U.S. Study of Armenian-American Community (Third & Final Part)
by Harut Sassounian
We present this week the third and final segment of the internal study prepared by the U.S. Embassy in Yerevan on the Armenian-American community.The study points out the significance of the community in terms of its influence on Armenia and U.S.-Armenia relations. The study divides the community into seven clusters. The remaining four clusters are presented below:
4) "Small but Strong - The Armenian Protestant Community"
The study states: "While constituting only roughly 10-15 percent of the Armenian community in the United States, the Armenian Protestant Community is generally considered the oldest and one of the most prominent parts of the U.S. Diaspora. This community's strongest centers of support are in New Jersey and central and southern California. This group, while generally active in initiatives related to genocide awareness, recognition and study, does not subscribe to a specific political agenda on Armenia-related issues. The Armenian Missionary Association of America (AMAA) claims organizational links to the majority of the Armenian Protestant churches and operates educational and humanitarian programs that benefit Armenian communities in the Republic of Armenia and in the Diaspora. Most experts agree that this group, due to its relatively long history in the U.S., has one of the strongest financial bases and the highest percentage of high profile professionals in the United States today. The Armenian Evangelical Union (AEU) represents a smaller portion of the Armenian Protestant Community. Similar to the organizations affiliated with the AMAA, AEU congregations sponsor locally based cultural and educational initiatives as well as humanitarian efforts in the Republic of Armenia."
5) "Armenian-American Catholic Organizations"
The study reports: "Armenian Catholics living in the United States represent a small portion of the American-American community (claiming a membership of roughly 35,000). Following efforts to widen and strengthen its social and grassroots structure in the late 1990's, however, the group emerged as a well-organized group espousing conservative political and social values in line with the teachings of the Armenian Catholic Patriarchate (based in Lebanon)." The report states that there are 10 Armenian Catholic parishes in the United States, most them in New York, Los Angeles, Boston, and New Jersey.
6) "Professional and Cultural Organizations on the Rise"
The study states that "a growing number of professional and cultural associations have changed the face of the Armenian-American community during the past two decades. Groups like the Armenian Network, Armenian Bar Association, Armenian American International Women's Association and Armenian Professional and Student Associations report increasing membership and are expanding their activities."
7) "Humanitarian Groups and Private Foundations"
The study singles out the United Armenian Fund (UAF) for high praise, stating that the UAF "is in a unique position among Armenian-American organizations.
Focused strictly on humanitarian projects, it enjoys virtually universal support in the community."
The study then covers the Hayastan All-Armenia Fund, describing it as "a public-private hybrid endeavor with significant political backing from the GOAM [Government of Armenia] and Diaspora groups in the United States and France, has raised funds for humanitarian and infrastructure projects in Nagorno-Karabagh and Armenia since the early 1990's. The group was designed by advisors to then President Levon Ter-Petrossian as a mechanism to mobilize Diasporan financial support. While subject to some internal political and claims of financial mismanagement, the Hayastan All-Armenia Fund has maintained an extremely high profile among international Diaspora organizations and Armenian-Americans from the Los Angeles area figure prominently on the organization's governing board.
The fund's annual telethon fundraiser is carried internationally via cable networks to cities with large Armenian communities."
The study further states: "Individual Armenian-Americans continue to wield considerable influence in Armenia through private foundations and endowments such as The Lincy Foundation and the Cafesjian Family Foundation." It then mentions the multi-million dollar projects funded by these two entities, calling The Lincy Foundation "one of the most significant foreign donors in the country" and the Cafesjian Family Foundation "a major player in Armenia's cultural and urban planning circles."
The study ends with the following concluding comments: "Engaging the U.S.-based Diaspora as a whole remains an important aspect of the GOAM's [Government of Armenia's] foreign policy, economic development and public relations strategies. The GOAM has increased its efforts to partner with the Armenian-American community through conferences, outreach products and by establishing a specialized office within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. While most GOAM policymakers recognize the distinction between US Government policy and Diaspora policy, they also appreciate the influence that the latter plays on the former. All indications point to a growing tendency on the part of GOAM to capitalize on this dynamic, as the U.S.-Armenia bilateral relationship evolves."