Last week, I wrote a column about Ronn Torossian, the president of 5W Public Relations firm in New York City, who had signed a contract for $60,000 to do PR work for the Republic of Turkey in the United States.
I wrote that I did not know whether Torossian was an ethnic Armenian or simply had an Armenian last name, since some Jews and Iranians also have Armenian last names. Before writing the previous column, I had attempted to contact him and had left two voice mail messages at his office, but he did not return my phone calls.
After writing that column, I received several emails and phone calls from Mr. Torossian. However, he requested that our phone conversations be off the record. I also received many emails and phone calls from Armenians around the world who knew the Torossian family.
I also noticed that several readers had posted comments under my column in various websites, insisting that Torossian was not an Armenian, but simply Jewish or Iranian who carried an Armenian last name. Those commenters were basing their presumptions on the fact that all of the articles about Mr. Torossian online referred to him as being Jewish and mentioned his extensive record of activism and involvement in Jewish causes and organizations.
However, I was informed by a Canadian Armenian—a former resident of Jerusalem—that he grew up in that city with Ronn’s father, Harout Torossian, who now lives in New York City. Ronn’s grandfather was Voskan Torossian, and his grandmother was Mariam.
Voskan and his family lived in the convent of Jerusalem’s Armenian Patriarchate. Voskan worked as a handyman at the Patriarchate. Ronn’s father attended Saints Tarkmanchats Armenian School in the convent. Both Ronn’s father and grandfather were members of Homenetmen (Armenian General Athletic Union and Scouts). Voskan, the grandfather, was also a devoted member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF).
Since Ronn’s father was married to a Jewish woman, Ronn is considered by the Jewish community to be Jewish. He was raised as a Jew and considers himself to be Jewish and not Armenian. From Ronn’s family friends and his father’s former classmates I have learned a lot more about his relatives and their personal lives, but to protect Ronn’s privacy I decided not to divulge any more details. I only mentioned his father and grandparents to prove that he is partly of Armenian heritage, and not Iranian or fully Jewish.
Interestingly, in one of the emails Ronn sent me after my first article, he stated: “I am Jewish. I am American born and raised in a Jewish home, and proudly educate my children in Jewish day schools. I do not and never have considered myself to be Armenian. You are conducting a comical, ridiculous, and destructive ugly litmus test.” He asked that the rest of his email be considered off the record.
I answered Torossian in an email: “Thank you for finally contacting me. I wish you had responded to the two phone messages I left for you in the past month. I respect that you feel Jewish. That is your choice and decision. However, being Jewish does not exonerate you from the unacceptability of doing PR for a country that denies genocide…. Being of both Jewish and Armenian ethnic ancestry makes you a descendant of survivors of both the Holocaust and the Armenian Genocide, which places the double burden on you to be especially sensitive to genocide deniers. Just because you are making money spinning for genocide deniers does not justify your professional activities. As I pointed out in my column, you yourself have criticized those who do PR for dictators. Yet you are paid to do PR for the dictator Erdogan. If you don’t consider Erdogan to be a dictator, then you are one of the few individuals in the world who thinks so!”
Torossian replied to my email: “Criticize me all you wish. Please don’t raise my family or your perceptions of my ethnicity. I have never considered myself Armenian all my life.”
I must inform Ronn Torossian that over the years, I have written dozens of columns criticizing all those who have been hired by the Turkish government for the purposes of lobbying or public relations, regardless of their nationality. It is unacceptable to represent Turkey for money, a country that is run by a dictator, violates the human rights of its citizens, and denies the Armenian Genocide.
Ironically, back in June 2010, before Torossian signed a PR contract with Turkey, he had organized an anti-Turkish protest in Manhattan after the Israeli military attacked a Turkish humanitarian flotilla. Torossian was quoted as stating: “What these so called peace activists on the Turkish vessel pulled off was nothing short of a cleverly devised anti-Semitic lynching.”
Not that I am interested in welcoming Torossian as Armenian or even half-Armenian…I would like to make a comment about the fact (mentioned in the column) that Jews consider a person a Jew if he/she has a Jewish mother. The whole world accepts this as legit and beyond discussion. Why so? Why should the religious law of a minority be sacrosanct to 99.99% of the world who are not Jewish? Let Jews go by the matrilineal line while the rest of the world considers the paternal line the identity determinant. Ah, I hope feminist don’t jump on the issue here and distort it to a question of “male chauvinism”.
Shame on him anyway.
Evidently Mr.Torossian suffers from moral selectivity.There are others in the community who are the offspring of similar mixed marriages but at least have respect for the religion/ethnicity of the parent whose background they haven’t chosen to embrace.Whether Christian or Jew, we all believe in the same God but Mr. Torossian’s god seems to be money.
For a lousy $60 grand no less….
As the old Armenians used to say: “the worst ennemy of an Armenian is not a turk (or an azeri), is another Armenian”.
