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Saluting a “Soldier of the Light” March 24 at St. Nersess Armenian Seminary

1767_001The Zohrab Information Center and St. Nersess Seminary will co-sponsor a day-long symposium dedicated to the life and vision of His Holiness Catholicos Karekin Hovsepian, a true titan among the Armenian people in modern times.

The symposium is titled, Soldier of the Light: The Aspirations of Catholicos Karekin Hovsepian.” It marks the 150th anniversary of Hovsepian’s birth and the centennial of the Battle of Sardarabad (in which he fought). It will take place on Saturday, March 24, at St. Nersess Armenian Seminary, 486 Bedford Road, Armonk, NY.

Speakers include Dr. Abraham Terian, Dr. Roberta Ervine, Dr. Christine Maranci, Rev. Fr. Karekin Kasparian, and Mr. Nubar Kupelian. V. Rev. Fr. Daniel Findikyan, Director of the Zohrab Center and Professor at St. Nersess Seminary, will moderate. Diocesan Primate Archbishop Khajag Barsamian will preside.

A Man of Staggering Accomplishments Abounding in Grace 

HovsepiantsBefore being elected Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia Catholicos Karekin Hovsepian (1867-1952) served as Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America during the turbulent years following the assassination of Archbishop Ghevont Tourian in New York in 1933. Born in Artsakh, Armenia, he earned graduate degrees from the best universities in Europe, encouraged the Armenian troops on the front lines of the Battle of Sardarabad, chaired the Department of Archaeology and Art History at Yerevan State University, led pioneering archaeological expeditions in western Armenia, published learned books on the art of medieval Armenian manuscript illumination, and previously obscure chapters in Armenian history, and inspired countless people through his preaching and teaching. Through it all Hovsepian tirelessly summoned his flock to rise up from pettiness and division, and to embrace the dignity, richness, and eternal values of Christian life as embodied in Armenian art, culture and history and above all, in the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the Church.

On this occasion a volume of selected essays and sermons by the Catholicos, translated for the first time into English by Dr. Ervine and Fr. Findikyan, has been published. Those present for the symposium will receive a complimentary copy of Toward Light and Life: Reflections of Catholicos Karekin Hovsepian.

The March 24 conference starts at 10:30 a.m. (10 a.m. check-in) and concludes at 4 p.m., with a light lunch served at midday. The symposium and lunch are free and open to all interested.

Please contact St. Nersess Seminary at (914) 273-0200 to reserve your seat. SPACE IS LIMITED.

The event has is generously underwritten by Mr. and Mrs. Berge and Vera Setrakian.


Join the ZIC Book Club on the 85th Anniversary of The Forty Days of Musa Dagh

2018-4 MusaDagh.001Have you always wanted to read Franz Werfel’s 1933 masterpiece, but haven’t had the chance? Were you inspired by the film The Promise to learn more about what happened on a mountain named Musa Dagh in 1915?

On the occasion of the landmark historical novel’s 85th anniversary, you are invited to join the Zohrab Center’s The Forty Days of Musa Dagh Book Club on Thursday, April 12 at 7 pm in the Guild Hall of the Armenian Diocese in New York.

Aida Zilelian, Elaine Merguerian, Haig Chahinian, Harry Koumrouyan, and Nancy Agabian will recite brief excerpts from the book and explain how the text resonated with them.


Franz Werfel  author of The Forty Days of Musa Dagh

Others wishing to share their own responses to the book will be invited to step up to the OPEN MIC. Each participant will be limited to 3 minutes.

The Forty Days of Musa Dagh was written by the Austrian-Bohemian Jewish playwright, novelist and poet Franz Werfel in German in 1933.  The historical novel was inspired by Werfel’s travels to Syria in 1930, where he met countless Armenian refugee survivors of the Genocide, most of them living in wretched, hopeless conditions. The acclaimed novel brought world-wide attention to the Armenian Genocide.

Musa Dagh (Mountain of Moses) is located just inside the current border of Turkey and Syria overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. In July 1915, six Armenian villages in the region mounted a successful resistance to the attacking Turkish army by converging on the mountain. The Armenians held back the Turks for 53 days until they were evacuated by Allied French warships. The event is depicted at the end of 2018-4 MusaDagh.001the recent Genocide film, The Promise.

CLICK HERE to download a flyer.

The ZIC’s Forty Days of Musa Dagh Book Club grew out of a group of New York area Armenian writers who came together recently, guided by NYU Gallatin Professor Nancy Agabian and writer Haig Chahinian, to read and discuss The Forty Days of Musa Dagh. Energized by the portrayal of their people fighting back during the Genocide, they talked about how Franz Werfel’s novelization touched them individually, and as a whole.

