Local Armenian Progressive Group in Solidarity with Pittsburgh

Zoravik Supports Boston Jewish Community in Aftermath of Mass Shooting


BOSTON, MASS. — Just over five-hundred miles away from the Tree of Life synagogue, where a Jewish community has been grieving the loss of 11 of its innocent worshippers, hundreds in the heart of Boston recently gathered in the aftermath of that deadly shooting to pray, to grieve, and to support.

Billed as a Boston Shiva and a rally against anti-Semitism and white supremacy, several groups allied with Boston Workmen’s Circle and Jewish Voice for Peace Boston on Thursday night at the New England Holocaust Memorial, including a handful of local Armenians.

A day after the mass shooting, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan extended his condolences to President Donald Trump writing in part, “We condemn in the strongest terms this despicable manifestation of violence and intolerance, and we express our solidarity to the calls for a common struggle against xenophobia in the world.”

The Armenians at the Boston rally identified themselves as part of a new progressive group called Zoravik. Organizer Sevag Arzoumanian says, “We are interested in helping progressive forces in Armenia, but we’re also interested in helping local progressive causes.”

Back in Pittsburgh, prosecutors said the gunman was allegedly talking about “genocide and his desire to kill Jewish people” as he opened fire on worshippers during Shabbat prayer services. “How could we not be here?” Arzoumanian explains prefacing the Armenians’ shared history with the Jews (the Holocaust and the Armenian Genocide of 1915). “The Armenian people and the Jewish people have gone through similar experiences. The attack on the synagogue in Pittsburgh was an attack against members of a given faith and members of a given minority.”

Zoravik’s Samuel Chakmakjian attends Boston solidarity rally

Another attendee was Samuel Chakmakjian, a graduate of Brandeis University, which has a large Jewish student body. Chakmakjian was there to support many of his friends from University but he says he also came because he believes it is the right thing to do as an Armenian.

“I feel a moral obligation,” he said. “I think that we as Armenians need to really investigate that feeling of moral obligation and see how our experiences can open us up to being there and helping other communities as they heal, because we’re definitely not the only people that feels pain as a result of ethnic violence or a history of genocide or invisibility.”  

Chakmakjian is a member of numerous organizations and initiatives in the Armenian community (he has been an active member of the AYF since he was a child), but says that, on this occasion, he was attending as an activist with Zoravik.

“I think that Zoravik is opening up a very needed supplementary pocket of our community because we often don’t pay attention to the social justice causes that are happening around us, especially in the context of America and other western countries where we have a significant Diasporan community,” said Chakmakjian who did not notice any other Armenian organization taking a firm stand on this mass shooting. “Unfortunately this has fallen outside of their purview.”

While many Armenian organizations are focused on the culture, its youth and relief efforts as traditional strategies for strengthening the community, some like Chakmakjian argue it’s also equally important to make meaningful connections with other faith groups outside the community. “I think our reluctance to align with other causes and look beyond our community is primarily a reaction to trauma and the very real fears that we feel around disappearing…whether that’s by the sword or by assimilation.”

Pictured left to right: Pete Nersesian, Sevag Arzoumanian, Samuel Chakmakjian, Mardiros Merdinian, Vahe Markosian
Leeza Arakelian

Leeza Arakelian

Leeza Arakelian is the assistant editor for the Armenian Weekly. She is a formally trained broadcast news writer and a graduate of UCLA and Emerson College. Leeza has written and produced for local and network television news including Boston 25 and Al Jazeera America.
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Karine Vann

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Karine Vann is the editor of the Armenian Weekly. She is a musician who transitioned into journalism while living in the Caucasus for several years. Her work has appeared in Smithsonian.com, The New Food Economy, and a number of other publications. Her critical writings focus primarily on the politics of culture, media analyses, and the environment. She spends her spare time in front of a keyboard, at a farm, or making a fuss about zero waste. If you have comments, questions, pitches, or leads, she can be reached at karine@armenianweekly.com.
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4 Comments

  1. Here’s the statement in solidarity with the Jewish community of Pittsburgh that Zoravik issued last week.

    ԶՕՐԱՎԻԳ • IN SOLIDARITY

    Zoravik stands in solidarity with the Jewish community in remembering those who lost their lives in the horrific anti-Semitic attack on the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on Saturday, October 27, 2018. We extend deep condolences to the families and loved ones of the victims.

    As a collective dedicated to fighting for justice for all peoples, we recognize and emphasize that this shameful act was not an isolated event, nor did it occur in a political vacuum.

    This attack occurred in the context of rising white nationalism and during a resurgence of public displays of anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, racism and anti-immigrant sentiment. The attacker had a history of anti-Jewish, anti-Muslim and anti-refugee posts on social media. As recently as the morning of his attack, he is reported to have posted expressing his disdain for HIAS, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, an organization which not only had ties to the Tree of Life Synagogue, but has a 117-year history of aiding asylum seekers including non-Jews such as Muslims and LGBT refugees. In other words, the Tree of Life Synagogue was attacked for being connected to an organization that defends the rights of people, desperate to find safe shelter.

    As a people who have experienced and continue to experience similar struggles to the Jewish community, we as Armenians condemn this atrocity as we condemn all forms of ethnic persecution. As a community of refugees and descendants of refugees, we will not be silent. We stand with our Jewish siblings against hate.

    In Solidarity,
    Զօրավիգ
    Zoravik – Armenian Activist Collective
    October 30, 2018
    Boston, MA

  2. Sadly, these sorts of incidents where groups of people are shot to death in public places has become a normal part of American culture.

    It was certainly very kind of that particular group of Armenian-Americans to render emotional support to Boston’s Jewish community in regard to the anti-Jewish attack in Pittsburgh; on the other hand, how about the Jewish-American community rendering emotional support to the Armenian-American community for all of those precious Armenian soldiers that are being killed by Israeli military weapons, over on the Artsakh-Azerbaijan border?

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