social Democratic Hunchak Party, the Armenian National Committee,
the Armenia Fund, and the Armenian Rights Council of America.
The emcee personally thanked members from Armenian news outlets for
their continuous efforts. Outlets mentioned included Nor Hayastan,
Asbarez Daily, Horizon Television, The Armenian Observer, Nor Gyank,
Masis Weekly, and The Armenian Reporter.
Each representative was there to celebrate Nor Or’s long tenure and
also show unity among Armenian publications.
* A history of the Armenian press
Keynote speaker Osheen Keshishian, editor of The Armenian Observer,
began his dedication speech by giving a brief lesson on the history of
the Armenian press — which began in India 213 years ago. Since then,
there have been over 4,000 Armenian papers lasting various lifespans,
In the United States, Arekag was launched in New Jersey as the first
Armenian newspaper in 1888.
Mr. Keshishian used this opportunity to honor Nor Or editors from
the past and present.
"It’s a paper for the people," he said. Editors of Nor Or have
always been young and vibrant; most of them have been graduates of the
Melkonian School in Cyprus, he said.
Revisiting the recurring theme of the evening, Mr. Keshishian spoke
of the importance of the Armenian press and its key role in
maintaining ties within the Armenian community, the diaspora, and the
Republic of Armenian.
"We are so spread out," said Mr. Keshishian. "It’s with the media
that we’ve been able to maintain close and strong ties."
Mr. Keshishian continued his talk by mentioning that Armenian papers
have existed in 250 different cities.
From Bombay to Singapore, to Baku, to Istanbul, to Addis Ababa, to
Manchester, just to name a few, he said, Armenians have built their
communities in at least 250 cities around the world, ringing true to
the famous words of William Saroyan, "For when two of them meet
anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a new Armenia."
Mr. Keshisian said that the Armenian press has always been revered
for preserving Armenian identity and culture.
* The evening’s program
"Journalist of the Year" awards were given to Khachig Janoyan and Dr.
Many dignitaries were also in attendance, showing their continued
support with proclamations. They included the Consul General of
Republic of Armenia Armen Liloyan, who acknowledged Nor Or’s
contribution to helping Armenia from afar.
State Senator Jack Scott discussed his visit to Armenia with members
of the ADL and came to congratulate Nor Or for serving the community
for over 85 years.
Ara Najarian, the mayor of Glendale, also stressed the importance of
news, especially news from Armenia.
His speech, both in Armenian and English, mentioned how Nor Or has
always been a part of his household and will continue to be so.
California State Assembly Member Antonio Portantino got up to
dedicate a certificate of recognition for the Armenian community and
ended his speech with his favorite saying, "gyanku lave eh" (life is
Ara Aharonian, a representative of the Central Committee of the
Armenian Democratic Liberal Party, gave a powerful and uplifting
speech stressing the importance once again of the Armenian press and
activism within the community.
He said the ADL steadfastly supported Armenia’s needs as one the
main pillars of the party.
The evening’s program ended with the introduction of the 85th
anniversary godfathers. "Their ongoing support has kept Nor Or going
and the continued support will nourish another 85 years," said Ms.
One patron, Dr. Dikranuhi Mkhsi-Gevorkian, went up with her young
granddaughter. "I dedicate this to my granddaughter Veronica," she
said. "It is up to our grandchildren to continue the work that we’ve
* Nor Or and the next generation
For the past 85 years the flow of Armenian immigrants constituted the
majority of Nor Or’s readership.
As the number of second- and third-generation Armenian-Americans
grows, Nor Or’s audience will soon evolve, said Minas Kojayan.
Kojayan, one of the night’s honorees, has been a member of Nor Or’s
editorial committee since 1991. He said, "It has always been an honor
to contribute to Nor Or." He went on to say that he hopes the younger
generation will write and contribute to the paper.
Ms. Kuyumjian said in her closing remarks, "Nor Or may be getting
older, but it will never be considered old."
15. It’s all in the family at the Anoush banquet halls
* Two brothers work to keep their father’s business, dream alive
by Alejandro Guzmán
Two weeks before Vrej Sarkissian was graduated from Loyola Law School
in 2000, his father died, leaving him with an important decision to
Vrej could either reap the rewards of his scholastic efforts and
pursue a career in law, or put it aside and take over his father’s
banquet and catering business.
His father, Sebooh Sarkissian, had established Anoush Restaurant in
1986 and had been successful in running five locations all on his own.
