Updated: Sep 14, 2021
Special Presentation by Featured Speaker Susan Billington Harper
Armenian Assembly Board Member Annie Totah and Capital Region Council Co-Chair Clara Andonian honoring Der Hayr Vertanes Kalayjian and Yeretzgin Anahid Kalayjian with a plaque for their dedicated leadership, commitment, and contributions to Armenia and Armenian issues. (Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian)
WASHINGTON, D.C. – On December 4, the Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly) and its Capital Region Council hosted its Holiday Reception, honoring Reverend Father Archpriest Vertanes, posthumously, and Yeretzgin Anahid Kalayjian. The gathering included a special presentation by Susan Billington Harper, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace scholar. Over 125 guests attended the event, among them Armenian Ambassador to the United States His Excellency Grigor Hovhannissian, Nagorno Karabakh Republic Permanent Representative to the U.S. Robert Avetisyan, and Librarian of Congress Emeritus Hon. James and Marjorie Billington.
“This was a great event with a wonderful turnout. It was truly special to have the opportunity to honor posthumously Reverend Father Archpriest Vertanes Kalayjian and to pay tribute to him and publicly recognize Yeretzgin Kalayjian for everything that they have done to help the Armenian community and our homeland,” stated Assembly Board Member Annie Totah. “We also very much appreciate Susan Billington Harper's informative presentation and the work she continues to do regarding the Armenian Genocide,” she continued.
In his opening remarks, Ambassador Hovhannissian described the Armenian Assembly as one of the pillars of the Armenian nation, which “has been conceived and established as an all-inclusive, over-arching organization that will bring together our community that has been scattered all over the United States under one umbrella and one ideology, which is support to Armenia, support to nation-building, and support to community-building efforts.”
Diocesan Legate of the Armenian Church of America Archbishop Vicken Aykazian followed with his invocation. Assembly Executive Director Bryan Ardouny then welcomed guests to the event and gave a briefing on the Assembly’s accomplishments this past year and the challenges ahead.
Assembly Capital Region Council Co-Chair Clara Andonian continued with a tribute to Rev. Fr. Vertanes and Yn. Anahid Kalayjian. For over forty years, they were dedicated members of the Armenian community in Washington, D.C. Rev. Fr. Vertanes was involved in the organization of a series of prayer vigils and demonstrations on the steps of the Capitol and the White House in support of Artsakh. These events led to the formation of the Armenian-American Action Committee (ARAMAC), a grassroots anti-defamation organization affiliated with the Armenian Assembly.
“The Armenian Assembly of America was fortunate to count him among our trusted advisors during his time as pastor of St. Mary Armenian Apostolic Church, and after in his retirement,” according to a statement issued by the Assembly earlier this year. “Reverend Father Kalayjian served as a catalyst and inspiration to us all. He was there for us when we needed him most.”
In the aftermath of the earthquake in Armenia, the D.C. community donated funds and assistance worth close to a million dollars. For those efforts, Rev. Fr. Vertanes received commendations from the Soviet Embassy, the Governor of Maryland, and the Republic of Armenia. Together, Rev. Fr. Vertanes and Yn. Anahid were recognized by the Metropolitan Washington Chapter of the United Nations for their humanitarian and human rights activities.
Board Member Annie Totah extended Yn. Anahid and her husband posthumously the Assembly’s appreciation and gratitude for their dedicated leadership, commitment, and contributions to Armenia and Armenian issues.
Musical performances by Aline, Nareg, and Armen Boghosian and Jirayr and Hrak Kalayjian. (Photos by Joyce N. Boghosian and the Armenian Assembly of America)
Following the award presentation, Nareg, Armen, and Aline Boghosian performed an Armenian musical selection on the piano and violin and Jirayr and Hrak Kalayjian then played the piano and saxophone in memory of their great-uncle and grandfather. Totah thanked all of the young performers for the beautiful musical interlude.
Totah introduced featured speaker Susan Billington Harper, who spoke about America’s response to the Armenian Genocide. She discussed the Near East Relief and its efforts to help victims in Asia Minor, as well as the inspirational story of the success from its holiday fundraising materials and appeals, which is a very important example of early American international humanitarianism. When the Armenian Genocide started in 1915, missionaries and American diplomats in Turkey collected and transmitted intelligence about atrocities to the outside world. The missionaries were the first responders for administering American wartime relief to these victims. To support the work of the missionary relief workers in Ottoman Turkey, fundraising appeals used every possible method to raise awareness and interest, ranging from religious messages, personalized Christmas checks, Christmas boxes for collecting pennies and other coins, and holiday cards that mixed personal greetings with appeals. As Harper stated, the Near East Relief’s and American missionaries’ successful efforts led to an enthusiastic public response and the large amount of aid raised.
(L-R): Armenian Assembly Capital Region Council Co-Chair Doris George, Executive Director Bryan Ardouny, Co-Chair Anthony Barsamian, Board Member Annie Totah, featured speaker Susan Billington Harper, Capital Region Co-Chair Clara Andonian, and Armenian National Institute Director Dr. Rouben Adalian. (Photo by the Armenian Assembly of America)
Assembly Board of Trustees Co-Chair Anthony Barsamian concluded the presentations by announcing future Assembly events in California and Massachusetts and acknowledging staff, members, and supporters in the audience.
Photos from the Annual Holiday Reception can be found on the Armenian Assembly of America’s Facebook Page.
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 non-partisan, 501©(3) tax-exempt membership organization.