PHILADELPHIA, Pa.—The Philadelphia Armenian community banded together on Fri., Nov. 9, at St. Gregory the Illuminator’s Founders Hall to raise funds and support the Syrian-Armenians currently suffering from the atrocities of war. Dr. Ara Chalian, the master of ceremonies for the evening, kicked off the fundraising marathon, which raised more than $18,000 in proceeds for this important cause.
A sense of patriotism was evoked early on that night when the Homenetmen Scouts presented flags, and Anto Vartanian led the group in singing the “Star Spangled Banner” and “Mer Hairenik.” After blessing the food, Der Nerses invited guests to enjoy a mezza dinner. Members of the Armenian Relief Society (ARS), Ladies’ Guild, and Homenetmen graciously served the food, and the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) provided bar service.
AYF member Harout Vartanian presented a thought-provoking slide show during the dinner about the current conditions in Syria.
In his opening remarks, Chalian asked the guests to stand if they were either originally from Syria or have relatives in Syria. More than half of the group, almost 190 individuals and committee members, stood up, united with our Armenian brothers and sisters in Syria.
Special guest speaker and editor of the Armenian Weekly, Khatchig Mouradian, provided a compelling presentation titled, “When Elephants Fight: the Syrian Armenian Community in Crisis,” in both English and Armenian. He stressed the importance of how donations and aid come full circle to those who are in need, and related his own story as a young boy caught in Lebanon’s Civil War.
Mouradian said that the support Armenians in Lebanon received from the Armenian Diaspora during those years, including from Armenians from Syria, influenced who he is today. His presentation highlighted the importance of helping Syria and ensuring it continues to serve as a cultural base and home for the Armenians there. In closing, he encouraged the group to make the connection and recognize the power they have to change lives by helping families in crisis, and saving our Armenian schools, churches, and organizations.
Jaq Hagopian from New Jersey and Anto Vartanian for Philadelphia then took the stage to sing Armenian patriotic songs. Guests continued to generously donate to the cause by making song requests for both to perform. The band for the evening was comprised of Philadelphia AYF alumni and current ARF members Jim Kzirian, Anthony Deese, and Aram Hovagimian. The evening continued well after midnight and concluded with “Arunod Trosh.”
The organizers thank the Armenian community of Philadelphia for their generosity, including the participating organizations, St. Gregory’s church board, respected Der Nerses, and all of the individuals who volunteered and donated to the event. The evening would not have been possible without the collaboration of the Armenian organizations in Philadelphia. Individuals from each organization volunteered to create and serve on the Fund for Syrian-Armenian Relief (FSAR) committee.
The committee extends a special thanks to the following participating organizations, businesses, and volunteers: St. Gregory the Illuminator Church, ARS “Artemis” and “Ani” Philadelphia Chapters, Armenian Revolutionary Federation of Philadelphia, Armenian Youth Federation Philadelphia “Sebouh” Chapter, St. Gregory’s Ladies’ Guild, Hamazkayin of Philadelphia, Homenetmen of Philadelphia, Seroonian Community Center, Armenian Delight, Fimi Ishkhanian Catering, Mihran Catering, Mediterranean Kitchen, Sopranos Catering, and Zeps.