Sonia Tashjian’s personal library finds a home at the Zohrab Information Center

Sonia Tashjian (née Ekizian) was born in Jounieh, Lebanon in 1929 to parents Hampartzoum and Haigouhi (née Karagosian) Ekizian who hailed from Chomachlou and Yozgat, Turkey, respectively.  Her father had emigrated to New York prior to World War I to earn money for his family.  Her mother survived the Armenian Genocide by walking in constant peril through the Syrian desert before reaching a refugee camp in Aleppo, Syria, where Hampartzoum had rescued his two surviving children, Garabed and Turvandah.  He married Haigouhi and together they had four children, Margaret, Youghaper, Sonia, and Hagop.  

Sonia Tashjian (middle back) with her father, mother, and three siblings

Sonia emigrated to New York in 1937 at the age of eight with her parents and siblings.  She graduated from Theodore Roosevelt High School in the Bronx, NY.  She married Martin Sonny Tashjian, in 1951, shortly before Sonny was deployed to Korea.  They had four sons: Douglas, Glenn, Craig, and Roger.  Sonny died in 1981 from Leukemia.  With her well known strong will and determination, Sonia re-entered the workforce and still managed to send her two youngest sons to Lehigh University.  

Sonia Tashjian in 1950

Sonny and Sonia were among the founding families of St. Thomas Armenian Church in Tenafly, NJ.  She later became an active member of St. Leon Armenian Church in Fair Lawn, NJ, where she was a member of the women’s guild for 30 years.  Sonia’s faith in God and never-give-up spirit got her through several illnesses, including her final battle with COVID-19 and its aftermath.  She died peacefully on the morning of July 29th, 2020.   

Sonia Tashjian later in life

Sonia was an exceptional bibliophile, as evidenced by her collection of over a hundred Armenian-related books that were donated by her son Douglas to the Zohrab Information Center in 2021.  Several titles were original contributions to the Center’s library, e.g., The Adventures of Wesley Jackson by William Saroyan, and Source Records of the Great War, Volume III (an anthology of official documents for the year 1915, with a chapter dedicated to the Armenian Genocide).  

Title page of The Adventures of Wesley Jackson by William Saroyan, from the Sonia Tashjian Collection

Many other titles were in better condition than the Center’s copies, such as George M. Mardikian’s autobiography, Song of America, which also included the original 1956 dust jacket.  

Front cover of Song of America by George Mardikian, from the Sonia Tashjian Collection

Others were earlier editions than books in the Center’s collection, such as the two-volume travelogue Armenia: Travels and Studies by H. F. B. Lynch. Sonia had the first edition from 1901, while the Center had previously only held later editions.  

Front cover of Armenia: Travels and Studies, vol. 1 by H. F. B. Lynch from the Sonia Tashjian Collection
Title page of Armenia: Travels and Studies, vol. 2 by H. F. B. Lynch from the Sonia Tashjian Collection

One of the most intriguing dimensions of Sonia’s collection was the compilation of book-related ephemera: book catalogues of bygone decades, correspondence, and order receipts with Armenian book dealers spanning from 1961-1982, notably seller Mark Armen Kalustian in Arlington, Massachusetts, with whom Sonia exchanged extensive correspondence and was a loyal customer of many years.  

Sonia Tashjian correspondence with bookseller Mark Kalustian
Sonia Tashjian correspondence with bookseller Mark Kalustian
Bookseller Mark Kalustian order form and correspondence with Sonia Tashjian
Bookseller Mark Kalustian order form and correspondence with Sonia Tashjian

Sonia’s collection, both the books and the ephemera, are a magnificent testament not only to the strength of life pulsating through the 20th century Armenian-American community, but also to the love and care of one extraordinary woman toward that community and its literary heritage. Her personal library of Armenian books, collected over a lifetime, has now found a permanent home in the Zohrab Information Center’s research library. 

