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St. John Chrysostom in the Work of Ghevont Alishan, a Presentation by Timothy Aznavourian on 2/27

The Zohrab Information Center is pleased to announce the next Enrichment Evening of 2020. We are excited to have the opportunity to welcome one of the graduating seminarians of St. Nersess Armenian Seminary to speak about his work and research. On Thursday, February 27 at 7 PM in the Guild Hall of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America at 630 Second Ave. in New York, Dn. Timothy Aznavourian will discuss, ‘He Belongs Most of All to the Armenians’: St. John Chrysostom in the work of Ghevont Alishan. Alishan, a Mkhitarist father, was one of the great Armenian thinkers of the nineteenth century. In his talk, Dn. Timothy will explore what Alishan thought about St. John Chrysostom, and by extension, what he thought about what it means to “be Armenian.”

In the diaspora, we tend to think of those saints who are “ethnically Armenian” as more uniquely expressing the faith of the Armenian Church than those saints who are not ethnically Armenian. However, this understanding of what it means to be “Armenian” is not reflective oft he Church’s earlier understanding of Armenianness. No one understood this more than the 19th century priest-theologian Ghevont Alishan. In his work, Alishan describes the non-Armenian St. John Chrysostom as belonging “most of all to the Armenians.” This talk aims to understand why and how this is applicable to our Church’s context today.

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Dn Tim

Timothy Aznavourian is a deacon of the Armenian Church and current seminarian of St. Nersess Armenian Seminary, from which he will graduate in May 2020. Prior to becoming a seminarian, he received his undergraduate degree in philosophy from Rhode Island College. In addition, he has studied at both Yerevan State University and Gevorkian Theological Seminary in Holy Etchmiadzin.

A reception will follow the talk. All are welcome! Please direct any inquiries to zohrabcenter@armeniandiocese.org.

Christopher Sheklian to Present on Armenian Environmental Theology on 2/6

The Krikor and Clara Zohrab Information Center is pleased to announce the environment as the topic of the Winter/Spring 2020 Enrichment Evening Lecture Series. In recent years, the idea of environmental theology or “eco-theology” has been developed by many of the major Christian denominations. Perhaps most notably, Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’, subtitled, “on care for our common home” presented a Christian vision of “stewardship” over God’s creation. Though the emergence of this eco-theology could feel like a trendy response to the current moment, both Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I (known as the “Green Patriarch” for his environmental initiatives) have argued for the deep roots of “creation care” in the Catholic and Orthodox Christian traditions. Indeed, the Book of Genesis not only describes the perfect communion of God and humanity as taking place in the lush Garden of Eden, but offers a vision of Adam and Eve in harmony and humble stewardship with the rest of God’s creation. The Armenian Apostolic Church, with its unique method of interpreting Scripture, highly developed ideas about the transformative effect of Christ’s Incarnation, and beautiful liturgical services including blessings of fields and water, surely has something to offer this ecumenical conversation about environmental theology.

To that end, the Winter/Spring 2020 Series on the Environment hopes to propel the possibility of Armenian environmental theology forward. Several speakers will develop insights from the Armenian theological tradition, including re-reading foundational texts with an eye to the concern with the care for God’s creation. Additionally, speakers from adjacent religious traditions, especially Eastern Orthodoxy, which has a more developed eco-theology, will present on the insights and challenges of the existing conversation. The season of Lent, when Armenians traditionally abstain from animal products, offers the chance to suggest not only speculative theology but the potential of a lived, practical Christian care for God’s creation with an Armenian twist. We hope that you will join us for this journey as we strive to develop an Armenian approach to ecology and the environment. The full schedule for this series will be posted soon.

Dr. Christopher Sheklian, the Director of the Zohrab Information Center, will give the first lecture in this series. Dr. Sheklian will introduce the idea of environmental or eco-theology, presenting some of the insights of adjacent Christian traditions. He will then offer several interventions drawn from Armenian liturgical services and theological texts. With this, he will sketch what a robust “Environmental Theology of the Armenian Church” might look like, offering potential routes for future work on the topic. The Enrichment Evening will take place on Thursday, February 6, 2020, at 7 PM in the Guild Hall of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America at 630 2nd Ave. in New York.  As always, all are welcome. A reception will follow.

