“Hovel; you have no right! Your writings are too provocative. You describe the situation as if nothing is being done, no one toils; when, in reality, there are so many organizations, so many political parties, and so much is being done. You cannot blame people, denigrate the work done, dismiss everything, summing all up to zero. It’s simply not right”
Alex, my dear, I apologize. I did not mean to hurt anyone’s feelings, or belittle anybody. However, I beg you, let us take a step back and review.
Where do we stand and where are we heading?
Let’s take into consideration our schools’ situation, as an example. For years, I have worked within the frame of our schools’ parents committees. First at Samuel Mourad and then at “Tebrotzassère Varjaran”. The Armenian community in France is blessed with valuable, capable and wealthy individuals, yet our schools remain weak, in terms of organization and means. Where is the flaw?
I recently have been studying the by-laws and the structure of the “United Jewish Social Funds”. The French registered organization has 40,000 members, and an annual budget of 24 million Euros. The main mission of the organization is supporting and administering the Jewish schools in France, which have seen their enrollment rise from 400 in 1950 to 32,045 presently.
I looked for an Armenian organization, a web site where I could find comprehensive information. I found none. I began the task of gathering information, breaking my head calling here and there, I took a pencil, a paper, a calculator, and I came up with a total of 1,213. This is the number of students enrolled in the seven Armenian schools in France that I know of. So, 32,045 students in Jewish schools, 1213 in Armenian schools, for communities of similar size.
The Jewish organization has a website (http://www.fsju.org), from where I gathered the above information. It has clear by-laws, a democratic structure, a 228-member advisory council, a board of trustees, and an elected president. It has transparent accounts; 40,000 registered members… One donates one hundred Euros; another, one thousand; and one other, ten thousand Euros a year. Transparency, transparency, transparency. Every donation can be tracked down to the cent and representatives are voted in by all donors.
Along with schools, the organization deals with social issues concerning the community and safeguards the community’s interests in the country. The organization has established relations with the Government in France and with the State of Israel. It is a well-structured, organized, democratic, transparent and a well-financed organization.
Where do we stand and where are we headed?
While I was relating the above to my friend Vahe from Beirut, he interrupted me, saying, “Please, Hovel! Do not cite to me the Jews as an example to emulate. These people are engaged in the territorial expansion of their country, by killing, trampling the rights and usurping the poor Palestinians. We have nothing to learn from them”.
Well! I understand. Our compatriots living in the Middle East have been subjected to Arab propaganda for decades. We even have compatriots in the west who having been subjected to certain winds, show some signs of embittered prejudice. I hope that with time, we will collectively grow up and rise; that we will grow up, to be able to distinguish the State of Israel from the Jew, people with whom we share a historic fate and traits of character; that we will rise in our level of human values and refrain from being tempted to discriminate against anyone for national, religious or racial reasons.
Others are opening new schools while we are closing ours. We have already came to terms with the closing of the cornerstone school Melkonian of Cyprus, and Samuel Mourad, founded in 1928 in the historic city of Sevres. Last year, in 2015, in a flourishing community such as Los Angeles, the 34-year-old Arshag Dikranian School was closed down. Just recently, I heard that the Hrant Dink School in France is “endangered”. I am wondering; when was it that Dink, the hero, was martyred? Wasn’t it just yesterday, at his funeral, that he was praised? When was the school built, that it’s already being closed? Shame on us!
Where do we stand and where are we going?
The great poet (1) has said “To be able to live hereafter, besides water, air and bread, we will need Pride”. It seems as though that Believer poet (2) has prayed fervently, since we have been overwhelmed with pride.
Let us grow in strength and rise. Let us grow to see and acknowledge the qualities and achievements of others. Let us grow in wisdom and do away with pride and prejudice. Let us grow in humility.
Let us rise in Humanitarianism, doing away with navel-gazing, traversing our immediate circles, showing compassion and sharing the pain and suffering of others, of the Ukrainian, the Yezidi, the Eritrean, and learn to donate as well to the “others”, to the non-Armenian. Let us be disgusted by the injustice done to others. I am certain more Jews than Armenians participate in pro-peace, pro-Palestinian demonstrations taking place in Jerusalem, Paris and New York. The ignorant, the prejudiced will say, “They . . . .”. Let us rise,. Let us come out of our prejudices. Let us rise, to be proud of Armenians for our deep empathy towards others. Proud for also our humanitarianism and philanthropism, instead of just for our patriotism.Hoviv, the cartoonist famous in the French press, tackled Armenian issues in the later part of his life. In the hereunder cartoon he touches upon the struggle of sustaining the Armenian identity, particularly in the case of intermarriages.
In a surprising coincidence these names match the names of our children!
In another of his cartoons, he raises the question of the number of Armenian Nobel Prize winners in comparison to Jews. Let’s go back to the subject at hand. How important is the quality of our children’s education to us? With all the concerns that consume us as parents, where do our schools fall on our priority list? What percentage of our community’s budget is allocated for the education of future generations? Let’s forget about the numbers for a moment. Let’s also put aside the question of sustaining the Armenian identity. Do we have the drive and ambition to develop educational standards and schools that will raise up philosophers, writers, scientists, and Noble prize winners, in the next generation? When do we sow for the harvest of a generation?
Would it be fair to blame the board members of our poor schools who, after a day’s work as craftsmen, blue or white collar workers, attend school board meetings? Board members who spend weekends painting classrooms, fixing plumbing . . . Blaming them for what? For their “lack” of ambition or lack of means? Who prepares the curriculum for our schools? What standards do we have for our educators? Have we considered matching competitive salaries to attract the most highly qualified and exceptional teachers? Where is the money? Where is the organization?
There are so many organizations, so many political parties…
Alex, my dear, my dearest. You know? That’s the crux of the matter. We have too many organizations. Tooooo many! Partisan, dividing, conflicting organizations. If you belong to an organization, a party, a denomination, a church, you cannot belong to the other one, you are probably opposed to it, in conflict with it. You are against, you are “haga”.
We certainly need these organizations, churches, without which we wouldn’t even be here now. But today, in a world headed towards globalization, we need one, apolitical, unified, and financed organization. Not another, but one organization.
Vahe dear, I have to admit. I like the Jewish organization. At the very least, its name.
United – Undivided and non-divisive
Jewish – Proclaiming identity
Social – Not political or denominational
Funds – Money, money and money.
Vahe dear, we certainly have our values. We still have to learn though.
Along with education, we also have to deal with the social issues concerning the community and with safeguarding the community’s economic interests.
The field is vast, the harvest plentiful, but the workers are few.
We have to work,
We have to start,
We will start,
I will write again,