Vrej didn’t want to see his father’s dream come to an end; so he
decided to take over the family business. As the oldest of three
brothers, he felt a call of duty to continue what his father had
"I had two choices," Vrej said. "I could shut down the business or
continue. That’s when I took over."
Vrej said Anoush started off as a mom-and-pop restaurant in
Hollywood before his father saw a demand for banquet facilities. At
the time, most Armenian weddings were being celebrated at reception
halls in churches.
"For me… it was an emotional decision; the financial benefits came
afterward," Vrej said. My intention "was to continue what my father
Vrej said that as part of Armenian culture, it is a priority to
continue the family business. He also sees running banquet halls as an
opportunity to bring the Armenian community together.
Anoush is one of the pioneers of banquet hall businesses in the
community. It is hard to tell how many banquet halls were around
because before 2002, Glendale did not keep records of which
restaurants functioned as banquet halls, city officials said. But it
was not until recently that the presence of banquet halls became more
Currently, there are over 15 restaurants in Glendale that operate as
banquet halls and have enjoyed success over the years.
Management at Renaissance Restaurant in Glendale said banquet halls’
business success is due mainly to the fact that it accommodates the
cultural need of people who like to celebrate special occasions in a
Vrej, 33, believes that Anoush will continue to be a leader in the
industry. He already has a few plans for continued growth of what his
father started over 20 years ago. One of his two younger brothers is
already actively involved in the daily management of the business.
Saco Sarkissian, 24, said his responsibilities are similar to those
of a chief operating officer. Saco directly oversees the banquet hall
located on West Colorado Street in Glendale.
Saco appreciates the hard work his father put into running five
locations because just one location keeps him clocked in at around 100
hours per week. But he said spending time at Anoush has helped him
realize how great a staff they have working for them.
"In this industry, we work around the clock and spend more time with
each other than [with] our own family," Saco said. "We care for each
other’s welfare…. You can’t be in this industry without that kind of
Vrej manages the North Hollywood location and another family member
handles the third location on Glenoaks Boulevard, which is also in
Glendale. The second Glendale location is a result of great demand for
the business within one community.
The Sarkissian brothers have more than enough work cut out for them
with three business locations and five ballrooms operating seven days
Common celebrations such as weddings, baptisms, engagements, and
birthdays take place every week. And although Anoush can cater special
packages for Armenians in terms of menu options. It has seen a large
non-Armenian clientele as well.
Some of the keys to the success of Anoush are menu items like their
Lula Kabob and barbeque. "We’ve mastered the taste of Armenian
cuisine," Vrej said.
But Saco added that people keep coming back not just because of the
food, but because of excellent service.
"People feel comfortable with us because we’re detail-oriented and
organized," Saco said. "We’re the trend-setters. We start things other
Just like his older brother, Saco is also a college graduate. He
received a bachelor’s in English from UCLA, and credits his father’s
encouragement with helping him finish school early.
He said his father always aimed for his kids to go to school and
become doctors and lawyers. But ultimately, it was their father’s
passion for providing customer service that determined their fortune.
"Our success is a result of our love for people," Saco said. "We
enjoy catering for people in a happy setting."
The brothers agreed that Armenian culture is best displayed at the
events held in the banquet hall. They said customers enjoy eating
their traditional foods, hearing their favorite music and toasting
with loved ones.
The banquet hall serves a huge financial purpose not only for Anoush
but for its vendors such as bakeries, flower shops, musicians,
videographers, photographers, linen rental companies, and more.
But the brother’s proudest accomplishment is they were able to grow
and enhance what their father started.
"I get the most satisfaction from that," Vrej said. "People remember
my dad (through us) and his memory lives on every day that we’re
* * *
15a. Just how many banquet halls are there in Southern California?
Banquet Halls have been a phenomenal success in Southern California
over the past decade. The demand for these all-service party and
celebration halls is so high that more and more seem to be opening up
for business every year.
Some Armenian families have been known to book banquet halls a year
or six months in advance; many halls are booked every weekend for
celebrations ranging from weddings to baptisms, birthday parties and
While the exact number of Armenian banquet halls is not known, a
survey by the Armenian Reporter in Glendale counted at least 15. Tim
Foy from the city of Glendale could not provide an exact number of
businesses that have been licensed as banquet halls. Mr. Foy said that
before 2002, the city didn’t keep track of which businesses operated
as banquet halls and which as restaurants. Since a new law took
effect, only one new banquet hall has registered with the city. But
open the Yellow Pages, and you’re bound to see at least a dozen places
listed as banquet halls.
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