We can therefore conclude that the mere fact of wearing an Armenian name does not systematically mean that one is Armenian. On the other hand, Armenity can however be present in anyone who has neither Armenian name, nor Armenian roots, and this is becoming more and more true.
yep, yep be aware! people using Armenian last names for their interest, but in reality are anti-Armenian and in general anti-justice, anti-truth, etc.
We all choose the religion we want, some of us change it several times, but cannot change our ethnicity. If this guy is denying his Armenian ethnicity, for whatever reason, I say let him be. Not a loss really!
Have any of you asked the relationship between this man and his family. Do not criticize until you have walked a mile in his shoes.
I guess Voskan and Harout did not do their job.
This is the source of many mixed-marriages and identity misfortunes.
What do you know about what they did you? He chooses to live his life and you have criticized him leave his father and grandfather out of this.
Ali A, there’s nothing wrong with someone chosing one’s own identity. However, what Lara and Mardirossian are emphasizing on is that his father’s and grandfather’s volunteer work in Armenian nationalistic organizations are in vain because their offspring did not turn out to be Armenophilic rather Armenophobic by conducting PR with Turkey and saying stuff such as ” I do not and never have considered myself to be Armenian. You are conducting a comical, ridiculous, and destructive ugly litmus test”. This shows that he not only distances himself from the Armenian culture but also finds the Armenianness to be a ridiculous thing. This shows a lot.
Wouldn’t you say the same if someone whose father’s a Zionist and he/she becomes a staunch anti-Israel that the father didn’t do his job right?
Pity for Mr Torossian that he does not value his Armenian heritage. What a history to be ignored. Look I am not Armenian but my 4 sons celebrate their inheritance and so do I . My grandfather was the son of a Scottish mother and Jewish father so him and all his brothers coukd not claim to be Jewish but is their brains and work ethics and all were accomplished they inherited the gene, We call ourselves muts but embrace all the genes we inherited and they have gone on to mix it even more with Coptic, POLISH, IRISH, SCOTTISH AND DUTCH. SO THERE YOU ARE WE EMBRACE ALL THE HISTORIES.THE HISTORIES OF ARMENIA IS OLD AND INTERESTING AND WE ARE ALL INTERESTED IN THAT WONDERFUL AND RICH INHERITANCE.Shame on you Mr Torossian.
I don’t understand what the big fuss is all about. Any person can choose to be what he or as he wants to be. Sassounian is making a mountain of a molehill when he keeps harping on a character like Torossian.There are lots of Armenians who are conducting business relations and activities with Turkey, and in Turkey. Are they less guilty or more guilty as Armenians? Shouldn’t they be pilloried too? And where does all this lead to? I would rather hear about a person of Armenian origin who knows about his origins, is appreciative of his history and is respectful of others, contributing to Armenian life in any way possible, and making sure that the current generation of Armenians is free of prejudices, bigotry, is mindful of social justice and fights for it, is exemplary in his understanding and pursuit of gender equality and fairness in our lives as citizens and human beings. Leave that miserable Torossian and people like him alone. If they don’t want to belong to Armenians, so be it! Are we so poor that we are scraping the bottom of the barrel?
Peace to you all !
I would have asked him this question,
if you don’t consider yourself Armenian, why have you kept your Armenian last name ? If you’re a jew i believe you are more than vapable to legally change to your mother’s name and be done with it.
The sooner you do this the better it is for all and you will be forgotten.
There are many Iranians with Armenian sur names, Mr. Ronn Torossian’s denial of his Armenian heritage and ancestry is his problem. I have many Jewish friends. but non with a sur name which ends in IAN.
I feel sorry for RONN who denies his ethnicity for 13 pieces of silver or should I say Turkish Liras.
Iranian Jews have last names that end in Ian.
A Jewish friend of mine once reacted to his son’s decision to deny his Jewishness. He told him, go become a non-Jew, others will pronounce you a Jew.
Unlike some others, Mr Torossian has not changed his family name. He has kept his door open. This time it is $60 K. Should more lucrative opportunities present to use his paternal identity, I am certain, he will revert and adjust to the new circumstance.
I have been helping my daughter research the Armenian Genocide. Literally, the things i’ve learned recently keep me up at night. Mr. Torossian can do whatever he wants with his business but the $60,000 is a small sum to earn for so much bad publicity. I’m glad Harut Sassounian wrote the article.
What’s so surprising? There is nothing wrong with someone chosing his/her own religion or identity. I have personally met many self-loathing Armenians that I became used to it. This is not the first case where a person who is of partial Armenian heritage refuses to be considered so. Look at Sylvie Vartan (which is the same case as that of Ronn Torossian, except that she’s not involved in Israeli politics), or Jamala which is another case where she loves her father’s Tatar culture but takes her mother’s (an Armenian’s) culture for granted, e.g. she proudly says Aram Khatchadurian is her distant cousin and yet proudly announces that she left her Armenian boyfriend because her father wouldn’t have approved the union and thus she’s now married to a Tatar, and yet her family returned to their homeland of Crimea all thanks to her *Armenian* mother, and still her song about the sorrows of the Tatars gained her the first place in the Eurovision while a year before the song of the Armenian band about the 1915 genocide got changed a little bit because the jury said it was *too political*. We can also see the reverse. Let’s take for example Levon Aronian whose father’s a Jew but he now considers himself Armenian and married in a church ceremony.
