Monthly Archives: May 2013

2013 Clergy Conference & Diocesan Assembly

BOCA RATON, FL – On April 29, St. David Armenian Church warmly welcomed 47 clergy to the 2013 Clergy Conference presided by His Eminence Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenia Church of America, at the Our Lady of Florida Spiritual Center in North Palm Beach, Florida. Situated on 26 beautiful acres of waterfront property on Little Lake Worth, it offered an ideal setting for spectacular sunrises, while the beautiful gardens of unusual natural beauty staged a contemplative and peaceful environment for meditation. The Conference began with a Dinner Cruise on the Intracoastal Waterway, and ended with dinner at St. David Church banquet hall on Wednesday, May 1st.  A faithful friend and church neighbor, Fr. Mark Leondis, Pastor of St. Mark Greek Orthodox Church, was one of the guest speakers who stressed loving God and our neighbor is not only our dream and vision, but most importantly it is Our Lord’s commandment.

On Thursday, May 2nd, through Saturday, May 4th, the 111th Annual Diocesan Assembly was held at the Boca Marriott Hotel, where various programs were presented and discussed.

At a lavish banquet on Friday, May 3rd, awards were presented to Edward and Janet Mardigian for “Armenian of the Year,” and to former Florida Governor Jeb Bush as “Friend of the Armenians.”

On Saturday morning, a requiem service was held for His Beatitude Archbishop Torkom Manoogian, the late 96th Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem, and long-serving former Primate of the Eastern Diocese.

The Assembly opened with a reading of the message of His Holiness Karekin II, the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians. Fr. Nareg welcomed the representatives from various parishes of our Diocese. In his closing remarks, His Eminence Archbishop Khajag Barsamian thanked the Assembly officers and expressed his appreciation to Very Reverend Fr. Nareg Berberian, and to Carol Norigian and to St. David parish for their warm hospitality in making this Assembly a splendid and memorable occasion.


On Saturday evening, May 4th, Fr. Nareg was enthusiastically greeted by old and new friends in the Diocese, St. David community members, as well as Delegates and Clergy who attended the 111th Diocesan Assembly to express their warm sentiments and best wishes on his imminent assignment as Locum Tenens to Sao Paulo, Brazil.  Having served eleven years as Pastor of St. David Armenian Church in Boca Raton, Florida, Fr. Nareg was honored with a very-well attended Farewell Reception at the Marriott Hotel where many successful events of the 2013 Diocesan Assembly took place.

His Eminence Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate presided over the event and eloquently articulated Fr. Nareg’s many accomplishments in the service of Our Lord. Rev. Fr. Mardiros Chevian, Dean of St. Nersess Armenian Seminary spoke about the academic achievements of Fr. Nareg. His Eminence Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, the Ecumenical Director, spoke about his pastorate at St. David. The Parish Council Chair, R. Carol Norigian, who also chaired the Diocesan Assembly, spoke on behalf of St. David Church to express their appreciation for making this a vibrant community and for Hayr Soorp’s steadfast commitment and support in ensuring that our youth as well as our seasonal and year-round parishioners are engaged in the life of the church in meaningful ways. Fr. Nareg was very touched by this wonderful tribute and expressed his heartfelt gratitude for the beautiful Bishop’s Panagia, which will be presented to him at his last Badarak at St. David.


On Thursday, May 2, at the 4th Annual Woman of Wonder (WOW) Luncheon during the 27th Annual Women’s Guild Assembly, Carol Norigian, Claudette Sarian, Nina Stapan and Rose Kazanjian of St. David Armenian Church, and Naomi Davitian of St. Mary Armenian Church, were honored by the Women’s Guild Central Council for their many years of devoted service and dedication to the Women’s Guild and the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America.  His Eminence Archbishop Khajag Barsamian presented special certificates to them for their many years of faithful service, and wishing that they continue their love for Christ and His church with the same zeal and dedication.


This Sunday, June 2nd, there will be a special farewell coffee hour following the Badarak in honor of Fr. Nareg.  This is the perfect opportunity for you to express your best wishes to him before he leaves for Brazil. On behalf of St. David Armenian Church a special appreciation gift will be presented to him.


The Forgotten Apogee of Lebanese Rocketry

Fifty-two years ago, as Soviet cosmonauts and U.S. astronauts were first venturing into space, another space program was also taking off—in Lebanon.

