WATERTOWN, Mass.–Massachusetts State Representative Rachel Kaprielian (Watertown) and Boston City Councilor Michael P. Ross hosted a demonstration at the State House on August 30 of the growing solidarity between the Jewish and Armenian American communities in working against the denial of the Armenian Genocide, reported the Armenian National Committee of Eastern Massachusetts.
The event featured remarks by Kaprielian and Ross, as well as State Representative Peter Koutoujian (Waltham); Rabbi Ronne Friedman of Temple Israel Boston; Rev. Gregory V. Haroutunian of the First Armenian Church of Belmont; Holocaust survivor Israel Arbeiter, who serves as President of the American Association of Jewish Holocaust Survivors of Greater Boston; Armenian Genocide survivor Asdghig Alemian, 97, of Weymouth, and; Nancy Kaufman, Executive Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston.
Among the broad range of Jewish and Armenian community leaders present for the program were David Cohen, Mayor of the city of Newton, and Mark Sideris, Vice Chair of the Watertown Town Council, both of whom led efforts last month in their respective towns to condemn Armenian Genocide denial by the ADL and called on the ADL to support Congressional affirmation of this crime against humanity by publicly backing HR106.
Kaprielian prefaced her opening remarks by emphasizing that, "We are all here to say that we need to stop what is going on in Darfur." Councilor Ross began by staging, "I’m a City Councilor in Boston and I’m a son of a Holocaust survivor."It makes sense that we came together as community," stated Ross. "Not just because we’re both small and active communities of Jews and Armenia’s, but also because we’re people. We respect our cultures and support each other, when we need to and when we don’t need to. We need to support each other and back each other up."
Rabbi Friedman offered moving remarks placing the Armenian Genocide and Jewish Holocaust in the context of historical memory and present-day politics, quoting noted writer Maya Angelou, "History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again."
Rev. Haroutunian thanked the Jewish community for its strength and leadership in the No Place for Hate controversy, which precipitated the Anti-Defamation’s League’s (ADL) controversial firing, and subsequent re-hiring of Andrew Tarsy, the ADL’s New England regional director.
Tarsy was dismissed after speaking against the ADL’s denial of the Armenian Genocide and its opposition to the Armenian Genocide Resolution, and later rehired after the ADL issued a "Statement on the Armenian Genocide" which backed way from this denial by saying that the "consequences" of Ottoman Turkey’s efforts against the Armenia’s were "tantamount to genocide."
"It has brought great light to the heart of God," Haroutunian said. "We commend Andrew Tarsy for his actions. So many people in the Jewish community demanded truth, not spin. After all, to deny the truth, even in innuendo, is dangerous. I commend the Jewish American community in Boston. You stood for something, simply because it is right. We thank God for your community and we really do pray that others will follow your example."
Holocaust survivor Israel Arbeiter spoke of his experience of genocide, recalling, "I was a slave. I spent five years in a concentration camp." He praised those present for their attendance, "Let’s hope from this small gathering that more will blossom. Let’s join hands and work together so that it will never ever happen again."
Armenian Genocide survivor Asdghig Alemian remembered her own experience, noting that, "I was five years old at the time the Turks took me. My mother starved to death on the [death] march. They called it Der Zor. They were told to take three days of food and that they would be taken back home. It never happened."
"We must see acknowledgement by our government while there are still Armenian Genocide survivors still alive," Kaprielian said. Nancy Kaufman added that it is the moral responsibility of Massachusetts citizens to ensure that the state divests from Sudan and ensures that taxes do not finance the ongoing genocide in Darfur. She said of the Armenian Genocide and its legacy, "The Genocide represents the failure of the international community to prevent the worst crime in the world – the destruction of an entire people."
Ross concluded the program, saying to the Armenia’s present, "In the Jewish community, we say you are all mishpucha [family]."
The State House demonstration was held in response to growing public activism in response to the Watertown, Massachusetts ‘s Anti Defamation League controversy which erupted in recent months after Boston area civil rights advocates, and local Armenian and Jewish American community members expressed disappointment and outrage at statemen’s by ADL National Director Abe Foxman denying the Armenian Genocide.
The Watertown Town Council set this process in motion last month by highlighting the improper stance of the ADL and urging national leaders to take up this issue.
In recent weeks, the ADL, under pressure from a campaign of protests led by the ANC-EM, backed nationally by the Armenian National Committee of America, and supported by leading voices in the Jewish American community, backed away from its longstanding policy of complicity in Turkey’s denial of the Armenian Genocide. The ADL continues to raise concerns among both Jewish and Armenian leaders as the result of its continued use of euphemistic phrasing and, most notably, its outright opposition to Congressional recognition of the Armenian Genocide. Foxman, in a move that has caused widespread outrage, apologized to the Turkish government for any difficulty his organization’s statement on the Armenian Genocide has created for the Turkish government, but has yet to offer even a token expression of regret to the Armenian people for his group’s longstanding and public record of denying the horrific crime committed against them.
"We appreciate the leadership of Representative Kaprielian and Councilor Ross," stated ANCEM spokesperson Joshua Tevekelian. "It is through their commitment and the commitment of so many individuals and organizations throughout our great state and country, including the entire Massachusetts Congressional delegation and an amazing number of Armenian and Jewish individuals and organizations in calling for passage of the Congressional Armenian Genocide Resolution, H.Res.106, that we will collectively take an important step toward ending genocide denial and genocide once and for all."
"Throughout this entire process, we have been heartened and encouraged by the outpouring of support ‘s from Jewish American individuals and organizations throughout New England – against all forms of denial of the Armenian Genocide ‘s including, unfortunately, the opposition to the Armenian Genocide Resolution by the Anti-Defamation League," added Tevekelian.