Naming the Armenian Genocide: Language, Politics, and Medz Yeghern; a presentation by Dr. Vartan Matiossian

Related to a recent book he has published, Dr. Vartan Matiossian, historian, literary scholar, and Executive Director of the Eastern Prelacy of the Armenian Church, will give a presentation entitled, “Naming the Armenian Genocide: Language, Politics, and Medz Yeghern” at the Guild Hall of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America: 630 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10016.

Reception and book signing to follow the presentation.

The presentation will make reference to the etymology and history of the word yeghern, its use parallel to “genocide” after 1945, and its political and historical implications, drawing from a vast array of instances of its use and misuse by politicians, journalists and others, particularly Pope John Paul II, the 2008 apology campaign by a group of Turkish intellectuals, and the last four presidents of the United States.

Dr. Vartan Matiossian, a historian and literary scholar, has been Executive Director of the Eastern Prelacy of the Armenian Church (New York) since 2019. He obtained his Ph.D. in History from the Institute of History of the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia in 2006. He lives in New Jersey. He has published extensively in Armenian, Spanish, and English, including the translation of almost two dozen books and the editing of twenty-five volumes, as well as five books of his authorship in Armenian, one in Spanish, and two in English: Armenian Language Matters (New York, 2019) and The Politics of Naming the Armenian Genocide: Language, History, and “Medz Yeghern” (London, 2021). His next book in English, An Armenian Woman of the World: Armen Ohanian, the “Dancer of Shamakha,” co-authored with Artsvi Bakhchinyan, is coming out in a few weeks from the Press at California State University, Fresno.

Susan Barba to Present New Collection of Poems. Thursday, May 11.

BarbaFairSunCoverPoet, translator and editor Susan Barba will present her first collection of poetry entitled Fair Sun at the Zohrab Center on Thursday, May 11 at 7pm in the Guild Hall of the Armenian Diocese.

CLICK HERE to download a flyer.

The wide-ranging works in the collection include a series of prose poems titled “Andranik.” In these poems, a child is speaking with her grandfather who relates, in answer to her questioning, the details of his survival during the Armenian Genocide: his escape, the murder of his father, the suicide of his sister, the death of his best friend, forced marches, enslavement – all punctuated by memories of an earlier boyhood spent chasing ducks, swimming in the river, sleeping on mats under the stars.

Benjamin Paloff, Associate Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Michigan writes, “Few poets are, for me, so rich in gifts and so graceful in the giving.”

Susan Barba web-9101-media squareSusan Barba’s work has been published in Poetry, Boston Review, The Hudson Review, The Yale Review, Antioch Review, Harvard Review, and elsewhere. She is a co-editor of I Want to Live: Poems of Shushanik Kurghinian (AIWA Press), and she has translated and published poems by Vahan Teryan and Siamanto. She received a Ph.D. in comparative literature from Harvard University, and an M.F.A. from Boston University. She has taught in the Writing Program at Boston University and is currently a senior editor with New York Review Books. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with her husband and two children.

The book presentation and reading will take place at the Zohrab Center of the Armenian Diocese, 630 2nd Avenue, New York. It is free and open to the public. All are invited to attend and to enjoy a wine and cheese reception afterwards. Copies of Dr. Barba’s new book will be available for sale.

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

Genocide and Immortality? Dr. Roberta Ervine to Open ZIC Autumn Enrichment Series

The Zohrab Center’s Autumn Enrichment Series will begin on Tuesday, September 27 with a presentation by Dr. Roberta Ervine entitled, In the Harsh Light of Genocide: Armenian Thoughts on Immortality.

2016-09-ervineanmahutiwn-001Dr. Ervine is Professor of Armenian Studies at St. Nersess Armenian Seminary. She is a regular lecturer at the Zohrab Center.

The Genocide forced Armenians to reconsider their human experience in the light of mass death and dislocation. In an insecure and threatening world, what can one depend on? Is there a life after death, and if so, who is in charge of it? Where does it happen? What is it like? What qualities make a person, a community, or an ethnic group immortal? Does immortality have anything to do with faith? How does immortality relate to traditional Armenian religious teaching, if at all?

