Author Archives: Florida Armenians

Armenian American Community Mourns the Loss of Three Titans

This past April, as Armenian Americans across the country were working hard and eagerly waiting to see if President Biden would recognize the Armenian Genocide in his first April 24th remembrance day statement, the community was also mourning the loss of three extraordinary men who would leave the their mark on the world in a way that makes all of us proud to be both Armenian and American.

In the beginning of April, the news broke that long time philanthropist and American homebuilder Hirair Hovnanian had passed away at his residence in Yerevan, Armenia, where he had retired after an impressive and successful life and career.

Anna Hovnanian & Hirair Hovnanian

A bold, daring and caring individual, a visionary leader, the founder and benefactor of many charities, and devoted longtime Chairman of the Armenian Assembly of America’s Board, Hirair Hovnanian leaves behind a remarkable legacy. Hirair was an amazing leader and mentor, always ready to roll up his sleeves and tackle any challenge. Hirair’s integrity, passion, dedication, commitment, work ethic, and love of his people, were extraordinary.

A successful businessman, whose generosity extended to causes around the world, Hirair felt energized by the independence of Armenia, and did everything in his power to assist the newly independent Republic. He demonstrated his commitment to Armenia by resettling in his homeland where his philanthropy extended beyond precedent. Hirair responded immediately to the 1988 earthquake and embarked upon the recovery and rebuilding of the devastated areas. A builder and developer by profession, he knew exactly the type of assistance required and established a building parts manufacturing plant to accelerate the reconstruction process. His generous contributions in support of educational and religious institutions in Armenia and the diaspora are legion.

At the helm of the Assembly, he helped shape non-partisan advocacy, creating an example of a united voice for Armenian Americans in Washington, D.C., and strongly believed in the unique role of American leadership in advancing democracy and human rights. He lent every measure of support within his means towards the affirmation of the Armenian Genocide, including the establishment of the Armenian National Institute. He welcomed Armenian Assembly interns to his home every summer and embraced the next generation with his infectious enthusiasm for all things Armenian. Through his boundless generosity, he touched the lives of countless citizens in Armenia and Artsakh to whom he exemplified the best of the Armenian diaspora.

“We are all saddened by this great loss and remain immensely grateful to Hirair for his unparalleled legacy. He was the champion of every cause that benefited the Armenian people, and he never hesitated to lead from the front with unwavering dedication and commitment. May he rest in peace,” read a statement from the Armenian Assembly.

Ambassador Set Charles Momjian, a former trustee and board member of the Armenian Assembly, passed away on Monday, April 12, 2021 in Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania.

“He was born in Atlantic City on April 9, 1930 to Julia and Charles Momjian, both orphaned refugees from the Armenian genocide who were raised by American missionaries. The two parents were born in Malatya in the Ottoman Empire. Charles died at an early age and the family, which included younger brother Albert, had a difficult time during the Depression era,” the Armenian Mirror-Spectator reported.

After enrolling in the U.S. Army, Set Momjian led a prolific career in marketing and advertising at the Ford Motor Company. He went on to become a special advisor to U.S. presidents, and, per President Jimmy Carter’s appointment, served as a U.S. representative to the United Nations with the rank of Ambassador. Momjian was also appointed as a member of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council by President Ronald Reagan in 1981.

Momjian’s impactful commitment to the Assembly and Armenian causes on Capitol Hill is still relevant today. His longtime friendship with President Joe Biden was cultivated during train rides he shared in the 1980s with the Delaware Senator, who was then Chairman of the Judiciary Committee and marshaled through committee approval of an Armenian Genocide resolution, which Senator Bob Dole (R-KS) brought to the Senate Floor in 1990.

“The Assembly appreciates the Momjian family’s dedication, including Set Charles Momjian’s brother Albert’s many years of service as the Assembly’s Solicitor, a role which Albert’s son, Mark Momjian, currently holds. The Assembly extends its condolences to Set Charles Momjian’s family and loved ones,” an announcement from the Assembly stated. Momjian was also active with the AGBU and the Knights of Vartan.

Dr. Vartan Gregoain

Three days later, on Thursday, April 15th, the world mourned the loss of Dr. Vartan Gregorian, President of the Carnegie Corporation, and one of the most famous Armenians in American history.