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Dr. Christopher Sheklian is the Director of the Kirkor and Clara Zohrab Information DSC_5397Center at the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern) and Adjunct Professor at St. Nersess Armenian Seminary. He holds a PhD in Anthropology from the University of Chicago. Previously, he was a Manoogian Post-Doctoral Fellow in Armenian Studies at the University of Michigan. He specializes in the study of religious minority rights, with a dissertation focused on the Armenians of Turkey. In addition to his ethnographic projects with Armenians in Turkey and a new project with displaced Armenians who have immigrated to established Armenian diasporan communities, he is pursuing research that puts Armenian theology in conversation with contemporary philsophical debates and language, materiality, and the environment. An active scholar, he continues to present at academic conferences and publish his research.

Presentation of a New Book of Poetry by Lola Koundakjian on 1/23

Lola Koundakjian, poet and curator of the online Armenian Poetry Project, will present her recently published collection of poems, La luna en la cúspide de mi mano/ The Moon in the Cusp of my Hand on Thursday, January 23rd at 7 PM in the Guild Hall of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America at 630 Second Avenue. A Spanish/English bilingual collection published by Nueva York Potery Press, this is Koundakjian’s third book of poems. Her previous books are The Accidental Observer (2011 USA) and Advice to a Poet (2014 Peru; 2015 USA).

At the event, Lola Koundakjian will read from her newsest collection. She will also read some of her original Western Armenian poetry. Signed copies of the book will be available for purchase after the reading. A reception will follow.

The Moon in the Cusp of my Hand

Lola Koundakjian, a long time resident of New York, curates a poetry series. Since 2006, Lola Koundakjian readingshe also curates the online multilingual Armenian Poetry Project. She has read at five international poetry festivals and is the author of three multilingual poetry collections and works appearing in journals and anthologies on three continents. Her work has appeared in 2 Horatio, ARARAT, BigCityLit, Enchanting Verses, Mizna, Naugatuck River Review, One Jacar, and in several anthologies such as Poems for Mamilla, Poems for the Hazara, Fornix and Revisto de poesía Prometeo. Her work has been translated into Asturian, French, Spanish and Ukranian. She has read her work at poetry festivals in Medellín, Colombia; Lima, Peru; Trois-Rivières, Canada and Ramallah, Palestine. Her second book, Advice to a Poet, was a finalist in the Orange Book Prize in Armenia.

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“Ancient Monasticism in the Third Millennium” at the Mor Aphrem Center on December 5

The Zohrab Information Center is thrilled to announce the final event of the Fall 2019 Series on monasticism and monastic life. Over the past few months, the Enrichment Evenings of the Zohrab Information Center have explored medieval Armenian monasticism, the monastic life at the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem, and monastic arts and practices. The goal of the series has been to argue for the central role of monasteries in the life of the Armenian Apostolic Church and Armenian culture broadly, with an eye to thinking about the possibilities for contemporary Armenian monastic life.

The Syriac Orthodox Archdiocese for the Eastern United States, with its Mor Aphrem Center, has developed a space and daily life that can help imagine what ancient monasticism might look like in the 21st century in America. One of our “Oriental Orthodox” Christian Sister Churches, the history of our two traditions is intertwined. The model developed at the Mor Aphrem Center is helpful for thinking about potential monastic trajectories in America.

For this reason, His Eminence Mor Dionysius John Kawak has graciously invited us to the Mor Aphrem Center at 55 West Midland Ave. in Paramus, NJ at 7 PM on Thursday, December 5 for a roundtable discussion on Ancient Monasticism in the Third Millennium. In co-sponsorship with the Zohrab Information Center, the Syriac Orthodox Archdiocese will host an engaging conversation between members of the two Sister Churches. Speakers and participants in the roundtable include: His Eminence Mor Dionysius John Kawak, Archbishop of the Archdiocese of the Syriac Orthodox Church for the Eastern United States; His Grace Bishop Daniel Findikyan, Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern); Dr. Roberta Ervine, Professor of Armenian Studies at St. Nersess Armenian Seminary; priests of the Archdiocese of the Syriac Orthodox Church for the Eastern United States; and Deacon Eric Vozzy of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern). The panel discussion will be moderated by the Director of the Zohrab Information Center, Dr. Christopher Sheklian.

