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Armenian, Jewish Communities Unite to Commemorate Holocaust and Armenian Genocide Together

From left, Robert Silvers, senior rabbi, Congregation B’nai Israel; Arsine Kaloustian, chair, Armenian Genocide Commemoration, Inc.; and Father Paren Galstyan, pastor of St. David Armenian Apostolic Church, gather to discuss plans for an interfaith Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) commemoration taking place on Sunday, April 23 at B’nai Israel which also will commemorate Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day. (MICHAEL LAUGHLIN/JEWISH JOURNAL STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)

BOCA RATON, FL – As Armenians and Jews around the world will gather this week to commemorate Yom HaShoah and Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day, which happen to fall on the same day this year, Congregation B’nai Israel and the Armenian Genocide Commemoration, Inc. have organized a joint program of remembrance with a screening of the critically acclaimed film DENIAL at Congregation B’nai Israel, 2200 Yamato Road, Boca Raton, FL 33431 on Sunday, April 23rd at 6:00pm.

Based on the book Denial: Holocaust History on Trial, DENIAL recounts Deborah E. Lipstadt’s (Academy Award® winner Rachel Weisz) legal battle for historical truth against David Irving (BAFTA nominee Timothy Spall), who accused her of libel when she declared him a Holocaust denier. In the English legal system, in cases of libel, the burden of proof is on the defendant, therefore it was up to Lipstadt and her legal team, led by Richard Rampton (Academy Award® nominee Tom Wilkinson), to prove the essential truth that the Holocaust occurred.

“The Armenian and Jewish communities have a shared historical pain. Our religions may be different, but our stories are the same. Families broken apart and slaughtered in campaigns of ethnic cleansing that took millions of lives from us, an uprooting of a people and a way of life, our survival and that we have not only survived but thrived, and a vow to remember and never forget,” commented Arsine Kaloustian, Florida Armenians Editor and Chair of Armenian Genocide Commemoration, Inc. “We also share the vigilance against any denial of these atrocities, which makes the theme of the film so relevant for both communities,” she added.

The commemorative event will be featured in this weeks Sun-Sentinel Jewish Journal.

The program will begin with a catered welcome reception, while a multi-panel presentation on prejudice and genocide created by students from Palm Beach Central High School will be on public display. Local Armenian and Jewish community leaders will then deliver brief remarks and discuss the importance of the film. After the film screening, the evening will conclude with an interfaith candlelit prayer service from local religious leaders.

“We human beings, created in the divine image, have a Godly responsibility to speak out and act against the atrocity of the extermination of any people because of their race, religion, or ethnicity. Too often people are complicit in their silence against those who would deny such a holocaust. The lessons of history must be studied and learned so that we might chart a better course for humanity. It does not do justice to our Godly responsibilities to ignore, deny, or reframe human history,” stated Rabbi Robert A. Silvers of Congregation B’nai Israel.

The event is free and open to the public. Members of the media are also invited to participate. Space is limited and RSVP is required. Please register online at: www.rememberthem.eventbrite.com.

About the Organizers:

Armenian Genocide Commemoration, Inc. (AGC) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose purpose is to observe and commemorate the Armenian Genocide of 1915 when the Ottoman Turkish Empire systematically annihilated 1.5 million Armenians through a campaign of ethnic cleansing, as well as raise public awareness of all genocides. AGC is responsible for planning and executing all Armenian Genocide related activities within Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

Founded in 1989, Congregation B’nai Israel is now considered one of the landmark reform congregations in the country. With nearly 1,000 families, a religious school serving over 600 students, and early childhood programs considered one of the finest in the nation, Congregation B’nai Israel, or CBI, is more than just a synagogue. It is a thriving and connected Jewish community, joyfully inspired by tradition and passionately committed to worship, study and repairing the world.

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Armenian Assembly of America Welcomes Jewish Council for Public Affairs’ Call for U.S. Reaffirmation of the Armenian Genocide

WASHINGTON, D.C. – During the Jewish Council for Public Affairs’ (JCPA) annual Town Hall meeting last month, the JCPA adopted a resolution acknowledging the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, and called on Congress and the White House to recognize the Armenian Genocide. This is the first time that a policy position on the Armenian Genocide has been adopted by the JCPA.

“The Armenian Assembly of America thanks the JCPA for adopting this important resolution and for advancing efforts for U.S. reaffirmation of the Armenian Genocide,” stated Assembly Board Co-Chairman Anthony Barsamian. “The Armenian American community is grateful to the JCPA for the adoption of this historic resolution. The unity of millions of Jewish and Armenian Americans in standing up for the truth is an important step along the path of justice,” Barsamian said.

JCPA logoAmong its findings, the JCPA resolution states, “We must not let the politics of the moment, or the U.S. government’s relationship with Turkey, sway our moral obligation to recognize the suffering of the Armenian people.” The resolution also calls upon “the Congress and the President to officially recognize what started in 1915 at the hands of the Ottoman Turks, and resulted in the killing and deportation of approximately 1.5 million Armenians, as the Armenian Genocide.”

The Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC), which operates under the JCPA, presented and passed the resolution at the JCPA annual Town Hall meeting. The national resolution was prompted by JCRC branches in Boston, Palm Beach, and Providence, with support from Atlanta and other chapters. The Atlanta JCRC adopted the draft resolution on the Armenian Genocide on August 18, 2015 during their local town hall meeting, which featured a presentation by Armenian Assembly State Chair for Georgia Dr. Vahan Kassabian.

“I am very pleased that the JCPA leadership and chapters across the country stand in support of U.S. reaffirmation of the Armenian Genocide,” stated Assembly Board Member Annie Totah. “This resolution reinforces the cause of genocide prevention and amplifies the voice of those who shout ‘Never Again,'” Totah said.

As the Assembly previously reported, the Jewish American community has rallied in support of Armenian Genocide recognition throughout the centennial year. However, the grassroots movement of Jewish American support is founded in years of work by the Armenian Assembly Board and State Chairs throughout the country. Many cite 2007 as the turning point in the Jewish American community’s support of U.S. reaffirmation of the Armenian Genocide when the JCRC of Greater Boston sparked the recognition process, which resulted in a tidal wave of support behind Boston Anti-Defamation League (ADL) director Andrew Tarsy who was fired for acknowledging the Armenian Genocide.

“We are proud that the Jewish Council for Public Affairs adopted this policy position on the Armenian Genocide, reflecting our deep solidarity with the Armenian American community,” Jeremy Burton, Executive Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of Greater Boston told the Assembly. “The ties between the Jewish and Armenian peoples are today stronger than ever, and will continue to strengthen,” Burton said.

In addition to its findings, the JCPA resolution on the Armenian Genocide calls upon the wider Jewish community relations field to consult and work with national Armenian organizations, major Jewish organizations, and interfaith coalition partners to further the aim of U.S. recognition of the Armenian Genocide. JCPA calls on the President to recognize the Armenian Genocide, in addition to urging congressional representatives to support resolutions in Congress that call for recognition.

Established in 1972, the Armenian Assembly of America is the largest Washington-based nationwide organization promoting public understanding and awareness of Armenian issues. The Assembly is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt membership organization.

OPINION: A Journey Through Time

By Rabbi Craig H. Ezring
Spiritual Leader of Temple Beth Israel of Deerfield Beach, FL
Observer Newspaper

I was invited to a genocide commemoration last week. But this was not a commemoration of the Shoah, this was a commemoration (the very first in the United States) of the 100th Year of Remembrance of the Armenian Genocide.

Most of you who read my column know that I have a passion for dance. So when I heard that the program would include a performance by the Sayat Nova Dance Company …well, how could I stay away? But there was another reason that I needed to be there.

On Shabbat, just before the event, I sang a song during my sermon. The lyrics go something like this:

I am bound for the Promised Land …

Oh Lord, I am bound for the Promised Land …

Oh who will come and go with me …

I am bound for the Promised Land …

Who will come and go with me?

Which is it, are we coming or going? The same question was asked by the Sages in regard to what G-d tells Moses about a trip to pharaoh. You see, the Hebrew word, Bo, can mean, “go” or it can mean, “come.” So was G-d telling Moses to “go” to Pharaoh or was He telling him “come to Pharaoh?” If I asked you to go to the store, I would be asking you to go in my stead. But, if I asked you to come … that is what G-d was saying to Moses, “Come with me … I will be with you every step of the way.”

And that is why I felt I had to come to the Armenian Genocide Commemoration. As a Jew, I have a duty to remember the Holocaust and to see to it that it never happens again. The problem is that, before the Holocaust, there was a genocide perpetrated against the Armenians and there have been others since then in places like Darfur and Rwanda. So how could I not be there to remember the horror that happened to my Armenian brothers and sisters?

The dance program took us all on “A Journey Through Time.” The performers weaved the story of the Armenians from ancient days to the Genocide, to their rebirth. With each step the dancers took on stage, I could feel the connection between the Armenian Culture and the Jewish Community. We each went through an amazing religious transformation; each of us had and have those who would like to see us annihilated; and each of us not only miraculously survived an attempt at extermination, but both cultures have found a way to go on. No, each has found a way to do more than that; each has found a way to live, to laugh and to dance.

As I looked around the audience and saw so many children with parents and grandparents, I realized that the Armenians have the same aspirations that we have … to make our progeny knowledgeable of our past, of our traditions, of our culture and to be proud of being who we are. And, with the help of people like Arsine Kaloustian and the AGC (The Armenian Genocide Commemoration), may we be vigilant to speak out against any and all attempts at the Genocide of any people.

To Arsine and to all my Armenian brothers and sisters, we will not forget!

Shalom my friends.

This article originally appeared in the Observer Newspaper on February 5, 2015, and is reposted with the expressed written consent of the author.

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