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Thursday, April 23, 2015

100 Years - A Sad Memory and a Need to Recognize

As you know, this is my blog that revolves around me, radiates my various activities and cuteness and reports about whatever I choose to pontificate. For those reasons, I very rarely allow a guest post.

This is one of those occasions as I feel obliged to allow my mother some of my cyber space for her own writing mostly because what she wrote 1. is about me and 2. is timely.

Tomorrow, April 24, is the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. And so, here is mommy and what she has to say about that, originally posted here and copied and pasted with her permission:

What Genocide Victims and People with Special Needs Have in Common

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
Martin Niemöller (1892–1984)

By Nicole Jansezian

Martin Niemöller, a German Lutheran pastor and theologian, became an outspoken critic of the Nazis in Germany and was sentenced to a concentration camp for his crime of speaking against the regime. His famous poem, quoted above, has been reworded over the years and used to make a point: If we don’t speak up now for others, we place ourselves in inevitable danger.

I married an Armenian and when I did I married into a cause. If one characteristic marks Armenians, aside from their pride in being the first Christian nation, it is the hovering pall of the Armenian Genocide.

Yerevan, the capital city of Armenia with a view of
Mount Ararat in modern day Turkey
Have you heard of it? Many have not. This Friday is the commemoration of 100 years of this atrocity in which 1.5 million Armenians were killed at the hands of the Ottoman Empire. On April 24, 1915, the Ottoman government executed more than 200 Armenian leaders in Constantinople. What followed were years of systematic abductions, expropriation of assets, executions, death marches and starvation in an effort to eliminate the Armenian population in present-day Turkey.

Armenians around the world can’t shake the specter of this haunting time because many world superpowers refuse to call it “genocide.” Russia, France and about 20 other countries recognize it as such while the United States, Britain and Israel do not. Turkey, in its insistence to avoid culpability, denies it happened.

But long before any nation recognized what occurred in Armenia, Adolf Hitler did. Hitler observed that his own genocide would be successful because no one remembered the Armenians. And so he spent years methodically annihilating people who didn’t fit into his world, most predominately 6 million Jews. The Holocaust occurred partly because genocide had already been allowed by the world.

And yet, before he rounded up the Jews, Hitler experimented with another group: the disabled and terminably ill. According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, in October 1939, Hitler initiated the killing of Germans he deemed “unworthy of life.” Some 200,000 handicapped people were murdered between 1940 and 1945. This became the model for the mass murder of Jews and a training ground for the concentration camps.

These despicable historic events bring me to the present. Daniel, my young son, is of Armenian descent and he has special needs. He would’ve been targeted in either genocide because of his identity.

Thankfully we live in a society today where Daniel is treated with dignity and love. I don’t expect any laws to be legislated against his existence. And he has advocates like those we found at SHALVA, the Association for Mentally and Physically Challenged Children in Israel.

Shalva’s work, quite opposite to Hitler, is to improve the quality of life for children with special needs and their families. To give hope. To instigate progress. Shalva is fostering a more knowledgeable and compassionate social climate for people with disabilities so they will be included and never again looked upon as a lesser group or a weak link.

Thanks to Shalva, Efrat Dotan (Down syndrome) and Matanel Biton (developmental delays) worked at an Israeli newspaper and interviewed national and international celebrities and politicians. Dina Samte, a singer who is blind, performed on a New York City stage along with percussionist  Yair Vomberg, who has Down syndrome.

In order to pave the way for more opportunities such as these, we must continually speak up for those who have no voice.

If we do not recognize we cannot repair, rebuild and move forward. Failing to speak out for one group regarding an atrocity is a moral failure. And for me, failing to speak up is failing my son. 

“Denial of genocide … is not an act of historical reinterpretation … but an insidious form of intellectual and moral degradation.” Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt said.

Edmund Burke is known for this famous quote: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” I’d like to add, “and to say nothing.”

So as a defender, advocate and mother, I must speak up for recognition of the Armenian Genocide and its victims.

May this 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide be a time for us all to remember, represent and advocate for and to recognize the defenseless.


Nicole is wife to Tony Jansezian and mother to Daniel and two other Italian-Armenian Israeli-born kids. She heads up Christian Friends of Shalva. To support SHALVA’s work and create more success stories such as mentioned above and for Daniel and his friends too, click here.  

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Hanging with the Big Boys

Welcome to the Jungle, Raia! I mean, our bedroom :)
Friends, Passover break is over and we have all returned to our respective frameworks after nearly a month celebrating freedom. But not without some major changes, of course.

This extra long spring break provided mommy and abba with the opportunity to make some big changes in their lives, a spring cleaning of sorts: They evicted Raia from their room! 

Yes, after 16 months of maybe a handful of nights slept through, they felt she certainly outstayed her welcome in their room and change was needed.

Not that she had anywhere else to go. We have a smallish apartment. There was talk of cleaning out the office and transforming it into a bedroom. But that would've taken months as the office acts as our walk-in closet and is the only room sealed off from babies as it hosts important things such as the kitty litter and the printer - two treasures we babies are angling to get our hands on.