All are encouraged to read or re-read The Forty Days of Musa Dagh, and to share their thoughts and reflections on the book on April 12. Those wishing to speak are asked to contact Haig Chahinian at to sign up and/or to receive tips on reading the work. All are welcome to attend. A reception will follow.


Nancy Agabian

Nancy Agabian is the author of Princess Freak, a poetry collection; and Me as her again, a memoir. Her novel The Fear of Large and Small Nations was a finalist for the PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially-Engaged Fiction. A past ZIC speaker and friend, Nancy teaches creative writing at NYU and through her Heightening Stories workshops.

Haig Chahinian’s writing on parenting, race, and life as he knows it has appeared in The Washington Post, O The Oprah Magazine, and the New York Times. For clips, see When he’s not churning out words, he runs a career counseling practice helping people find more fulfillment at work.

Harry Koumrouyan was born and raised in Geneva, Switzerland, from parents who fled the Ottoman Empire. He started his career as a teacher before joining the administration


Haig Chahinian

first as a school principal and later as the head of HR. He has written two novels in French, where the Armenian theme plays an important role. He has one son, Adrien, age 28.

Elaine Merguerian is Communications Director at Asia Society, where she promotes the organization’s arts and cultural programming. Before settling in New York, she worked in Washington, D.C. for the federal and local governments, and the Armenian Assembly of America. A native of Massachusetts, she earned a B.A. in English literature from Wellesley College. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and daughter.

Aida Zilelian is a New York City writer. Her novel The Legacy of Lost Things (Bleeding Heart Publications) was the recipient of the 2014 Tololyan Literary Award. Her stories have been published in over 25 journals and several anthologies. She has been featured on NPR, the New York Times, the Huffington Post, and Kirkus Reviews. She is also the curator of Boundless Tales, the longest-running reading series in Queens, New York. She recently completed her second novel, The Last Echo Through the Plains.

Imagining a Christian Armenian Nation. Lecture by Prof. Robin Darling Young. Thursday, March 1, 2018.


Robin Darling Young, Associate Professor of Theology at the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC will speak at the Zohrab Center on Thursday, March 1 at 7PM in the Guild Hall of the Armenian Diocese in New York.

[CLICK HERE to download a full schedule of the Zohrab Center’s Spring 2018 enrichment events]

The specialist in early Christian history and thought will present a lecture entitled, A Righteous King for Armenia: The Early Historians and their Political Theology.

When Armenia became Christian, its leaders — and later, its writers — had to rethink their country’s politics.  Professor Darling Young will explore how the earliest Armenian historians adapted biblical interpretation and political ideas to describe and measure their own rulers and imagine the first Christian nation.


Dr. Robin Darling Young is a theologian specializing in early Christian thought, including Armenian and Syriac Christiantiies.

An accomplished interpreter and historian of early Christianity, Robin Darling Young has published widely on topics in the history of early Christianity and its thought, including the areas of scriptural interpretation, the history of asceticism and monastic thought, and the Christian cultures of ancient Syria and Armenia.

In 2015 she hosted a symposium at Catholic University entitled, From Victims to Victors: The New Armenian Saints of 1915which brought together Armenian, Roman Catholic, and Greek Orthodox scholars to discuss the significance and ramifications of the canonization of2018-3 RobinKings.001 the martyrs of the Armenian Genocide. She has also lectured at St. Nersess Armenian Seminary.

The lecture is free and open to the public. CLICK HERE for a color brochure. For further information contact the Zohrab Information Center at(212) 686-0710 or

Trafficking Sacred Antiquities and Embezzling Heritage: ZIC Book Presentation on February 2

2018-01 IconHunterBookNative Cypriot Tasoula Hadjitofi is a refugee, icon hunter and culture-crime detective who has made it her life’s work to recover the countless icons, frescoes, mosaics and cultural artifacts that from time immemorial have been the coveted booty of art smugglers, war profiteers, and terrorists.

She will present her new memoir, The Icon Hunter: A Refugee’s Quest to Reclaim Her Nation’s Stolen Heritage, at the Zohrab Center on Friday, February 2, 2018 at 7PM.

The Icon Hunter is the story of Hadjitofi’s perilous journey from refugee into the underworld of art trafficking. The riveting story culminates in her orchestration of “The Munich Case,” one of the largest European art trafficking stings since World War II.

CLICK HERE to download a flyer.


