Banquet Celebrates Mirror Anniversary


Keynote speaker Stephen Kurkjian

By Aram Arkun

TEANECK, N.J. — More than 200 guests assembled here at a banquet on June 4 to raise funds, support and celebrate the work of the Armenian Mirror-Spectator, and commemorate three New York area intellectuals who were important in its history.

Guests were initially greeted at the Teaneck Marriott at Glenpointe with classical music performed by violoncellist Elizabeth Kalfayan and violinist Orlando Wells.

Master of ceremonies Dr. Raffy Hovanessian

After Shoghig Chalian, co-chair of the event together with Betty Salbashian, welcomed the guests, Vagharshak Ohanyan and Lena Chilingerian, accompanied on the piano by Dr. Meroujan Maljian, sang the national anthems of the US and Armenia, and Bishop Manuel Batakian, Eparch of the Armenian Catholic Eparchy of the US and Canada, gave the invocation. Salbashian then introduced Dr. Raffy Hovanessian, the master of ceremonies, who introduced the various speakers.

Nerses Babayan, who was close to the Housepian family, spoke about Dr. Movses Housepian (1876- 1952). He described his service to the Armenian community as a physician in the United States, and his efforts in serving the Armenian volunteer movement during World War I. Later, Housepian became one of the leaders of the Armenian Democratic Liberal Party (ADL) and a supporter of the Mirror- Spectator. Babayan exclaimed, “Dr. Movses Hovsepian belongs to a phalanx of dedicated Armenians who readily answered the supreme call of their people.”

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Novelist and critic Peter Sourian was unable to participate in the evening due to illness, but sent his talk on Jack Antreassian to be read by Dr. Vagheenag Tarpinian, member of the Tekeyan Cultural Association’s Greater New York Chapter Committee. Sourian pointed out the duality of Jack/Ardavast as an Armenian in America and his dedication to the advancement of Armenian literature and culture, declaring, “He chose to deploy his considerable gifts not for his own advancement in the world of personal possibilities that America offered, but rather to serve the wounded Armenian nation,” Tarpinian read. His sacrifices on behalf of the Armenians deserve to be honored and remembered, he added.

Florence Akavian

Journalist Florence Avakian expressed her admiration for Armine Dikijian as one of her three role models, calling her “gutsy and very stylish.” Avakian had read Dikijian’s writings from the time she was in elementary school and continued to do so for many years. Avakian observed, “This was a woman with a rare communicative ability, a sense of observation that was so keen. People were attracted to her, her smiling face….She was also a fearless woman, who was not afraid to go home late at night after covering events, in the subway to Brooklyn.” She served two decades in the Brooklyn Public Library and several further decades as a head criminal justice librarian. Avakian concluded, “This is a woman whose great legacy continues until today and there are many of us who are still inspired by her example and her motivation.”

Dr. Edgar Housepian, son of Dr. Movses Housepian then responded on behalf of the families of the honorees, including Armine Dikijian’s niece, Andrea Halejian, who was present in the audience. Housepian related his longstanding admiration for his father’s work. Aside from his Armenian-related work, as a young man, his father had many adventures which became fodder for wonderful bedtime stories for his children. For example, he took a job as a ship’s doctor and went down the Amazon River.

Also in the program, was jazz singer Datevik Hovanesian, accompanied by jazz pianist Bob Albanese, bass player Phil Palombi, and drummer David Meade. She sang versions of two Sayat Nova songs, two Komitas pieces, a song by Antonio Carlos Jobim, and an Armenian folk song, all with her inimitable style, backed by her tremendous trio.

Keynote speaker Stephen Kurkjian, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, then took the podium and said, “I know firsthand the importance of this paper for the Armenian community. For much of its history, it has been a mainstay in my home…my grandmother never wavered. The Baikar Armenian paper was there every morning, and the Mirror- Spectator for me and my sisters, and it was required reading.” Like other good newspapers, “It informs its readers. It challenges them. It illuminates the world around us.” Kurkjian continued, “It continues to provide excellent coverage of Armenia’s place, and Armenians’ place, in the world. … It provides depth of coverage on the issues of the day that we all care about.”

Kurkjian noted that with the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide approaching, the responsibility of passing on the knowledge of our history and the pride that comes with it is all the more important. He described his current project of researching a group photograph of Armenians from Gesarea (Kayseri) who were victims of the Genocide. He called on the present Turkish government to make at least one act of reaching out to the Armenians as an initial step before the 100th anniversary: “invite us back, not because we are going to stay, but so that we can honor the memory of those lives that they [the Ottomans] took.” In this way, funeral services could be held for the victims of the Genocide. Meanwhile, he concluded, “when the 100th anniversary comes, we will be in the streets, we will be on the front pages, we will be on every broadcast and telecast,” celebrating our survival and success, not just our losses.