By Sheldon Chad
Saudi Aramco World

Yes, in the early 1960’s, the country of 1.8 million people, one-quarter the size of Switzerland, was launching research rockets that reached altitudes high enough to get the attention of the Cold War superpowers.

But the Lebanese program was more about attitude than altitude: Neither a government nor a military effort, this was a science club project founded by a first-year college instructor and his undergraduate students. And while post-Sputnik amateur rocketry was on the rise, mostly in the U.S., no amateurs anywhere won more public acclaim than the ones in Lebanon.

Manoug Manougian, right, with members of the Haigazian College Rocket Society, which he founded in 1960. It later became the Lebanese Rocket Society.

But that is forgotten history now, says Manoug Manougian, now 77 and a mathematics professor at the University of South Florida in Tampa. He leads me into a conference room where he has set out on a table file boxes filled with half-century-old newspapers, photographs and 16mm film reels.

“When I decided to leave, no one was interested to take care of all this,” says Manougian. “But I felt, even at that point, that it was a part of Lebanese history.”

The Society launched its first “tiny baby rockets” at the mountain farm of one of its members.

Born in the Old City of Jerusalem, Manougian won a scholarship to the University of Texas, and he graduated in 1960 with a major in math. Right away, Haigazian College in Beirut was glad to offer him a job teaching both math and physics. The college also made him the faculty advisor for the science club, which Manougian reoriented by putting up a recruitment sign that asked, “Do you want to be part of the Haigazian College Rocket Society?”

He did this, he explains, because even as a boy, he loved the idea of rockets. He recalls taking penknife in hand and carving into his desk images of rocket ships flying to the moon. “It’s the kind of thing that stays with you,” Manougian says.

John Markarian, former head of the college, now 95, recalls thinking it was “a rather harmless student activity. What a wonderful thing it was.” The first rocket, he says, “was the size of a pencil.”

Manougian now teaches at the University of Southern Florida, where he keeps newspaper front pages on his office wall. “It was a part of Lebanese history,” he says.

Six students signed up, and in November 1960, the Haigazian College Rocket Society (HCRS) was born. “It is not a matter of just putting propellant in the tube and lighting it,” says Manougian. Former HCRS member Garo Basmadjian explains that at the time, “we didn’t have much knowledge, so we looked at ways to increase the thrust of the rocket by using certain chemicals.” After dismissing gunpowder, they settled on sulfur and zinc powders. Then they would pile into Manougian’s aging Oldsmobile and head to the family farm of fellow student Hrair Kelechian, in the mountains, where they would try to get their aluminum tubes to do, well, anything.

“We had a lot of failures, really,” says Basmadjian.

But soon enough “it did fly some distance,” Manougian adds.

The Cedar launches were commemorated on this postage stamp issued on Lebanon’s independence day.

The HCRS began using a pine-forested mountain northeast of Beirut to shoot off the “tiny baby rockets,” as Manougian calls them, each no longer than half a meter (19″).

As they experimented, the rockets grew larger. By April 1961, two months after the first manned Soviet orbital mission, the college’s entire student body of 200 drove up for the launch of a rocket that was more than a meter long (40″).

The launch tube aimed the rocket across an unpopulated valley, but at ignition, Manougian recalls, the thrust pushed the “very primitive” launcher backward, in the opposite direction, and instead of arcing up across the valley, the rocket blazed up the mountain behind the students.

1963 saw the launch of Cedar 3, a three-stage rocket that allegedly broadcast “Long Live Lebanon” from its nose cone as it rose.

Launches at the military site of Dbayea, overlooking the Mediterranean north of Beirut, drew crowds of spectators, journalists and photographers.

“We had no idea what lay in that direction,” says Manougian. To investigate, the students started climbing, and on arrival at the Greek Orthodox Church on the peak, they came on puzzled priests staring at the remains of the rocket, which had impacted the earth just short of the church’s great oaken doors. Manougian calculated that, even with the unplanned launch angle, considering thrust and landing point, the rocket had reached an altitude of about a kilometer (3300′), and he adds the bold claim that this was the first modern rocket launched in the Middle East.

Ballistics expert Lt. Youssef Wehbe (in uniform) began supporting the rocket society in 1961, initially by allowing it access to an artillery range on Mount Sannine.