Prof. Roberta ErvineOn an almost week-by-week basis, Armenian periodical literature from the 1920’s and 1930’s records the process by which these questions worked themselves out in the minds of survivors and Diaspora Armenians alike.

Rereading this long forgotten body of writings, Dr. Ervine will explore the new, post-Genocide thinking on the topic of immortality, and look at where Armenians turned to find inspiration and consolation in the uncertain decades immediately following the Genocide.

Since 2001 Professor Roberta Ervine has taught courses on
Classical and Modern Armenian Language, Church History, and Armenian Theology and Spirituality at St. Nersess Seminary in Armonk, New York. She earned her PhD in classical Armenian Studies from Columbia University and has done extensive research on topics related to medieval Armenian studies. She pursues topics related to the history of Armenians in Jerusalem and the intellectual tradition of the Armenian Middle Ages.

2016-09-ervineimmortality-001During the Spring  she was the Henry K. Khanzadian Kazan Visiting Professor of Armenian Studies at California State University, Fresno.

Dr. Ervine’s presentation will take place in the Guild Hall of the Armenian Diocese in New York on Tuesday, Septmeber 27, 2016. All are invited to the event, which is free of charge. A reception will follow. For further information contact the Zohrab Center at zohrabcenter@armeniandiocese.org or (212) 686-0710.

CLICK HERE to download a flyer.

Komitas Vartabed and the Survival of Armenian Music. June 9

0205KomitasThis season’s final Zohrab Center enrichment evening will be devoted to the legacy of the celebrated and beloved Armenian priest-musician-composer, Komitas Vartabed.

Ashley Bozian-Murtha will present a talk entitled, Komitas Vartabed and the Survival of Armenian Music at the Zohrab Center on Thursday, June 9 at 7PM.

Komitas is a central figure in the history of Armenian music, particularly the sacred music of the Armenian Church. His contributions span liturgical, folk, and even concert music. Surprisingly, despite his universal admiration today, during his lifetime his work earned him the ire of church officials and his fellow clergymen, who frequently denounced him as a musicological firebrand and moral deviant.

KomitasVartabedPerhaps more significant than his work inside Armenia, however, is his legacy to the global Armenian diaspora. While controversial during his lifetime, Komitas was uniquely positioned to preserve Armenian music from the oblivion of genocide. Were it not for his oft-condemned inclination to transcribe and transform the music of Armenia, that vast tradition may well have perished in the attempted destruction of the Armenian people.

Much research exists on the life of Komitas, and on Armenian music as a separate entity, but there remains a relative paucity of work to place the two in context with one another. Ms. Bozian-Murtha will survey and sort through the biographical, musicological, and historical research on the composer and his impact on Armenian music. Analyzing the composer’s original compositions and transcriptions along with secondary biographical sources and historical data, she asserts that the very survival of Armenian music in the aftermath of the Genocide is a direct result of Komitas’s labors. 

2016-05 MaranciVigilantPowersFlyer.001.jpeg.001CLICK HERE to download a flyer.

Ashley Bozian-Murtha is a PhD candidate in History at St. John’s University (New York). She holds a B.A. in History and Music and an M.Ed. from Manhattanville College (New York). Following her undergraduate work, she earned an MA in Music History from Hunter College, where she wrote her master’s thesis on the life and work of Komitas Vartabed. 

The program will be held in the Guild Hall of the Armenian Diocese in New York. All are welcome to attend the free event, which will be followed by a reception.

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

The Young Turk Revolution of 1908: Space, Symbolism and Language. Lecture by Dr. Bedross Der Matossian. May 5

2016-4 MatossianYoungTurks.001Dr. Bedross Der Matossian, Associate Professor of Modern Middle East History at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln will present a lecture at the Zohrab Information Center entitled, The Political Culture of the Young Turk Revolution of 1908: Space Symbolism, and Language on Thursday, May 5, 2106 at 7PM in the Guild Hall of the Armenian Diocese in New York.