Alin Gregorian and Hagop Vartivarian during cutting of the anniversary cake

Meanwhile, after the banquet guests had finished the main course, Alin Gregorian, the editor of the Mirror-Spectator, and Hagop Vartivarian on behalf of the Tekeyan Cultural Association, cut a special anniversary cake. Vartivarian thanked the organizers of the banquet, and pointed out that the Mirror-Spectator would be a source for future historians studying the Armenians, and the Armenian Americans in particular. Gregorian thanked all the supporters of the newspaper. Hovanessian then read letters of congratulations from Osheen Keshishian, editor of the Armenian Observer, Baydzig Kalaidjian, editor of Zartonk daily of Beirut, Lebanon and Asbed Artinian, editor of Arev newspaper of Cairo, Egypt on the occasion of the Mirror-Spectator’s anniversary.

Ambassador Garen Nazarian offered remarks in honor of the anniversary.

Ambassador Garen Nazarian, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Armenia to the United Nations, congratulated the Tekeyan Cultural Association and the supporters of the Mirror-Spectator. He said that the Armenian media, including the Mirror-Spectator, played a vital role in providing correct information about Armenia, and correcting errors in other media outlets, including misinformation deliberately propagated by Azerbaijan. Nazarian declared that the Mirror can also play an important role in the resolution of the issues connected with the Armenian Genocide. He concluded that “just as a mirror is an indispensable item for putting our outer selves in order, so is the Mirror-Spectator an indispensable paper for exploring the understanding of our inner selves and the world around us. And as we introspect, we become a more open and prosperous nation, and a stronger democracy.”

Edmond Azadian, co-chairman of the ADL Eastern District Committee of the US and Canada, began collaborating with the Mirror as early as 1966. He pointed out that the founders of the Mirror-Spectator converted tragedy into triumph. Though the Western Armenian language, as the poet Vahan Tekeyan pointed out, might have been falling gradually into oblivion, the Mirror still allowed for the survival of elements of the Armenian heritage and spirit. Armenian journalism, from the very start founded outside of the homeland, worked in favor of the homeland. The Mirror worked to bond Armenians together, and build bridges.

Edmond Azadian

He declared that the print media is not yet defunct and the Mirror has a role in propelling its 80-year legacy into the future while sharing in the progress of electronic media. It now has a global readership in cyberspace. It provides a forum for free intellectual discourse.

A Hovsep Pushman lithograph was given as a present by art connoisseur Andreas Roubian to TCA’s Hagop Vartivarian, who decided to put it up for silent auction in order to aid the Mirror-Spectator this evening. Saro Hartounian, the chief executive officer of Harco Industries, was the winner of this auction. Moved by Vartivarian’s dedication Roubian gave a second copy of the lithograph to Vartivarian, but the latter promised to use it at a later occasion to again support the Armenian cause.

Archbishop Yeghishe Gizirian gave the closing prayer. As a faithful reader of the Mirror, he wished that it could continue its work and soon celebrate its centennial. He pointed out that everything in this world is transitory, and said “only writing and literature are lasting and useful.”

Present at the banquet were a number of important benefactors, such as Nazar and Artemis Nazarian, Edward and Carmen Gulbenkian, Dr. Raffy and Shoghag Hovanessian, Hratch and Suzanne Toufayan and Ruth Bedevian (Sarkis Bedevian was in Armenia). Representatives of organizations included Dr. Dennis Papazian, Grand Commander of the Knights of Vartan; Peter Kougasian, vice president of the Armenian Missionary Association of America; Van Krikorian, trustee of the Armenian Assembly of America; Alex Sarafian of the Central Committee of the Eastern Region of the US of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation; Nazareth Festekjian of the Central Board of the Armenian General Benevolent Union; Papken Megerian, ADL Eastern District cochair and treasurer of the Diocesan Council of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern) and the Very Rev. Daniel Findikyan, dean and professor of liturgical studies at St. Nersess Armenian Seminary, as well as Aram Arkun, the Mirror-Spectator’s associate editor.

On this occasion a colorful and first-class booklet was published which included historical facts, photos and biographies of all editors of the Mirror-Spectator, list of donors and many congratulatory letters among which were from Berge Setrakian, president of AGBU and Hrair Hovnanian, president of the Armenian Assembly. The list of donations will be published separately.

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