New Tekeyan Center Opens in New Jersey Dignitaries Celebrate New Site for Community Activism

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By Baydzig Kalayjian

ENGLEWOOD, N.J. — Since its inception in 1947 and until the present time, the local chapters of the Tekeyan Cultural Association have been the guarantors of the organization’s health and vitality. In the past, in other Armenian communities, Tekeyan chapters have played a dominant role. With the opening earlier this month of a new Tekeyan center in New Jersey, the community will be better able to connect with its cultural heritage.

Guests and various dignitaries were welcomed by the Tekeyan Cultural Association (TCA) executive committee members upon their arrival.

With the participation of benefactor Nazar Nazarian, Primate of Eastern Diocese Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Armenia’s Ambassador to the United Nations Garen Nazarian and Dr. Nubar Berberian, the traditional ceremony of ribbon cutting and blessing of bread and salt took place.

The Primate delivered an opening statement in which he said, “We announce the opening of this center so that this organization will continue its cultural mission. We are all well aware that the TCA has never deviated from its principles in the United States, Middle East and Armenia. It has successfully carried all responsibilities entrusted to it and has preserved the Armenian cultural heritage and identity and has passed on from one generation to the next. I am pleased to see that today, dedicated members of the TCA continue their mission with exuberance. We bless today not also this center but all future cultural activities that will offer joy to the general public.”

Welcoming remarks in Armenian were presented by Hilda Haroutunian, who welcomed all gathered. She said that the TCA will encourage all socio-cultural initiatives undertaken by the youth and that it will have its presence and its roles within the Armenian-American community life.

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“Although it puts us under financial obligation to have such a center, it makes a lot of sense in terms of geography, since a number of our members and friends come from Long Island and southern New Jersey,” she said.

Haroutunian underscored the center’s strategic significance. “Not only for the United States is New York an important city, but also internationally. It is indeed important for the Armenian-American community, because it is the seat of the Eastern Diocese, the headquarters of the AGBU and is home to Permanent Mission of Armenia to the United Nations. Thus, it is imperative that the TCA and its sponsor organization, the ADL, enhance their presence here. Furthermore, it is important that the Armenian Mirror-Spectator be relocated here, since regrettably we do not have our own publication.”

A member of the TCA Central Committee, Hagop Vartivarian, touched upon the world-wide activities of TCA and alluded to the Armenian-American community life. “There is no doubt that the leaders of organizations in this area rejoice with the opening of this center, which throws open its doors not only for our membership but also for the community at large, without any prejudice. This center is also a living testament of our community’s active life and the firm determination of our national leadership, thus supporting the effort to preserve our Armenian identity and also establishing harmonious cooperation with existing organizations.”

“Today is the realization of many years’ dream,” continued Vartivarian. “I also know that the friends of the TCA believe that it is an urgent necessity for our community to have a youth center to prevent assimilation. Our generation and generations that followed us received their national awareness in such centers and thus dedicated themselves to community life.”

Dr. Vaghenag Tarpinian, co-chairman of the TCA, gave an overview of the past and a brief history of its establishment.

“The Greater New York Chapter of the TCA was established in New York city in 1969. Mr. Antranig Poladian, a founding member of the TCA, undertook this initiative. The newly-formed chapter convened its very first meeting at St. Vartan Cathedral Complex during which time then-Primate, Archbishop Torkom Manoogian, offered his blessings. Since then, we have maintained a cordial and friendly relationship with the Diocese and the Primate and the presence here today of Archbishop Barsamian is a vivid example of that,” Tarpinian said.

Tarpinian then spoke about the history of the chapter, with its first chairman in New York being Souren Manuelian, a community activist who was executive director of the Diocese.

During the founding of the chapter, committee members included Lucy Piligian, Jack Antreasian, Antranik Poladian and Krikor Maksoudian.

Added Tarpinian, “Thus TCA became to be known as one of the pillars of the cultural life of our community.”

He noted that the TCA maintains close relations with the AGBU and many AGBU members financially have supported TCA activities, including Alec Manoogian, Edward Mardigian, Nazar Nazarian and Souren Fesjian, among others, who have been staunch supporters of the TCA. Tarpinian continued to say that in 1973, the first convention of the TCA in North America and Canada, was held at Kavoukjian Hall in New York. “It is a pleasure to see two of the participants of that convention, Mr. and Mrs. Papken and Anahid Megerian, who are with us today.”

