By Robyn and Doug Kalajian
FLArmenians Cuisine Contributors
We’ve always thought of our kitchen that way, but now it’s official.
We were joined recently by a small group of family and friends as our home was blessed by our Der Hayr, the Rev. Father Paren Galstyan of St. David Armenian Church in Boca Raton, Florida.
The house isn’t new to us but Father Paren is. Originally from Armenia, he recently moved to South Florida from Illinois. He is young, energetic, earnest and has a keen sense of humor that he’s eager to share.
He’s even more eager to share his faith and knowledge, which he demonstrated by doing something I’d never experienced through countless home blessings since childhood: He offered to conduct the entire ceremony in English.
I eagerly accepted the offer. He then conducted a question-and-answer session on the meaning of the traditional Armenian house blessing and stressed the significance of each of the three dishes arrayed before him: bread to sustain life, salt to preserve, and water to cleanse.
Of course he was much more eloquent and offered both practical and spiritual meanings behind each symbol. Then he sprinkled the blessed water in each corner of the house.
He cautioned us not to discard anything in the now blessed dishes, so we made good use of the water by making a pot of coffee that we all shared. The bread served quite well in a sandwich a bit later that evening.
Father Paren said the church allows such blessings up to five times a year if the occupants feel it’s necessary. I think he did such a fine job that we’ll be safe from unholy intrusions at least until the blessed salt runs out.
Mayor of Boca Raton Proclaims April 24, 2014 as Armenian Martyrs’ Day
BOCA RATON, FL – On Thursday, April 24, hundreds of members, friends, academics, clergy and human rights activists from the South Florida Armenian American community gathered at St. David Armenian Church to commemorate the 99th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.
Armenians around the world commemorate the genocide on April 24, when in 1915 Turkish authorities arrested some 250 Armenian intellectuals and community leaders in Constantinople. Thereafter, Armenians were uprooted from their homes and forced to march for hundreds of miles, depriving them of food and water, to the desert of what is now Syria. Over 1.5 million Armenian men, women and children perished in 1915-1923 in what historians recognize as the Armenian Genocide. While 23 countries have officially recognized the events of the period as genocide, Turkey denies the word genocide as an accurate description of the events. In recent years, it has faced repeated calls to accept the events as genocide, but has refused to do so.
Boca Raton City Councilman Mike Mullaugh attended the commemorative service and read a proclamation from Susan Haynie, Mayor of Boca Raton, which announced April 24th 2014 as Armenian Martyrs’ Day. The proclamation called upon the citizens of Boca Raton “to join all Armenians worldwide to observe the 99th commemoration of Martyrs’ Day in the hope that these days of infamy will never be forgotten.”
As the Armenian community commemorated 99 years of a genocide unrecognized by its perpetrators, the focus of the program echoed a growing shift. Instead of looking to the past, the evening highlighted the survival of the Armenian people and looked to the future, through artistic expression. Mr. Taniel Koushakjian, Communications Director of the Armenian Assembly of America, served as master of ceremonies and took the crowd through the evening’s events. The program included several artistic performances by local Armenians. Some read poetry, others played the piano or violin, while still others danced or performed vocally.
Fr. Galstyan of St. David Armenian Church and Fr. Joulfayan of St. Mary Armenian Church offered the memorial service for the victims of the Armenian Genocide. Fr. Saba of Saint George Cathedral, Rabbi Rosenkranz of Congregation B’nai Israel, Rev. Endruschat of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Fr. Leondis and Fr. Klund of St. Mark Greek Orthodox Church, Archpriest Gvosdev of St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, Fr. Marashlian and Fr. Jebejian were also in attendance.
This year’s commemoration followed on the heels of the April 12th Walk Against Genocide in Mizner Park, a walkathon organized to raise funds for genocide awareness, community outreach and advocacy for more comprehensive genocide education in Florida public schools.
David Silvers, Candidate for Florida House District 89, addressed the crowd of over 250 walkathon participants that day: “The actions of the Ottoman Empire perpetrated on the Armenian people was and is an affront to all of humanity. I strongly believe that politics shouldn’t get in the way of facts. It’s a fact 1.5 million Armenians died as a result of this genocide. It’s a fact that national, state, and local governments all over the world have recognized this genocide. It’s a fact that all of the lives lost mattered and refusing acknowledgment of this genocide is the type of political gamesmanship that’s beneath the American people.”
Both the April 12th Walk Against Genocide and April 24th commemorative service at St. David Armenian Church were organized by the Armenian Genocide Commemoration (AGC) Inc., a nonprofit organization comprised of representatives from various Armenian American organizations and churches in South Florida.
AGC Inc is dedicated to observing the Armenian Genocide, as well as bringing awareness to the public on all genocides. The committee was incorporated in February 2014 and is comprised of representatives from the following South Florida organizations: St. David Armenian Church, St. Mary Armenian Church, Armenian Assembly of America, Armenian National Committee of America, Armenian Relief Society, Florida Armenians, Homenetmen, Armenian Revolutionary Federation, and Knights of Vartan.