This 14th-century Armenian manuscript Gospel, seized and lost during the 1963 expulsion of the Armenian community of Nicosia, was recovered by the efforts of “the Icon Hunter,” Tasoula Hadjitofi.

Hadjitofi’s daring multi-year crusade ended in the arrest of the notorious Turkish art trafficker Aydin Dikmen and the recovery of over $60 million in stolen icons and other antiquities from Cyprus and around the world. The haul included a priceless 14th-century Armenian manuscript Gospel stolen from the Armenian Church of the Mother of God in the northern part of Nicosia in 1963.

Cyprus has had a continuous Armenian community since the 6th century at least. The Armenian Quarter of Nicosia was captured by Turkish-Cypriot extremists in 1963, leading to the loss of medieval Armenian churches there, as well as in Famagusta on the island’s east coast. Later, following the 1974 Turkish invasion of the island, the 11th-century Armenian monastery of St. Macarius of Alexandria [Մակարավանք] in the mountains of northern Cyprus was seized and desecrated.


The thousand-year old Armenian Monastery of St. Macarius in northern Cyprus in a photograph dated 1974.

In her Zohrab Center presentation, the only Armenian engagement in her current national book tour, Ms. Hadjitofi will delve into the Armenian heritage of the Turkish-occupied part of Cyprus.

Tasoula Hadjitofi was born and raised in Famagusta, Cyprus. In 1974, with her family she was forced to flee their home after the Turkish invasion of Cyprus. Tasoula eventually settled in The Netherlands and became Honorary Consul to Cyprus. Approached by a notorious art dealer with information about stolen sacred artifacts looted during the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, she spent the next ten years convincing the art dealer to inform on his former partner. Tasoula places everything on the line to repatriate her country’s sacred treasures.Tasoula-Hadjitofi-Octagon

“I entered the fight against art smugglers in 1987, and it was then I had to learn the rules of their game,” the intrepid crusader said in a recent interview. ” I was very fortunate to receive the best legal advice owing to the late [Orthodox Church of Cyprus] Archbishop Chrysostomos I, which meant that before every single battle to regain stolen treasures I was appropriately prepared. And let me tell you—in spite of the mentally and physically exhausting effort, there is nothing more rewarding than the smiles of vindication when a relic is repatriated.”

The book presentation is free and open to the public. Copies of The Icon Hunter will be available for sale with all proceeds going to benefit the Walk of Truth NGO, which works to locate sacred artifacts looted from conflict areas and to restore the cultural identity of those countries to their people.

A reception will follow the presentation. The event is free and open to the public. All are welcome. For further information contact the Zohrab Center at or (212) 686-0710.


NYC Exhibit Includes Precious Medieval Armenian Bindings

KayseriBIndingFriends of the Zohrab Information Center and art lovers who live in the New York area or who may be visiting during the Christmas season will not want to miss an extraordinary exhibit at the Morgan Library and Museum in Manhattan.

Magnificent Gems: Medieval Treasure Bindings presents one of the world’s finest collections of lustrous, gem-encrusted medieval bindings for ancient handwritten and early printed books. Also included in the exhibition are all three of the Morgan Library’s 17th-century Armenian silver bindings from Kayseri.

Dr. Sylvie L. Merian, Scholar and Reader Services Librarian at the Morgan, and a frequent lecturer and visitor at the ZIC, is one of the world’s leading experts on medieval book bindings, especially those produced in Armenian workshops.

Visitors will also see one of the Zohrab Center’s two precious copies of the first printed Armenian Bible, produced in Amsterdam in 1666.

The exhibit is on display until January 7, 2018.

“The Embodiment of the Best Attributes of the Armenian People.” Dr. Roberta Ervine to Speak About Catholicos Karekin Hovsepiants


Catholicos Karekin Hovspiants (1838-1945)

The Zohrab Center will devote its last evening enrichment program of the year to one of the greatest leaders of the Armenian people in modern times, Catholicos Karekin Hovsepiants, on the 150th anniversary of his birth.

Professor Roberta Ervine of St. Nersess Armenian Seminary will present a lecture entitled, Catholicos Karekin Hovsepiants and the Value of Simple, Timeless Things on Thursday, November 30 at 7PM in the Guild Hall of the Armenian Diocese, 630 2nd Avenue, New York.

CLICK HERE to download a flyer.