Mommy would not be stopped however, and she came up with another "solution." And so, with much ado, the crib slid right into our room with no problem, positioned perpendicular to our toddler beds.

Yes, mommy reasoned that all her children deserved each other. Raia was now formidable enough to meet us in the boxing ring and her daytime schedule had mostly aligned with ours. Not to mention, we had more than two weeks of spring break to sort it all out while mommy prayed for success.

It came at an appropriate time. We have been watching Prince of Egypt repeatedly. One of the songs is "Playing with the Big Boys Now." This was our welcome song to Raia: "You're sleeping with the big boys now!"

All the adults in our lives had bets placed on who would be disrupting who's night's sleep: Some contended that Raia's shrill midnight screams would disturb Lucas and I. Others assumed I would be the culprit, driven by curiosity and community to chat with Raia all night. Many feared Lucas and I would climb into Raia's crib and crush her.

It wasn't just Lucas and I who climbed into the crib:
we threw in every single item in our room as well!
(blankets, pillows, stuffed animals, diapers, etc)

Well, all of the above has occurred in some form or another. But the real lesson here was that Raia started sleeping through the night pretty much as soon as she moved in. So certain parents are kicking themselves for not doing this months ago. Er hm.

And so Lucas and I extended our most baby welcome to little sister Raia. Now that we have her to ourselves we can train her in the Ways and Laws of Babies. Watch out world!

But to understand our family's sense of humor, this is how Zia Em pictured our new sleeping arrangements:

Friday, April 3, 2015

Happy Holidays - And Beware of Babies Wielding Staffs!

"You shall take in your hand this staff, with which
you shall perform the signs.” Exodus 4:17

Lucas took this literally, for himself. Note, this particular
staff has never turned into a snake despite repeated attempts.
Seeing as we are mere hours from ushering in Passover, I will review what we learned this year in our respective schools. Most importantly, we learned that the Ten Plagues are called Eser HaMakot in Hebrew. Another, more familiar, day to day translation of makot is plural for smack, or hit.

Hence, the story of Passover and by extension Easter, is all about ... fighting.

Of course!

I understand many of you may have assumed that Passover and Easter are about deliverance, freedom and salvation. But as babies and boys, we see the inherent battles in any situation, mostly because we like to rumble. And in the spirit of Passover, we have acted no differently. When you strip these stories down to the bare bones, they were all about the fight!

Egyptians vs. Israelites
Slaves vs. Pyramids
Moses vs. Egyptian Slave Driver
Moses vs. Pharaoh
Man vs. Red Sea
(All Ten Plagues) vs. Man

Romans vs. Jews
Jews vs. Jews
Man vs. Grave
God vs. Death

All of the above
God vs. Satan

Immediately upon learning of Moses, Lucas adopted for himself a staff, ala Moses (Moshe), which he wields wildly and has carried with him (or tried to) everywhere for the last two weeks. His teacher created a special place for it at school where it was unreachable by children during the day. Certain restrictions were put on this staff (mateh in Hebrew) not the least of which was to not poke his sister's eyes out and to not sleep with it. Ouch.

So affected was Lucas by his newfound Moses persona that he announced that he was going to Egypt to DO the Eser HaMakot. I kid you not. And I agree wholeheartedly that a reenactment would be stunning, replete with special effects and lots of drama, especially on location with pyramids and sphinxes! But mommy and abba dissuaded us from said journey fearing that perhaps it could pose a bit of a threat to the tenuous peace in the region.

While we learned the Exodus story at school and at home, much of our riveting education has come from Prince of Egypt, the movie. We relate to it well, especially the scenes where Ramses and Moses join together as brothers and practically bring down the Egyptian empire, unintentionally, with their naughty games like chariot races through construction sites. Such role models they are!

"Behold the power of God!"
Another thing we learned is that on this night, Passover, we should put blood on our door post lest the angel of death visit the region yet again. Apparently that is no longer practiced, which is cause for fear as far as I am concerned as the eldest baby in this family. When mommy and abba posed the question to us of where (on earth, or why or how) we would get blood for such an act, we thought hard and came up with a good substitute: ketchup! Needless to say, this night has been different from any other night.

All the fighting has been so invigorating and such a celebration of the Exodus and Easter miracles.  Sometimes we get so worked up by all of this miraculous business that Lucas will dramatically slam his staff to the ground and declare: "Behold, the power of God!" splinters from the wood splay in different directions threatening all in his immediate surroundings and both mommy and abba yell, "No playing with the staff in the house!" Oops.

If you're going to get carried away with anything, it might as well be the power of God. Right?

And so from the basket of little Moses to the the modern life of iPads, the drama of the Exodus lives on for us babies! Happy Passover and Happy Easter, everyone!

Three baby siblings, like Aaron, Miriam and Moses,
conspiring to reenact the Exodus

Raia mostly just laughed at our shenanigans, but I
have no doubt she'll catch up with us some day.