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Zohrab Information Center Temporarily Closed Due to Coronavirus

Dear Friends of the Zohrab Information Center:

As you are all surely aware, the rapid spread of the Coronavirus/COVID-19 is now a global pandemic, with many cases in the United States and New York City. Following the advice of the CDC, health experts, the broad restrictions on public gatherings by city and state officials, and the directive of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America, Zohrab Information Center events will be cancelled at least until April 12. Additionally, as the Diocese building is currently closed, the Zohrab Information Center, located within the building, will also be closed. At this time, the Diocese is closed for the current week. In light of the rapidly changing situation, Diocesan administration will regularly evaluate this decision.

The Zohrab Information Center will be closed until the Diocese itself reopens. We will inform you when this is the case. In the meantime, you can contact the Director of the Zohrab Information Center by email at zohrabcenter@armeniandiocese.org. We apologize for the inconvenience and pray that we will be able to open again soon. Until then, we encourage you to follow the Zohrab Information Center on Instagram, to “like” us on Facebook, and to visit our website zohrabcenter.org where we will be posting content related to the Armenian cultural and spiritual heritage and the rich collection of the Zohrab Information Center’s library.

If you have not yet, please read the ADVISORY ON UPCOMING LITURGICAL AND OTHER CHURCH FUNCTIONS from Bishop Daniel Findikyan. It includes this beautiful prayer for healing:

“Lord our God, enthroned among the angels, as you gaze here below from your holy heights, look down on all of us, your servants, who are suffering through the fear, uncertainty, pain and death surrounding the current pandemic. Take away every sickness and pain, and restore health and hope to all those who are ailing. Glory, lordship and honor to you, now and always and unto the ages of ages. Amen.”

Christopher Sheklian
Director

Armenian Christian Approaches to Creation: Being or Doing? a Presentation by Dn. Alexander Calikyan

Next Thursday, March 5th at 7 PM in the Guild Hall at the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America, the Zohrab Information Center will hold its next event in the Winter/Spring 2020 Series on the Environment: Dn. Alex Calikyan, a recent graduate of the St. Nersess Armenian Seminary will present a talk, Armenian Christian Approaches to Creation: Being or Doing?

The talk is the second presentation in the series on the environment. In recent years, the idea of environmental theology or “eco-theology” has been developed by many of the major Christian denominations. Though 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, this line of thinking has not yet been fully explored in the Armenian Apostolic Church. To that end, the Winter/Spring 2020 Series on the Environment hopes to propel the possibility of Armenian environmental theology forward.

Dn. Alex Calikyan, who attended the Halki Summit III in Istanbul, a conference on “Theological Formation and Ecological Awareness: A Conversation on Education and the Enviornment” organized by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, will explore the practical application of an Armenian environmental theology. How should Armenian Christianity approach God’s creation, practically speaking? What do we do with an environmental theology? These practical questions of education, application, and lived spiritual experience are at the heart of Dn. Calikyan’s presentation.

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Alex Halki Picture

Alexander Calikyan is an ordained deacon of the Armenian Church and a lifelongservant of the Armenian Church of the Holy Martyrs in Queens, New York. He recently completed his studies at St. Nersess Armenian Seminary and St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary and received a Master of Divinity Degree in Spring 2019. He attended the Halki Summit III in Istanbul last year, convened by the Ecumenical Patriarchate to address the topic, “Theological Formation and Ecological Awareness: A Conversation on Education and the Environment.” He currently working at the VA as a Chaplain Resident.

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.

Aznavourian February 2020 ZIC.001

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.

Environmental Theology Sheklian ZIC Presentation 2.6.20.001

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.

The Moon in the Cusp of My Hand 1.23.20 Koundakjian.001

“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.