Dr. Gregorian was invaluable in the Armenian American community’s efforts to educate the public about the Armenian Genocide and the consequences of its denial. He led the way for others who followed in his footsteps in academia, administrative leadership at top universities, and as a world leader of philanthropy and education. His life’s work, much to long to list in a single column, took him to incredible places across the globe and led to his service in prestigious posts, such as the “Savior of The New York Public Library,” as the New York Times catalogued, as well as President of Brown University, and the Carnegie Corporation of New York, to name but a few.

“This is a painful loss for all Armenians, the United States, and the world. His achievements will stand the test of time, and the spirit in which he delivered those achievements will always be valued. May he rest in peace,” a statement from the Armenian Assembly read.

66 Members of Congress Push for Expanded US-Armenia Relations

Florida Reps. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) and Ted Deutch (D-FL) Cosign Letter

WASHINGTON, DC – This week, Armenian Caucus Founder and Co-Chair Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) led an appropriations letter for fiscal year 2022 (FY22) that requests funding for a robust humanitarian assistance package, including de-mining activities in Artsakh, and funding for economic development, governance, and resources to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. The letter also requests a suspension of U.S. military aid to Azerbaijan until it ends its aggression toward Armenia and Artsakh. The letter was signed by 66 Members of Congress including Florida Reps. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Co-Chair of the Armenian Caucus, and House Ethics Committee Chairman Ted Deutch (D-FL), an active member of the Armenian Caucus.

“The United States is uniquely positioned to help Armenia that has been shaken by last year’s war in Artsakh and the resulting uncertainty. Providing significant economic assistance to Armenia will help make its people more secure, bolster its democracy, help sustain economic development, stabilize its civil society, and aid its response to the COVID-19 pandemic and, most urgently, alleviate the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Artsakh,” Pallone said. “This investment will strengthen the U.S.-Armenia relationship, help Armenia rebuild, and solidify democracy in the region.”

Specifically, the letter to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs calls for:

  • Robust funding to directly aid the Armenian people of Nagorno-Karabakh to recover and rebuild. Such aid would be utilized for urgently needed housing, food security, water and sanitation projects, medical and refugee assistance, rehabilitation programs, and infrastructure needs.
  • $2 million for Conventional Weapons Destruction programs in Nagorno-Karabakh.
  • $100 million for economic, governance, rule of law, and security assistance to Armenia through State Department and USAID accounts.
  • The suspension of all U.S. security assistance for Azerbaijan until it has been verified to have ceased all attacks against Armenia and Artsakh.

Artsakh is enduring an ongoing humanitarian crisis resulting from the unprovoked Azerbaijani and Turkish attack in Artsakh on September 27, 2020, which led to six weeks of devastating fighting that killed over 5,000 people and forced more than 100,000 ethnic Armenians to flee their homes. During and after the Azerbaijan-Turkish attack on Nagorno Karabakh, several videos surfaced online of Azeri soldiers beheading elderly Armenian villagers, mutilating dead bodies, and torturing Armenian soldiers and prisoners of war – over 200 of which are still being held captive by Azerbaijan in violation of international law.

Joining the leadership of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues – Representatives Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Jackie Speier (D-CA), David Valadao (D-CA), and Adam Schiff (D-CA) – as cosigners of the letter were Reps. Jake Auchincloss (D-MA), Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-CA), Karen Bass (D-CA), Donald Beyer, Jr. (D-VA), Cheri Bustos (D-IL), Salud Carbajal (D-CA), Tony Cárdenas (D-CA), Joaquin Castro (D-TX), Judy Chu (D-CA), David Cicilline (D-RI), Jim Costa (D-CA), Diana DeGette (D-CO), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Lizzie Fletcher (D-TX), John Garamendi (D-CA), Jimmy Gomez (D-CA), Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), Brian Higgins (D-NY), Steven Horsford (D-NV), Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA), Jared Huffman (D-CA), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Bill Johnson (R-OH), Ro Khanna (D-CA), Dan Kildee (D-MI), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), James Langevin (D-RI), Andy Levin (D-MI), Mike Levin (D-CA), Ted Lieu (D-CA), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Stephen Lynch (D-MA), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), James McGovern (D-MA), Seth Moulton (D-MA), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Donald Norcross (D-NJ), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Devin Nunes (R-CA), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Chris Pappas (D-NH), Donald Payne, Jr. (D-NJ), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Katie Porter (D-CA), Kathleen Rice (D-NY), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Linda Sánchez (D-CA), John Sarbanes (D-MD), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Brad Schneider (D-IL), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Albio Sires (D-NJ), Abigail Spanberger (D-VA), Haley Stevens (D-MI), Thomas Suozzi (D-NY), Dina Titus (D-NV), Paul Tonko (D-NY), and Susan Wild (D-PA).