CLICK HERE to download a flyer.

The Young Turk Revolution of July 24, 1908 brought jubilation to Istanbul and other cities across the Ottoman Empire. Turks and other ethnic groups shared in the festivities that heralded the demise of the old regime and the inauguration of what was to have been a new and hopeful era. To build consensus among the various ethnic groups, the Young Turks introduced new social and political definitions, new symbols, and new rituals.

Professor Der Matossian will analyze the revolutionary rituals of these festivities from the perspective of space, symbolism and language as he explores the Young Turks’ attempts to create a new civil religion that would provide solidarity and emphasize oneness rather than distinction.

Bedross Der MatossianBorn and raised in Jerusalem, Dr. Der Matossian is a graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he began his graduate studies. He completed his PhD in Middle East History at Columbia University in 2008. His areas of interest include ethnic politics in the Middle East, inter-ethnic violence in the Ottoman Empire, Palestinian history, and the history of the Armenian Genocide.

He has taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Chicago. The recipient of numerous fellowships and awards, he is the author of dozens of published articles and digital projects. His book, Shattered Dreams of Revolution: From Liberty to Violence in the Late Ottoman Empirewas published by Stanford University Press in 2014.

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

 

Portraits of Survival: The Armenians of Bourj Hammoud. Tuesday, June 9

 

Photographer Ariane Ateshian Delacampagne will present her photographic portrait of the Armenian community of Bourj Hammoud, Beirut, Lebanon.
Photographer Ariane Ateshian Delacampagne will present her photographic portrait of the Armenian community of Bourj Hammoud, Beirut, Lebanon on Tuesday, June 9, 2015 at the Zohrab Center in New York.

The presentation of the new book Portraits of Survival: The Armenians of Bourj Hammoud, which was postponed earlier in the year because of snow will take place this Tuesday, June 9 at 7PM in the Guild Hall of the Armenian Diocese in New York.

Ariane Ateshian Delacampagne, a photographer of Armenian descent born in Beirut, spent years among the remarkable people living and working in the Armenian enclave of Bourj Hammoud in northeast Beirut. The result is a singular portrait of this vibrant Armenian community born from the ashes of the Genocide.

The album is replete with stunning, original photographs that document the spirit and history of this remarkable community.

The evening is being co-sponsored by the Zohrab Information Center and the Department of Armenian Studies of the Diocese, as well as AGBU Ararat. The event is free and open to the public. A wine and cheese reception will follow. CLICK HERE for full details.

2015-06 BourjHammoud-page-001CLICK HERE to download a color brochure.

For further information contact zohrabcenter@armeniandiocese.org or (212) 686-0710.

There Was and There Was Not. Book Presentation Thursday, March 26, 2015

2015-03 ThereWasMeline Toumani will read from her new book, There Was and There Was Not: A Journey Through Hate and Possibility in Turkey, Armenia and Beyond at the Armenian Diocese, 630 Second Avenue, New York on Thursday, March 26 at 7PM.

The event is being co-sponsored by the Zohrab Information Center, the Armenian Students’ Association, and the Armenian Network of America.

Dr. Margarit Ordukhanyan, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Classical and Oriental Studies at Hunter College, will moderate the evening’s discussion and presentation.

In her new memoir, a finalist for the 2014 National Book Critics Circle Award in autobiography, Ms. Toumani examines the complex role that inherited ideas about “the Turk” have played in her own identity as an Armenian-American and as a writer.

“I read Meline Toumani’s original and audacious book with admiration, first for the grainy pleasures of her narrative—the raw energy of true encounters,” writes Michael J. Arlen, author of the classic Passage to Ararat, adding, “And perhaps even more for her nerve and seriousness in trying, as an Armenian-American woman, to find a path between the often self-defeating absolutism of her own Armenian community and the Orwellian evasions of most contemporary Turks when asked to acknowledge the plain act of long-ago genocide in plain language.”