The next day, Manougian got a call from Lieutenant Youssef Wehbe of the Lebanese military. He cautioned that the hcrs couldn’t just go up any old mountainside and shoot off rockets. They could, however, do it as much as they wished under controlled conditions at the military’s artillery range on Mt. Sannine. Wehbe, also in his 20’s, was a ballistics expert, and he was more than intrigued. “Our first success,” says Manougian, came there at Mt. Sannine, where the rocket they demonstrated for Wehbe soared 2.3 kilometers (7400′) into the air.

Newspapers got wind of the launches, and they reported that the “Cedar 2C” (named for the symbol of Lebanon) had reached 14.5 kilometers (47,500′). “Obviously, that’s not yet the moon distance of 365,000 kilometers. But the Lebanese aren’t after that, they’re after technique,” stated the report.

Under Wehbe’s supervision, HCRS developed two-stage and then three-stage rockets, each bigger than the last and soaring higher and farther.

In the papers, the rocket men were portrayed as both brawny and brainy, and they were the talk of Lebanon. A fan club of prominent Lebanese—mostly women—formed the Comité d’encouragement du Groupe Haigazian. In the photos and films of the launches, one can see generals deferring to college kids in HCRS hardhats and eagerly posing in the press photos with them. Even Lebanese president Fuad Chehab invited Manougian and his students to the palace for a photo op.

“We were just having fun and doing something we all wanted to do,” says Basmadjian. “When the president came into the picture and gave us some money, it took off.”

“We were members of a scientific society. We felt good about it,” says Simon Aprahamian, another former student. “But it didn’t feel like what the us or ussr were doing. It’s a small country, Lebanon. People felt, ‘This is something happening in our country. Let’s get involved.’”

Launches now drew hundreds of spectators to the site overlooking the Mediterranean Sea at Dbayea, north of Beirut, and Haigazian itself became known as “Rocket College.” As the HCRS was now the country’s pride, its name changed to the Lebanese Rocket Society (LRS).

Cedar 4 was the society’s most powerful rocket. newspapers claimed that it reached a maximum height between 145 and 200 kilometers (90–125 mi), though the reality was surely much less. For Manougian, however, the rockets and their launches were not about setting records, but about teaching future scientists.

Lebanese weren’t the only ones watching. Both superpowers, according to Manougian, had “cultural attachés” observing the launches, and he believes they did more than that. “My papers were always out of place on my desk,” he says, and he recalls once leaving a note: “My filing cabinet I am leaving open. I have nothing to hide. But please don’t mess up my desk!”

One night in 1962, Manougian was taken in the back of a limousine to a factory in the heart of downtown Beirut. There, he was introduced to Shaykh Sabah bin Salim Al-Sabah of Kuwait, who offered to fund Manougian’s experiments generously if he moved them to Kuwait. Manougian hesitated, recalling the commitment he made to himself when he accepted the post at Haigazian: “Don’t stay too long. You only have a bachelor’s degree.” More than a private lab, Manougian wanted to get back to Texas to get his master’s.

Before Manougian left for Texas, however, he sat down with Wehbe to plan two launches for Lebanese Independence Day, November 21, in both 1963 and 1964. The rockets would be called Cedar 3 and Cedar 4, and each would have three stages.

They would dwarf what went before in both size and strength: seven meters (22′) long, weighing in at 1270 kilograms (2800 lbs) and capable of rising an estimated 325 kilometers (200 mi) and covering a range of nearly 1000 kilometers (about 620 mi), the rockets would generate some 23,000 kilograms (50,000 lbs) of thrust to hit a top speed of 9000 kilometers per hour (5500 mph). From the nose cone, a recording of the Lebanese national anthem would be broadcast.

On November 21, 1963, a model of Cedar 3 was paraded through Beirut’s streets to great applause. The cover of the souvenir booklet shows a rocket overflying the city. For Cedar 4, Lebanon issued commemorative postage stamps showing the rocket leaving Earth’s atmosphere. On launch day, 15,000 people showed up, along with generals and even the president.

In those years, Manougian recalls, the “rocket boys” were celebrities and Haigazian College was “rocket college.” Above, Manougian answers a journalist’s questions after a launch. The last rocket, Cedar 10, flew in 1967, after Manougian had returned to the us to earn his doctorate. Then, Cold War politics shut down the program.

The newspapers reported with national pride that the rockets flew into “space” and landed on the far side of Cyprus. The altitudes that were published varied from 145 to 200 kilometers (90–125 mi). The actual figures, however, are likely more modest. “That was totally wishful,” says Ed Hart, the Haigazian physics professor who took over as faculty advisor to the LRS. “It never came close. We kept our mouths shut [because] it was not a student matter anymore. It had become a social, society kind of matter.”