Hovsepiants must be ranked among the greatest figures in the entire history of the Armenian people.  The sheer range of his abilities and the scope of his achievements is simply astounding. Before rising to the Catholicate of the Great House of Cilicia, Hovsepiants had battled the Turks at Sardarabad, earned advanced degrees from Europe’s most prestigious universities, led archaeological expeditions, lectured in philology and history, shepherded the Armenian Diocese of America during its most tumultuous era, and become one of the leading scholars of Armenian art history in the world.

2017-11 ErvineHovsepiants.001During his tenure as Primate in New York (1938-1945), Hovsepiants established the Diocesan publication Հայաստանեայց Եկեղեցի / Hayasdanyaits Yegeghetsy [The Armenian Church], raised funds to liquidate the Diocese’s debts, drafted a vision and plan to build a Cathedral and a Seminary for the American Diocese, and inspired many through his passionate and uplifting preaching.

“Catholicos Karekin was the embodiment of the best attributes of the Armenian people,” wrote the late Archbishop Yeghishé Gizirian in an essay published in 1962 to mark the 10th anniversary of the Catholicos’ passing. He added, “In his diminutive but attractive body was stored tremendous energy, physical, mental and spiritual. Ever active, ever alert with a very keen, retentive memory, quick in perception, and equally quick in formulating his opinions and arriving at a decision.”

2017-11-roberta-e1511383762455.jpegProfessor Ervine will survey the Catholicos’ life and achievements, while she seeks to identify the invisible spirit that fueled them.

“Revered and reviled in his own lifetime, Karekin Hovsepiants became one of the Armenian Church’s most inspired and inspiring figures,” Ervine says.” His life—and even more, his spirit—challenges today’s Armenians to embrace the demands of their faith to the fullest.”

A regular lecturer at the Zohrab Center, Roberta Ervine is Professor of Armenian Studies at St. Nersess Armenian Seminary in Armonk, New York, where she teaches Armenian Church History and Theology, and Modern and Classical Armenian languages. She recently taught a one-week intensive course on the life and writings of St. Nersess Shnorhali.

“Dr. Ervine has the rare ability to breathe life into history in such a way that persons from the past seem to rise up out of the pages of books and speak to the most pressing questions of our time and place,” one of her students said.

The lecture is free and open to the public. A reception will follow. For further information contact the Zohrab Center at or (212) 686-0710.


Being Armenian in Istanbul Today. Lecture by Christopher Sheklian.

2017-11 ConstantinopleAnthropologist and Armenian Deacon Dr. Christopher Sheklian will deliver a lecture at the Zohrab Center on Tuesday, November 7 at 7PM entitled, Sharagans in the City: Being Armenian in Istanbul Today.

Armenians in Istanbul today navigate a city that is undeniably their home, yet often feels exclusionary. People rarely speak Armenian on the street and many of the churches are hidden behind high walls. Yet the Armenians living there do not necessarily feel excluded or discriminated 2017-11 SheklianSharagan.001against. “Bolis” is their home, and they feel a sense of belonging there.

Download a color flyer here.

Dr. Sheklian will discuss the complicated sense of belonging that Armenians feel toward Istanbul and toward Turkey. He suggests that the inheritance of the Armenian Apostolic Church’s liturgy helps many Armenians to navigate the city. Through constant exposure to Armenian sharagans and other hymns, Armenians are able to hear the soundscape of Istanbul as one where they also belong.

Christopher Sheklian, a native of central California, earned his PhD in Anthropology from the University of Chicago in 2017. His dissertation, entitled, Theology and the Community: The Armenian Minority, Tradition, and Secularism in Turkey, was based on two years of ethnographic fieldwork with Armenians in Istanbul. An ordained deacon of the Armenian Church, Dr. Sheklian spent a year as a student and researcher at St. Nersess Armenian Seminary in New York. He previously attended the University of California, Berkeley where he majored in Anthropology, and he worked as a substitute

Chris Head Shot 1B

Anthropologist and ordained deacon of the Armenian Church Dr. Christopher Sheklian will speak about how the Armenian Church and especially its sacred music affords a sense of belonging to Armenians of Istanbul.

teacher before earning his MA and PhD at Chicago.

This year, Dr. Sheklian is a Manoogian Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Michigan, where he plans to develop the conceptual apparatus of his dissertation by considering the connections between Christology, semiotics, and hermeneutics and to pursue a second ethnographic project with Armenian refugees from Syria and Iraq living in the greater Detroit area.

The lecture at the Zohrab Center will take place in the Guild Hall of the Armenian Diocese in New York. The event is free and open to the public. As always, a reception and conversation will follow the lecture.

For further information contact the Zohrab Center at or (212) 686-0710.