Florida Elected Officials Respond to White House Affirmation of the Armenian Genocide

WEST PALM BEACH, FL – Earlier today, President Joe Biden became the first U.S. President to properly recognize the World War I era mass killings of Armenians and other Christians by the Ottoman Turkish Empire as genocide.

“Today is #ArmenianGenocide Remembrance Day, commemorating the 1.5 million Armenians who were massacred in 1915 by the Ottomans, & today @POTUS has made history by becoming the first President to recognize it. This is a major step toward Armenians getting the justice they deserve,” Congresswoman Lois Frankel (D-FL) said on Twitter. Earlier this week, Frankel was one of three Florida Representatives to sign a letter to President Biden urging him to recognize the Armenian Genocide on April 24th.

“It has been more than 100 years since the atrocities committed against innocent Armenians and other ethnic and religious minorities at the hands of the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman Empire’s genocidal campaign from 1915-1923 killed 1.5 million Armenian men, women, and children, as well as Greeks, Assyrians, Chaldeans, and Syriacs, through a series of executions and death marches,” said Congressman Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), who serves as Co-Chairman of the Congressional Armenian Caucus. “I whole-heartedly welcome today’s historic announcement from President Biden formally recognizing the Armenian Genocide. I have been a major supporter of recognizing the Ottoman Empire’s atrocious acts as genocide, co-authoring the Armenian Genocide recognition resolution passed by the House of Representatives two years ago. We must acknowledge the atrocities of the past so that we might hopefully prevent them in the future. Our darkest moments as a human race have come during times when those who knew better stood silently, making excuses for passivity and allowing injustice and persecution to reign. Today at 2:30 p.m. I spoke with Deputy Assistant Secretary for Europe and Eurasia George Kent who confirmed the Administration’s announcement today acknowledging the pain of history to ensure future atrocities do not happen,” Bilirakis said on Saturday.

Congressman Ted Deutch (D-FL), an active member of the Congressional Armenian Caucus, issued a statement on Twitter, saying “I commend @POTUS Biden for officially recognizing the Armenian Genocide. Yet over a century later some still minimize the Ottoman Empire’s systematic execution of Armenians. We must honor the victims & survivors, & we must keep its memory alive to prevent history from repeating.”

“President Joe Biden’s deceptively simple action goes beyond what any previous American president has ever been willing to do. The evidence, however, is clear the Turks engaged in a years-long ethnic cleansing campaign that included forced death marches and mass starvation. Recognizing this fact will, hopefully, bring an element of closure to this chapter of history for families impacted by these atrocities,” Palm Beach County Commissioner Robert Weinroth (D-FL) told FLArmenians.com.

Boca Raton Mayor Scott Singer told FLArmenians.com, “The White House’s recognition today of the Armenian Genocide is an important step to honor the memory of the many who were killed. To prevent future tragedies, we must never forget those that occurred,” Mayor Singer said. Boca Raton, FL is the second largest city in Palm Beach County and is home to St. David Armenian Church, the first Armenian Church built in Florida and consecrated in 1989.

Responding to the news, Mark Samuelian, Miami Beach City Commissioner told FLArmenians.com, “Having recently visited the Armenian Genocide Memorial in Yerevan, President Biden’s historic announcement today delivers profound meaning.” Elected in 2017, Samuelian is the first Armenian American elected official in Miami-Dade County, FL.

*This post was updated on Thursday, April 29, 2021 to reflect the new statements. FLArmenians.com will continue to update this post with new statements from Florida elected officials.