For Manougian, Wehbe told him that according to calculations, the rockets achieved their aims. Hart, whose specialty is science education, brings it back to empirical achievement: “We were teaching students a great deal, and that is what we came for: the mystery and structure of forces.”

In 1964, master’s degree in hand, Manougian returned to Lebanon, and again collaborated with Wehbe on a few more launches. By then, world powers were interested: France supplied the rocket fuel; the U.S. invited Wehbe to Cape Canaveral.

Cedar 8 was the last LRS rocket. Launched in 1966, it was a two-stage, 5.7-meter (18′) rocket with a range of 110 kilometers (68 mi)—a long way from the pencil-sized rockets of five years earlier. “We were launching in the evening, and we put lights on top of the second stage to be able to witness the separation. There were no hitches. It took off beautifully, the separation was fairly obvious, nothing exploded and it landed at the time it was supposed to land. To me that was a perfect launch,” says Manougian, still in awe 50 years on.

Under Manougian’s guidance, a new rocket society at USF is exploring rockets that use plasma engines.

By 1966 Manougian grew concerned about the extent of military involvement. “I’d accomplished what I’d come there to accomplish. It was time for me to get my doctoral degree and do what I love most, which was teaching,” he says. He left in August, and the Lebanese Rocket Society was no more.

But under military auspices, a last Lebanese rocket, Cedar 10, flew in 1967. According to Manougian, Wehbe told him that French president Charles de Gaulle soon pressured President Chehab to shut down the rocket project for geopolitical reasons.

Decades of political turbulence followed, and the story of the LRS lay hidden away in Manougian’s boxes.

Two years ago, science and engineering students at the University of South Florida approached Manougian to set up a rocket society. “My students did this 50 years ago,” he replied, adding, “What can you do now that’s innovative?” That’s how he became faculty advisor of the Society of Aeronautics and Rocketry (SOAR), which is exploring rockets powered by electromagnetism and nano-materials. As in Beirut, he says, “the important thing is not the rocket. It is the scientific venture.”

“Soar” is an apt metaphor for all involved. With the HCRS/LRS rocket projects, Lebanon punched well above its weight. Wehbe retired as a brigadier general. Manougian went on to win teaching awards, and he is loved by his students now as then. Many of the LRS students, and others inspired by them, went on to excel in scientific pursuits.

“Most of us come from very humble beginnings. But we had some brains and we studied hard,” says Basmadjian.

“Did that experience help with regard to making new inventions?” asks another former student, Hampar Karageozian, who later studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and founded several ophthalmological drug companies. “Yes, it did. Because it completely changed my attitude. The attitude that we could say that nothing is impossible, we really have to think about things, we really have to try things. And it might work!”

Sheldon Chad ( is an award-winning screenwriter and journalist for print and radio. From his home in Montreal, he travels widely in the Middle East, West Africa, Russia and East Asia. He will be reporting from Chad for his next story for Saudi Aramco World.

This story originally appeared on page 18 of the May/June 2013 Print Edition of Saudi Aramco World.

Meat Boregs – Detroit Style

By Robyn and Doug Kalajian
FLArmenians Cuisine Contributors

After two years of preparation and anticipation, the 111th Diocesan Assembly and Clergy Conference in beautiful Boca Raton concluded on Sunday, May 5, 2013.

Boreg-Lahmajoun Table

It was a whirlwind week of events with hundreds of attendees from Mid-Western, East Coast, and Southern states. In addition to the planned sessions and meetings, guests participated in luncheons, kef time (featuring the music of Johnny Berberian), area sightseeing, and a gala banquet honoring Armenians of the Year – Janet and Edward Mardigian, and Friend of the Armenians – former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. The week-long gathering culminated with a lavish farewell Sunday brunch for departing Very Rev. Fr. Nareg Berberian of St. David Armenian Church.

I had a mini part in the grand scheme of things, but it was exciting just the same. Many of our seasonal visitors rolled up their sleeves alongside local parishioners to help create the massive menu for the farewell brunch.

Serving stations were set with assorted salads, yalanchi, lahmajoun, cheese boregs, meat boregs, and hummus. A carving station offered sliced-to-order roast beef, ham and turkey. Desserts included kourabia cookies, paklava, semolina cakes, fruit kabobs, and more. The beverage station served-up Mimosas (orange juice and champagne), plain orange juice, and coffee to help wash everything down.

