Armenian and Jewish Communities Demonstrate Solidarity on Beacon Hill

By Andy Turpin

The Armenian Weekly
August 31, 2007

BOSTON, Mass. (A.W.)—On Aug. 30, State Representative Rachel Kaprielian (Watertown) and Boston City Councilor Michael P. Ross (District 8) hosted a demonstration of the strengthening solidarity between the Jewish and Armenian-American communities to underscore the importance of officially recognizing the Armenian genocide.

The event featured Kaprielian and Ross, as well as Rabbi Ronne Friedman of Temple Israel Boston; Rev. Gregory V. Haroutunian of the First Armenian Church of Belmont; Holocaust survivor Israel Arbeiter, 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.

Kaprielian prefaced her remarks by emphasizing in the broader scope, “We are all here to say that we need to stop what is going on in Darfur.”

Councilor Ross stated, “I’m a City Councilor in Boston and I’m a son of a Holocaust survivor.” He put in context the pragmatism of Armenian and Jewish amity by saying, “It makes sense that we came together as community. Not just because we’re both small and active communities of Jews and Armenians, 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 spoke about the genocide and Holocaust in historical memory and present-day politics, and quoting Maya Angelou, said, “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 recent efforts in the No Place for Hate controversy, which saw the dismissal of Andrew Tarsy, the New England regional director of the Anti-Defamation League who spoke in favor of genocide recognition. “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 experiences with genocide, recalling, “I was a slave. I spent five years in a concentration camp.” He praised the gathered crowd for their attendance, and said, “I’m very happy this event took place, but I’m also very disappointed the entire Jewish and Armenian communities did not show up. 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 Alenian remembered, “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 said that it is the moral responsibility of Massachusetts citizens to ensure that the state divests from Sudan and investigates 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 amicably, saying to the Armenians present, “In the Jewish community, we say you are all mishpucha [family].”