The public is invited to the presentation, which will take place in the Guild Hall of the Diocese, and is free of charge. A reception will follow, with copies of the book available for purchase.

Those planning to attend are asked to RSVP to nyasa@asainc.org.

Martyrs in the 20th Century. Martyrs in the 1st Century.

2015 GanteghToday is the Feast of St. Voski and his Companions, a group of priests who were among the first Christians to be martyred on Armenian soil just decades after Christ. Followers of St. Thaddeus the Apostle, St. Voski and his priest-companions dared to bring the news of a new god—indeed, the only true God—to a people who were quite content to follow the pagan status quo.

Two thousand years later, 1.5 million native Armenian Christians would lay down their lives on their native land out of their deepest conviction that in that same True God, Jesus Christ, the end of this earthly life was merely the turning of the page of a divine and eternal book of life.

Today the Armenian Church in its native homeland and throughout the world pushes on, inspired by that same faith, to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to a world that so desperately looks for true peace, true meaning and true hope.

CLICK HERE to see the new and exciting missionary work inspired by St. Voski and His Companions.

Code Name “Haiko” Discovering the Last Unknown Participant in Talaat Pasha’s Liquidation. Lecture by Dr. Vartan Matiossian

Grand Vizir Talaat Pasha was murdered on March 15, 1921 in Berlin by Soghomon Tehlirian as vengeance for his role in the Armenian Genocide.
Grand Vizir Talaat Pasha was assassinated on March 15, 1921 in Berlin by Soghomon Tehlirian as vengeance for his role in the Armenian Genocide.

The Zohrab Center inaugurates its Spring Armenian enrichment series on Thursday, February 5 with a real-life detective story by Dr. Vartan Matiossian.

In 1921 the mastermind of the Armenian Genocide, Talaat Pasha, was killed in a Berlin street by a young avenger, Soghomon Tehlirian. This was the final act of Operation Nemesis, planned and partially carried out between 1919 and 1922 to fulfill the justice to the Armenian people that many believed had been denied them by tribunals.

Soghomon Tehlirian was acquitted by a  German court in the assassination of Talaat Pasha.
Soghomon Tehlirian was acquitted by a German court in the assassination of Talaat Pasha.

In his memoirs, published in Armenian in 1953, Tehlirian unveiled many of the details of his action. For security reasons, he identified his immediate on-the-ground collaborators with pseudonyms: Hazor, Vaza, and a certain Haiko. Three decades later, the identity of the first two were revealed or inferred but the third operative, “Haiko,” has remained unidentified.

While waiting for the day that archival material will yield more information about him, a lucky hunch and a painstaking examination of data from the Armenian press and secondary literature has allowed Dr. Vartan Matiossian to identify by name and to outline the life and activities of “Haiko.”

Dr. Vartan Matiossian has published extensively in the areas of Armenian history and literature.
Dr. Vartan Matiossian has published extensively in the areas of Armenian history and literature.

Dr. Vartan Matiossian was born in Montevideo, Uruguay, and lived in Buenos Aires until 2000, when he moved to the United States. He graduated from the University of Buenos Aires and has a Ph.D. in history from the Academy of Sciences, Armenia, having studied the Armenian community in Argentina from its beginnings until 1950.

A frequent visitor to the Zohrab Center, Dr. Matiossian currently serves as Executive Director of the Armenian National Education Committee of the Armenian Prelacy in New York. He has published extensively in the areas of Armenian history and literature in Armenian, Spanish and English, including 5 books and countless scholarly articles, essays and book reviews. He has also translated 15 Armenian books into Spanish and English.

2015-02 Matiossian.001Dr. Matiossian’s presentation will take place in the Guild Hall of the Armenian Diocese, 630 2nd. Avenue, New York on Thursday, February 5 at 7PM. The event, which will be followed by a reception, is free of charge and all are welcome.

CLICK HERE to download a color flyer.

For further information, contact the Zohrab Center at zohrabcenter@armeniandiocese.org or (212) 686-0710.