Since 1969, TCA has been a strong cultural bridge between the Diaspora and Armenia. “In the past, during the Soviet era, their ties were with individual artists and friends,” said Tarpinian. “Yet today we maintain those traditional ties with the leaders of independent Armenia and cultural activists. We commemorate Armenia’s independence and the Liberation of Sushi in cooperation with other organizations. We are pleased to say that those ties have deepened thanks to our ambassador, Garen Nazarian.”

Armenia’s Ambassador to the United Nations, H. E. Mr. Garen Nazarian underlined the role played by the TCA in preserving the Armenian identity, language and culture. He also mentioned that the Armenian Church, Diasporan Armenian political parties and cultural organizations have played a parallel role.

Ambassador Nazarian thanked the TCA membership for their patriotism and dedication. He alluded to the fact that during past years, the TCA and the Armenian Permanent Mission to the UN have jointly organized public events such as Armenian Independence Day, Armenian Army Day, liberation of Shushi and the 20th anniversary of Armenia’s admission to the United Nations.

TCA New York Chapter Co-Chairman Harout Chatmajian expressed his appreciation for all those who supported the establishment of this center. He added that the center will enhance Tekeyan activities and become a gathering point for all Armenians.

“We are certainly indebted to the Armenian churches and the ‘Hye Doon’ [in Cliffside Park] which has provided their facilities without charge,” said Chatmajian. “Nevertheless, it was high time for us to have our own place. First and foremost, this center will serve as a studio for the TCA Mher Megerdichian theatrical group, which will celebrate the 15th anniversary of its inception. We have come a long way in the service of Armenian culture. We have contributed immensely to the theatrical life of Armenian through our tours.”

Chatmalian enumerated five events that will be the core of the center’s activities. The center will serve as an exhibition hall with the assistance of Shoghag Hovhanesian, a recent recipient of the Ellis Island Medal, and a well-known figure in the art world.

It will also be used to hold receptions for guests from Armenia as well as literary meetings. Most importantly, the center will serve as a meeting place for the youth, he said.

“This will be indeed the meeting place of our future writers, composers, musicians, artists and writers,” said Chatmajian. “From these ranks will emerge our future leaders, political thinkers and advocates for the Armenian cause. Those clubs have a very significant role to play in preparing our future leaders. It should be recalled that a few months back, our dear benefactor, Mrs. Ardemis Nazarian, declared publicly that she ‘received her national education’ in the ADL Watertown Chapter and from the pages of the Armenian Mirror-Spectator.’”

On behalf of the TCA Central Committee, Dr. Noubar Berberian welcomed the attendants and congratulated the TCA membership for this achievement. “On behalf of the TCA Central Committee, I wholeheartedly congratulate you for this initiative,” said Berberian. “The faith and the enthusiasm you can preserve, but not the language.”

He continued: “Our life is split into two, happiness and concern. Today is the day of happiness. Imagine, one hundred years ago, according to a reliable German source, 10 percent of the population of Constantinople was composed of Armenians and Armenians published as many newspapers as the Turks did. Today our happiness is doubled despite the many difficult days through which we lived. One of the saddest events was the termination of the Baikar newspaper. That day I cried like no other day in my adult life. Today my happiness is multiplied because the TCA has not only maintained its center, but it is expanding it considerably.

He continued, “For the last 24 years, we had an executive secretary, Mr. Kevork Marashlian, who has recently decided to retire. For many years, for his dedicated and faithful service, he was held with high esteem by the Central Board. From now on, we will have Baydzig Kalayjian, the chief editor of Beirut’s Zartonk Daily. She is one of the most outstanding female representatives in our diaspora. We applaud her for staying on that position for so many years.”

The evening’s closing remarks were made by Barsamian, who spoke about the service for the welfare of Armenia as well as about a trip he made last year to Historic Armenia.

“Last year, during our journey, we visited Gesaria, the birthplace of famous poet Vahan Tekeyan and offered a requiem services at St. Garabed Church in his memory. I am pleased that the spirit of Tekeyan is still alive and this comes through the activities of the Tekeyan Cultural Association. Based on Armenian spirit and moral principles, our leaders of the past have built their march to existence.”

 

He concluded, “You will be able to preserve the spirit but not the language.”

(Translated from the Armenian by Taleen Babayan)

 

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