Topics to be discussed include the background and history of Syriac Orthodox monasticism, the background and history of Armenian monasticism, the role and current functioning of the Mor Aphrem Center, and potential ideas for Oriental Orthodox monasteries in the United States in the 21st century.

This promises to be an exciting and edifying evening and the Zohrab Information Center is so grateful to the invitation of His Eminence Archbishop Kawak. The Director is currently arranging for transportation from the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church in America at 630 Second Ave. in Manhattan to the Mor Aphrem Center. If you are interested in transportation, which will leave at 5 PM on Thursday, December 5, please contact Dr. Christopher Sheklian.

 

 

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Western Armenian in the 21st Century Panel a Success

Panel Discusses Western Armenian in the 21st Century

By Florence Avakian

Western Armenian Panelists

A forum titled “Western Armenian in the 21st Century: A Dialogue About Challenges and New Approaches,” was held in New York on October 16. Panelists included (l-r) doctoral candidate Jesse Siragan Arlen, Dr. Vartan Matiossian, Dr. Christopher Sheklian, and Gilda Kupelian

NEW YORK, NY—A Nor’easter with pounding rain and howling winds did not prevent more than 60 brave souls in attending a fascinating forum on “Western Armenian in the 21st Century: A Dialogue About Challenges and New Approaches.” The panel discussion was held in the Eastern Prelacy of the Armenian Church in New York on October 16. The departing point of the discussion was the recent publication by the SAS of the collective volume Western Armenian in the 21st Century: Challenges and New Approaches, edited by Bedross Der Matossian and Barlow Der Mugrdechian.

It was presented by the Armenian National Education Committee (ANEC), the Krikor and Clara Zohrab Information Center, and the Society for Armenian Studies (SAS), with Archbishop Anoushavan Tanielian, Prelate of the Eastern Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church, in attendance.

Mary Gulumian, director of ANEC, welcomed everyone and introduced the topic and panelists. Dr. Christopher Sheklian, director of the Zohrab Information Center, served as moderator of the discussion. He began by bringing greetings from Bishop Daniel Findikyan, Primate of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America, who he said “is deeply committed to a problem we all have to tackle,” and hopes that different organizations will continue to work together to address the vitality of Western Armenian.

The panelists included Dr. Vartan Matiossian, Executive Director of the Armenian Prelacy and a distinguished Armenian Studies scholar; Jesse Siragan Arlen. a Ph.D candidate in Near Eastern Languages and Cultures at UCLA; and Gilda Kupelian, director of the Armenian Studies Department at the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America.

Dr. Sheklian set things in motion by asking how Western Armenian can be incorporated, and used in daily life, in every venue, and for all kinds of things.

* Not Impossible to Learn Armenian

Dr. Matiossian, born in Uruguay, has written, taught and been published in English, Armenian and Spanish for 40 years. He stated that anyone can learn Armenian, and use it daily.

“Our defeatism should be taken away. It’s important to be proactive,” the scholar said. “One should not wait to be taught by someone. It’s necessary to want to learn the language and make it relevant to daily life.” He also stressed the importance of producing material for this purpose.

Gilda Kupelian emphasized the importance of supporting Armenian schools, their structure and curriculum. “We have to use strategy. The work has to be planned, and not done by accident.” She emphasized that Armenian schools need financial allocations for resources and teacher training. One possibility for a new resource Kupelian suggested was the creation of “Armenian centers” where the language could be used in an enjoyable, natural environment.

Jesse Arlen stressed three necessary components: firstly, “CHOICE – Armenian being presented as a beautiful thing, not for money, but for meaning and value. Secondly, [Armenian] as a VIRTUAL ENTITY, since today’s technology offers a large number of items on line. And thirdly, [Armenian] as a PROACTIVE part of our daily lives.”