However, I don’t consider their [the self-loathing Armenians’] description of us as credible because it is based on emotion and not rationality. It is also liable that Ronn’s relation with his father was bad and became worse later on but that mustn’t be taken as a precedent to reflect his hate of his father and/or grandfather on the whole Armenian nation, even if, I can imagine, his grandpa being conservative and hating the marriage with an odar. Oh and the members of Armenian organizations who are supposed to be nationalistic and brag about their Armenian pride are sometimes the ones who distance themselves the most from the culture. This is also a personal experience.
Armenophobia is becoming more and more common, we should also expect this kind of situations to increase in the following decades since today there are many interethnic marriages and some Armenians are encouraged to do that out of hate for their fellow kin.
Harut you should dive a little deeper as to why the latest forthcomings(or the lack thereof) regarding the Cilician See lawsuit have not been talked about at all in our media or by Aram catholicos himself. This Ronn guy is finished thanks to your investigative actions great work.
This is what Armenians get when they marry a non-Armenian: identity issues and continual silent genocide. The only threat to the Armenian nation, culture, and continuity is Armenians themselves. So many hate their Armenian heritage and want to associate with others, going off and marrying “odars”. Their children will not care, their children’s children will forget, ad infinitum. Armenians will not exist soon because of themselves, they are only destroying themselves. Armenians in Russia marrying Russians, Armenians in Turkey marrying Turks, Armenians in France marrying French, etc. This has nothing to do with racism and everything to do with the preservation of culture, language, and heritage. This is the unfortunate state of this people and it will only plummet deeper into obvlion so long as Armenians themselves allow this. What’s the point of going on the streets on April 24th when Armenians are committing an April 24th on themselves? We don’t have the population China or Russia has or the power Israel has, Armenians are headed for irreversible disaster.
Chris, Thank you very much for all the work you do. There are many SMALL people like this one. I pity them. It’s not his fault, it is his father’s and grandfather’s fault. I am sure when it is profitable to say “I am Armenian” (like in 1600s) a lot of them will show up. For now – god with him…
Sassounian is right about this, and his article is justified. There’s an information war that goes more deeply and intensely than many people realize. For example: It’s spills over into obscure Internet discussions. To be more specific consider how the distribution of a mountain of deliberately falsified information and fakery, in regards to the debunked case of the Khojaly Massacre, has wormed its way into places like Wikipedia.
As for Surnames, I don’t have an Armenian Surname, yet my maternal ancestry is 100% Armenian, from the People of Muş (Mush). Does it make me less Armenian, because it’s my maternal lineage that goes back to the Sanoian Name. Perhaps, Armenians are too focused and obsessed with their identity, based upon Surnames, despite that it’s somewhat understandable, because it’s the surname that lives on, more visibly, in the legacy of the family heritage.
To clarify this, I’ll put it this way: Would we have even noticed that a guy like Ronn Torrosian betrays his Armenian Ancestry, if his paternal name was Smith instead of Torrosian, while the maternal lineage goes back to an Armenian Name?
Even when Armenians marry non-Armenians, still we should have some influence on up-bringing of our children…. Jewish mothers feel a great responsibility to raise their kids Jewish, regardless of whom they marry.
Regardless, having Armenian name or last name or calling themselves Armenian doesn’t make anybody Armenian. If he is not calling himself Armenian, he is not Armenian.
I don’t care what Ronn Torrosion wants to be known as,Armenian,Jew,Israeli, what is important is ETHICS, that he would represent Turkey under Reycep Erdogan who rules as a Dictator speaks volumes about what is truly important to him and it isn’t Armenia or Israel but it is MONEY,SHEKELS or whatever it’s referred to in Ankara!
I also wonder what his love is for the U.S since after his questioning
before a grand Jury in the Mueller Russia/Trump investigation he referred to it as a WITCH HUNT !His work for Turkey is like A Jew doing PR work for Hitler,pretty shallow and sickening to this proud person of Jewish Ancestry going back to the 16th Century and the Great Rabbi Yom Tov Lippman Heller of Kracow !
I had a friend thru grade school and high school in Cambridge,Ma who went on to Harvard, Martin Martinian who was proud of his heritage as I am proud of mine !
I am Jewish and I wish Israel recognize the Armenian genocide as soon as possible – it is already very late. As about this Torossian, perhaps he works only for them who pay him, no matter it is Turkey Russia or any other state. It is comical, ridiculous, and destructively ugly to have Armenian name, if he does not feel himself Armenian.