Weeks before the brunch, I was at church working on another aspect of the preparation while a group of seasonal parishioners from Detroit were in the kitchen making the meat boregs. They made Dolly Matoian’s recipe which came from St. John Armenian Church (Detroit) cookbook. This is not a ‘home version’ recipe as it yields 375 to 400 boregs, and requires 20 workers over a 2-day period to complete.

Desert Table

Instead of using phyllo dough or puff pastry, the dough was more chorag-like. The meat filling had a nice ‘kick’ from the blend of black pepper and cayenne pepper in the filling. I got to sample a test boreg as it came out of the oven – it was soft, warm, and so delicious!

I have made an attempt to break down the large-group recipe for the home kitchen, but be warned – I have not tested this version. The new ingredient amounts represent 1/8th the original recipe measurements.

The smaller recipe should yield about 45 to 50 boregs, and I would suggest having one or two extra pairs of hands to assist. Oh yes, it’s important to prepare the meat mixture one day in advance.

Please don’t be discouraged by the lengthy recipe. One thing is for sure, I can certainly appreciate the time and effort the Detroit ladies put into this recipe, and I truly did savor every bite!

Here’s the (untested) home version recipe…

Detroit-Style Meat Boreg

Meat Boreg (Beoreg)

Yield: 45 to 50 pieces

Filling Ingredients:

1 lb. chopped onions

3 Tbsp. vegetable oil

1 ¾ lbs. ground lamb

1 ¾ lb. ground sirloin (or chuck)

¾ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. black pepper

¼ tsp. cayenne pepper

½ tsp. paprika

¾ lb. (3 sticks) butter

¾ c. dried parsley (or 1 cup fresh, chopped parsley)

Dough Ingredients:

¼ lb. (1 stick) butter

¼ cup vegetable shortening

1¼ c. milk

5 eggs

1 Tbsp. sugar

1 Tbsp. plus 2 tsp. dry granular yeast

½ cup warm water

2 ¼ tsp. sugar

1 ½ tsp. salt

3 ¼ lb. all-purpose flour (approx. 12 cups)

Egg wash:

2 eggs, beaten


Regular or black sesame seeds


Day 1:

1. Heat vegetable oil in a skillet. Saute onions until soft, but not mushy. Strain onions in a colander, pressing firmly to remove any liquid. Set aside until ready to use.

2. In a large frying pan, cook lamb and beef over medium heat until brown. Break meat down with a fork to remove any large lumps. Strain out any excess fat.

3. Place cooked onions and meat in a large mixing bowl. Stir in all of the seasonings. Taste for flavor and spiciness. Make any adjustments, if necessary.

4. Melt the butter in a skillet and add to the meat-onion mixture. Finally, add the chopped parsley.

5. Place mixture in shallow containers; cover and refrigerate until day 2.

Day 2:

Directions for Dough Preparation:

1. Melt butter and shortening in a saucepan. Allow to cool. Add milk to butter mixture; set aside.

2. Using a hand or stand mixer and a large bowl, beat eggs and sugar until well-blended.

3. Begin adding flour, a little at a time, to the egg mixture for a uniform mixture.

4. In a medium bowl, combine the ½ c. warm water, yeast and sugar, whisking to dissolve. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to proof.

5, Add proofed yeast to the flour mixture and knead dough well.

6. Using a food scale, portion the dough into 1 ½ to 2 oz. portions; place on trays, cover with plastic wrap or parchment paper and allow to rest.

7. Portion the meat into 1/12 to 2 oz. portions.

8. On a work surface (no flour should be needed), roll each dough portion into 4-inch circles, and place on platters.

Forming and baking the boregs:

9. Hold each round of dough in one hand; top with meat mixture. Pinch or fold the dough over the meat to completely seal the filling.

10. Place – seam side down – on parchment-lined baking sheets. Lightly press down to make a bun shape instead of a ball shape. Continue the process until the trays are filled. Allow boregs to rest about 15 minutes before baking.

11. Bake in preheated 375°F oven (350°F for convection oven) until golden.

12. Place baked boregs on cooling racks; cool completely. If not serving immediately, place borges in freezer bags in single layers, and freeze until ready to use.

13. Prior to serving, defrost boregs in the refrigerator, and bake in preheated 325°F oven until warmed through.

Robyn Kalajian is a retired culinary teacher and Chief Cook at Douglas Kalajian is a retired editor/journalist and Sous Chef at