* Importance of Technology

Sheklian pointed out that because of today’s growing technology, daily newspapers are no longer the dominant force they used to be. Therefore, he asked the panelists to offer specific tools and material that can be used today to foster learning Western Armenian.

Matiossian explained that “our institutions need to develop any kind of publications for those over the age of eight. Things should be contemporary,” he said, adding as example the recent seven-volume Western Armenian translation of the “Chronicles of Narnia.” He recalled that when the Eastern Armenian translation of “Harry Potter” came out in Armenia, the kids there went crazy with excitement.”

Jesse Arlen continued with this theme saying that “Harry Potter” type of books that resonate with youth are important. He added that whatever material that is developed should also try to employ current technology that is especially popular with younger people. He gave the concrete example of an Instagram account “Lsetsink,” (“We heard”), which presents funny snippets “overheard” by the managers of the account—but in Western Armenian.

* Value Needs to Be Intrinsic

The moderator asked about the difference between valuing or loving the language as an imposition versus using the language, adding that, “Its value needs to be intrinsic. It needs to be used in daily life.”

Kupelian reaffirmed the need to cultivate the intrinsic value of Armenian, saying that the best students in the school she directs are “those odars married to Armenians. They want to learn Armenian.” Cultivating this intrinsic value, she added, requires the support of community leadership. Kupelian insisted parental and community encouragement to use Western Armenian is crucial for implanting this desire to learn the language.

A lively question and answer session with the audience followed. In response to a question about the role of the Republic in Armenia in fostering Eastern or Western Armenian, Matiossian said that “we in the diaspora sold ourselves in the name of Armenia, and therefore our lack of sufficient funds is also tied to that concept,” suggesting that the diaspora must foster the learning of Western Armenian and support a thriving life in diaspora as well as in the Republic of Armenia. In order for this to happen, Matiossian insisted, we need the support of our leadership and we must “put our money where our mouth is.”

“Absolutely crucial is that the Armenian language be used every single day,” he stressed strongly in conclusion.

Armenian Ceramics of Jerusalem, a Book Talk with Sato Moughalian on 11/13

The Zohrab Information Center is thrilled to announce the next lecture in the Fall 2019 series on monasticism. On WednesdayNovember 13 at 7 PM in the Guild Hall of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America, Sato Moughalian will present her recent book, Feast of Ashes: The Life and Art of David Ohannessian. Her Enrichment Evening talk, titled, David Ohannessian and the Armenian Ceramics of Jersualem, will both introduce the audience to her book, and will also place the Armenian ceramic work of David Ohannessian in the context of the St. James Armenian Monastery of Jerusalem. Our Fall lecture series on monasticism explores the education system, cultural context, and the place of Armenian monasteries in the history of Armenian learning and society at large. Ms. Moughalian’s talk introduces the place of art in Armenian monasteries into our series discussion. During this lecture series, the Zohrab Information Center hopes to highlight and animate the practices and knowledges that make Armenian monasteries such important centers of worship and learning.

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Along the cobbled streets and golden walls of Jerusalem, brilliantly glazed tiles catch the light and beckon the eye. These colorful wares—known as Armenian ceramics—are iconic features of the Holy City. Silently, these works of ceramic art—an art that graces homes and museums around the world—also represent a riveting story of resilience and survival.

In 1919, David Ohannessian founded the art of Armenian ceramics in Jerusalem, where his work and that of his followers is now celebrated as a local treasure. Born in an isolated Anatolian mountain village, Ohannessian mastered a centuries-old art form in Kütahya, witnessed the rise of violent nationalism in the waning years of the Ottoman Empire, endured arrest and deportation in the Armenian Genocide, founded a new tradition in Jerusalem under the British Mandate, and spent his final years, uprooted once again, in Cairo and Beirut.

Ms. Moughalian will detail the lineage and transfer of her grandfather David Ohannessian’s ceramic tradition from Kütahya to Jerusalem, a story obscured in the art historical narrative. She will speak about the process of coming to terms with her family’s past, the ways in which that served as an impetus to excavate and reconstruct her grandfather’s history through archival research, and the importance of preserving the stories of peoples displaced through migration. She will also highlight the critical role Jerusalem’s Armenian Convent of St. James played in sheltering survivors of the Armenian Genocide in the years after the First World War and then again as Armenians fled their homes in Palestine during the Arab-Israeli war of 1948.

