Jewish World Watch to Give First Annual I Witness Award

LOS ANGELES–Jewish World Watch has announced that the recipients of its first I Witness Award will be two Armenia’s scholars who have dedicated their professional lives to chronicling the history of the Armenian people and commemorating victims of the Armenian Genocide. The recipients are filmmaker Dr. J. Michael Hagopian, Ph.D., and historian, Dr. Richard G. Hovannisian, Professor, Armenian and Near Eastern History, UCLA, both widely considered among the foremost authorities on the Armenian Genocide. The event will take place on May 15 at Adat Ari El Synagogue. Humanity is subject to genocide and amnesia is dangerous, said Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis, Founder, Jewish World Watch. If you forget or deny the first genocide of the 20th Century, you waste the experience of the past. Our experience with the Jewish Holocaust makes it a matter of conscience for the Jewish people to respond and recognize the grief and anguish of others. It is incumbent upon us to stand up and recognize the Armenian Genocide of 1915. The I Witness Award is the third Jewish World Watch event to commemorate the Armenian holocaust. The goal of the events has been to bring the two communities together in recognition of their mutual experience of genocide and in doing so have the Jewish community acknowledge and commemorate the heretofore unacknowledged genocide of the Armenian people in 1915. The I Witness Award was begun to honor representatives from communities that have been victims of genocides in the 20th Century and who, as individuals, have played a role in educating the world about the genocide. Janice Kamenir-Reznik, Co-Founder, Jewish World Watch explained why Dr. Hagopian and Dr. Hovannisian were chosen to be the first recipients of the award. We as a community know only too well the consequence of silence in the face of genocide. We have chosen to honor Dr. Hagopian and Dr. Hovannisian because both men have dedicated their lives to keeping alive the memory of those who have suffered unspeakable horrors and in doing so are attempting to keep the world from forgetting and repeating. It is the hope of Jewish World Watch that by honoring those individuals, we can bring the world closer to the day that there will be no more genocide. Dr. Hovannisian, who has written extensively on Armenian history and the Armenian genocide, thanked Jewish World Watch, A significant part of my career has focused on understanding and teaching about the scourge of genocide, from the Armenian Genocide as prototype in the twentieth century to the unceasing violence that has marked the onset of the twenty-first century. It is not for praise or reward that we commit ourselves to this onerous issue, yet it is gratifying when our efforts are noticed and commended. I am most honored to be a recipient of the first "I Witness Award" of the Jewish World Watch. Dr. Hagopian has made seven documentary films on the Armenian Genocide. His last two are part of a trilogy called Witnesses. Voices from the Lake, the first film in the trilogy, tells of the tragedy that befell the Armenian citizens of Kharpert at the hands of the Turks in 1915. Germany and the Secret Genocide, the second film in the trilogy, takes place against the backdrop of World War I when German diplomats and soldiers help to cover up and deny the massacre of Armenia’s in exchange for Turkey’s support in the war. Caravans Along the Euphrates, the third and final film, is in production. Dr. Hagopian is also the founder of the Armenian Film Foundation, whose goal is to document the Armenian history and culture and instill pride in Armenian youth worldwide. Jewish World Watch is pioneering a monumental movement to combat all perpetrators of crimes against humanity. This is a courageous act of leadership in a world in need of a moral compass, said Dr. Hagopian. Sons and daughters of Hebrew prophets and descendants of Armenian patriarchs can now join forces to affirm that the Armenia’s were victims of the first genocide of the 20th Century in the Turkish Ottoman Empire and that civilization deman’s that the Republic of Turkey accept responsibility. With these goals in mind and with a deep sense of humility, I accept the honor accorded to me by the Jewish World Watch. Western Prelate Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian who will be present at the award, commented on the importance of such events, "Awareness is the key to ending the cycle of genocide and denial that continues to this day. It is imperative that we continue to educate the public about the atrocities of the first Genocide of the 20th century perpetrated against the Armenian nation. Through such events, we can persevere in our quest for justice." Also participating at the award ceremony will be members of the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony and the Yuval Ron Ensemble who will play chamber music together in a melting of the Jewish and Armenian cultures. Both groups contain members of the Jewish and Armenian communities. Noreen Green, conductor, Los Angeles Jewish Symphony, commented on the goal of the musical accompaniment, The purpose for the event is to bring the two cultures together and reach out to one another. The music is an extension of that philosophy. Now we continue that exploration and reaching out through an exploration of our music. Jewish World Watch is a coalition of over 54 synagogues working together to mobilize synagogues, their schools, members and the community to combat genocide and other egregious violations of human rights around the world. In response to the 400,000 civilians that have been murdered and the nearly 2.5 million people who have been displaced in the Sudan, Jewish World Watch chose Darfur as its first advocacy campaign. Since its inception, these synagogues have actively mobilized to stop the genocide in Darfur and have allocated more than $600,000 in direct assistance to the people in Darfur. While the focus of our work currently is on the genocide taking place in Darfur, Sudan, we believe that it is incumbent upon us to acknowledge and commemorate past genocides, in particular, the Armenian Genocide, which has been denied for almost a century, said Tzivia Schwartz-Getzug, Executive Director, Jewish World Watch. We cannot criticize those who are committing genocide today, without acknowledging and commemorating the unacknowledged genocide of the Armenian community in 1915.

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