Guest Blogger – Zohrab Center Intern Nicholas Burdman, participant in the AGBU Summer Internship Program in New York

When I originally applied to be a diocesan intern through the Armenian General Benevolent Union’s New York Summer Internship Program, I was not exactly sure what to expect. I thought I knew about the church already. I had been ordained a tibir (acolyte), taught Sunday School, attended Camp Vartan, and served on the executive board of my parish’s ACYOA Juniors. What I had not anticipated, however, was the scope of the diocese. With departments ranging from accounting to youth ministry, to the communications department, the Diocese bustles with activity. Where, I worried, would I fit in?

The answer, I would later find out, was in the Krikor and Clara Zohrab Information Center. Here, to my delight, my responsibilities change day to day. Some days I help catalogue the many books in the Zohrab Center. Often, I can’t help but peruse the titles and sample the stories. Other days I help to organize the immense collection of books the library owns. Perhaps most intriguing, however, was when I spent time going through the photos and documents of prominent Armenians who have seen fit to leave such things to the Zohrab Center. I poured over the passports and photographs of Dolores Zohrab Liebmann and her family and inspected pictures of the artist Vava. By working at the Zohrab Center every day, I have also forged relationships with people I met through my time here.

In addition to my responsibilities in the center, I have also been exposed to a great number of topics which I was not previously familiar with. This was accomplished through hour-long discussions with the staff of the Zohrab Center. The title of these sessions was “Armenia: Then and Now.” Again, even though I thought I had a solid foundation in the history of Armenia, the breadth of the topics we covered astounded me.  I never anticipated that by studying Armenian history, one was really studying the history of the world. We discussed Armenians in the Ottoman Empire and their immense contributions to society, Armenians in Venice, in particular the Mekhitarist monks and the island of San Lazzaro. The island, we discovered, was a center of Armenian printing and literature. Although pledging their allegiance to the Roman Catholic pope, the Mekhitarist monks focused their efforts on a renaissance of Armenian literature. And, to this day, the island still belongs to this Armenian monastic order.

We also watched a video “Everyone Prays at Holy Etchmiadzin” which traces the history and importance of the Armenian Church. Another session involved a trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, specifically the Byzantine collection and the newly acquired Armenian khatchkar. We spoke about how even though Byzantine art was strongly influenced by both Armenian and European art, khatchkars were an art form which was solely Armenian. We also viewed coins that depicted great leaders of the Byzantine Empire, some of whom were Armenian. We learned that coins were a major way citizens could identify who their leader was. In an age before newspapers and television, the average citizen could tell who was in charge by whose face was on their coins.

With roughly half of my internship completed, it seems necessary to reflect on what I have accomplished. What I have found, it seems, is that Armenians share a marvelous history of success. Thriving in nearly every aspect of world history, it seems to be a tradition continued even today. The AGBU New York Summer Internship Program attests to this fact. Drawn from all over the world, greatly varied in interests and occupations, the thirty four of us are representative of the successful nature of Armenians. Among us are future doctors, lawyers, writers, hedge fund managers, engineers, and architects, and we hope to preserve our Armenian heritage and culture and build on the strong foundation the preceding generations of Armenians created here in the United States.

Internship Opportunities at the Armenian Diocese in New York

The Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern) will once again be working in partnership with the AGBU Summer Intern Program to offer an eight-week internship at the Diocese during the summer of 2010 (June 13 – August 7) for young adults between the ages of 20 and 26.  According to individual career goals, interns may choose to work in areas such as accounting, development, public relations, education, music or in the Zohrab Information Center.  This is the perfect program for young adults interested in career experience and leadership development.

The Diocesan interns will be part of the AGBU Summer Intern Program, which means they will participate in the AGBU orientation program, be housed with other AGBU interns in New York University dormitories, and engage in various AGBU-sponsored educational, cultural, and social activities that highlight current and Armenian topics.  We, however, will supervise and guide their work here at the Diocese and offer other appropriate career and leadership growth opportunities.

We are seeking three interns to participate and ask that you reach out to any young adults in your community whom you feel would be interested and qualify for this unique experience.  All application and participation fees (as well as housing) will be covered by the Diocese; the application deadline is May 1, 2010.

For more information or to receive an application, please contact Nancy Basmajian at or at (212) 293-1248.  The interns will be chosen by committee and informed of their acceptance into the program by the end of May.

Intern Program Thriving at Zohrab Center

The Zohrab Center opens its doors to college students who serve as interns in the center throughout the year. The interns undertake many different responsibilities, most importantly, cataloguing books in the Zohrab Center’s impressive collection. While all of the English books in the Zohrab Center have been catalogued (approximately 6,000 books) there are still close to 8,000 Armenian books left to catalogue. This catalogue will be accessible on-line through the Zohrab Center website. Other intern tasks include digitizing videos and assisting with research and projects at the Zohrab Center.

Levon Vrtanesyan

Senior at NYU studying business

“Being surrounded by people who share similar interests to mine while living in Manhattan as an undergrad at NYU has been a consistent source of support and encouragement.”

Henry Dumanian

Junior at Hunter College studying political science and history

“I like the academic atmosphere and the center’s commitment to preserving the community’s Armenian intellectual vibrancy,” said Dumanian, adding, “I’ll always have a connection to the ZC one way or another for the rest of my life.”

Other interns include Olivia Whitney Drabicki, Artlet Korogluyan, Greg Kirkorian, Gloria Munoz, Deanna Cachoian-Schanz, Levon Vrtanesyan and Raffi Wartanian.