Sato Moughalian is the author of Feast of Ashes: The Life and Art of David Ohannessian (Redwood Press/Stanford University Press, 2019). She is also an award-winning flutist in

Sato Moughalian, authorNew York City and Artistic Director of Perspectives Ensemble, founded in 1993 at Columbia University to explore and contextualize works of composers and visual artists. She serves as principal flutist of the American Modern Ensemble and Gotham Chamber Opera; guest flutist with groups including Imani Winds, American Ballet Theatre, American Symphony Orchestras, and the Orquestra Sinfonico do Estado São Paulo, Brazil. She can be heard on more than thirty chamber music recordings for Sony Classics, BIS, Naxos, as well as on YouTube, Spotify, and other major music platforms. Since 2007, Ms. Moughalian has traveled to Turkey, England, Israel, Palestine, and France to uncover her grandfather’s traces, has published articles, and gives talks on the genesis of Jerusalem’s Armenian ceramic art.

Copies of the book Feast of Ashes: The Life and Art of David Ohannessian will be available for purchase and to be signed by the author! As always, a reception will follow. All are welcome!

 

 

Jesse Siragan Arlen to Present on Anania of Narek on October 17 and Western Armenian on October 16

Please join the Zohrab Information Center on Thursday, October 17 at 7 PM in the Guild Hall at the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America to hear an exciting lecture from Jesse Siragan Arlen: “Feed Your Soul With Tears:” Anania of Narek and the Forgotten Practice of Praying with Tears. This is the second Enrichment Evening in the Fall Series on Monasticism. During the course of the Fall Lecture Series, the Zohrab Information Center will explore the education system, cultural context, and the place of Armenian monasteries in the history of Armenian learning and society at large. Monasteries like Narekavank, spiritually and intellectually reinvigorated by Anania of Narek, the great-uncle of the celebrated Gregory of Narek, were places where the daily worship of Jesus Christ through prayer and liturgy supported a vibrant communal and intellectual life. These places of worship were also the central literary and cultural institutions of their time. During this lecture series, the Zohrab Information Center hopes to highlight and animate the practices and knowledges that make Armenian monasteries such important centers of worship and learning.

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Mr. Arlen’s talk will the ascetic discipline of praying with tears, which was a central feature of late antique and medieval monasticism. It begins with an examination of the biblical background to this practice and then turns to a discussion of Anania—founder and abbot of the monastery of Narek and relative and spiritual father to Gregory of Narek—and his teaching on the spiritual benefits of praying with tears, which he promoted among the monks at his monastery. Finally, the talk will discuss how this practice illumines one of the central functions that Gregory imagined for his Book of Lamentation: to induce people to shed tears before God in prayer.

portrait jesseJesse Siragan Arlen is a PhD Candidate in the Near Eastern Languages & Cultures department at UCLA. His research and publications pertain to late antique and medieval religious literature and intellectual history, with special attention to ascetic practices, mysticism, and education in Eastern Christianity and Islam. His dissertation revolves around Anania of Narek. His creative prose and poetry in Western Armenian has appeared in literary journals such as Inknagir and Pakine. He is also a recipient of the Dolores Zohrab Liebmann Fund Fellowship.

In addition to his presentation at the Zohrab Information Center, Mr. Arlen will participate in a panel on Western Armenian in the 21st Century, a panel discussion on October 16 at 7:00 PM taking place at the Eastern Prelacy (138 E. 39th Street). The discussion is sparked by the publication by the Society for Armenian Studies of the recent volume Western Armenian in the 21st Century, in which Mr. Arlen has published a chapter. Mr. Arlen will be joined by Dr. Vartan Matiossian, Executive Director of the Eastern Prelacy, who wrote the conclusion for the book, and Ms. Gilda Kupelian, Director of the Armenian Studies Department at the Eastern Diocese. Moderated by the Director of the Zohrab Information Center, the discussion will focus on the status and place of Western Armenian in today’s world, with a special emphasis on the teaching of Western Armenian.Oct 16 Event Flyer