With anti-Semitism on the rise, record numbers of hate crimes recorded, 63 percent of American Jews having experienced anti-Semitism and 59% concerned for their own safety, Jewish students on college campuses afraid to reveal their identity, anti-Semitic attacks by members of Congress, and the Tennessee School Board banning “Maus,” a Pulitizer-prize winning graphic novel about the Holocaust, a Texas legislator said Holocaust could not be taught in schools unless the “opposing view” is also taught, and half of Americans not aware or in denial that 6 million Jews were systematically murdered by Nazis, President Biden issued a statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day condemning anti-Semitism: “It falls to each of us to speak out against the resurgence of anti-Semitism and ensure that bigotry and hate receive no safe harbor, at home and around the world.”
Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) noting that 100 candidates for elected office from 32 states are members of extremist groups, that 60 percent of hate crimes are directed against Jews, that anti-Semitism is entrenched in conspiracy theories, “It’s a sign of decay of our society.”
Here is President Biden’s statement:
Today, we attempt to fill a piercing silence from our past—to give voice to the six million Jews who were systematically and ruthlessly murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators, and to remember the millions of Roma, Sinti, Slavs, disabled persons, LGBTQ+ individuals, and political dissidents who were killed during the Shoah. It was a destructive force so unimaginable that it gave rise to an entirely new vocabulary of evil: words like “holocaust,” “genocide,” and “crimes against humanity.” We join with nations of the world to grieve one of the darkest chapters in human history—and to bear witness for future generations so that we can make real our sacred vow: “never again.”
This charge is even more urgent with each passing year, as fewer and fewer survivors remain to share their stories of lives lost and lives rebuilt.
As a child, I first learned of the Holocaust listening to my father at our dining room table. As a father and grandfather, I brought my own family to see its haunting remnants at the Dachau concentration camp. And today, as President, I’ll welcome Bronia Brandman to the Oval Office. A survivor of Auschwitz who lost her parents and four of five siblings, she could not speak of her experiences for half-a-century. Today, she’ll share her story at the White House—and speak for millions who never got the chance.
Today, and every day, we have a moral obligation to honor the victims, learn from the survivors, pay tribute to the rescuers, and carry forth the lessons of last century’s most heinous crime. From the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia, to a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, we are continually and painfully reminded that hate doesn’t go away; it only hides. And it falls to each of us to speak out against the resurgence of antisemitism and ensure that bigotry and hate receive no safe harbor, at home and around the world.
We must teach accurately about the Holocaust and push back against attempts to ignore, deny, distort, and revise history—as we did this month, when the United States co-sponsored a UN resolution that charged the international community with combating Holocaust denial through education. We must continue to pursue justice for survivors and their families. And we must ensure that aging survivors have access to the services they need to live out their lives in dignity.
We cannot redeem the past. But, on this day, as we mourn humanity’s capacity to inflict inhuman cruelty, let us commit to making a better future and to always upholding the fundamental values of justice, equality, and diversity that strengthen free societies.
In his proclamation on the Days of Remembrance of Victims of the Holocaust, 2021 President Joe Biden stated that Yom HaShoah points to the urgency to speak out whenever they witness anti-Semitism or any form of ethnic and religious hatred, racism, homophobia, or xenophobia. “The legacy of the Holocaust must always remind us that silence in the face of such bigotry is complicity.”
On Yom HaShoah — Holocaust Remembrance Day — we stand in solidarity with the Jewish people in America, Israel, and around the world to remember and reflect on the horrors of the Holocaust. An estimated six million Jews perished alongside millions of other innocent victims — Roma and Sinti, Slavs, disabled persons, LGBTQ+ individuals, and others — systematically murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators in one of the cruelest and most heinous campaigns in human history.
We honor the memories of precious lives lost, contemplate the incomprehensible wound to our humanity, mourn for the communities broken and scattered, and embrace those who survived the Holocaust — some of whom are still with us today, continuing to embody extraordinary resilience after all these years. Having borne witness to the depths of evil, these survivors remind us of the vital refrain: “never again.” The history of the Holocaust is forever seared into the history of humankind, and it is the shared responsibility of all people to ensure that the horrors of the Shoah can never be erased from our collective memory.
It is painful to remember. It is human nature to want to leave the past behind. But in order to prevent a tragedy like the Holocaust from happening again, we must share the truth of this dark period with each new generation. All of us must understand the depravity that is possible when governments back policies fueled by hatred, when we dehumanize groups of people, and when ordinary people decide that it is easier to look away or go along than to speak out. Our children and grandchildren must learn where those roads lead, so that the commitment of “never again” lives strongly in their hearts.
I remember learning about the horrors of the Holocaust from my father when I was growing up, and I have sought to impart that history to my own children and grandchildren in turn. I have taken them on separate visits to Dachau, so that they could see for themselves what happened there, and to impress on them the urgency to speak out whenever they witness anti-Semitism or any form of ethnic and religious hatred, racism, homophobia, or xenophobia. The legacy of the Holocaust must always remind us that silence in the face of such bigotry is complicity — remembering, as Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote, that there are moments when “indifference to evil is worse than evil itself.”
Those who survived the Holocaust are an inspiration to every single one of us. Yet they continue to live with the unique mental and physical scars from the unconscionable trauma of the Holocaust, with many survivors in the United States living in poverty. When I served as Vice President, I helped secure Federal funding for grants to support Holocaust survivors — but we must do more to pursue justice and dignity for survivors and their heirs. We have a moral imperative to recognize the pain survivors carry, support them, and ensure that their memories and experiences of the Holocaust are neither denied nor distorted, and that the lessons for all humanity are never forgotten.
Holocaust survivors and their descendants — and each child, grandchild, and great-grandchild of those who lost their lives — are living proof that love and hope will always triumph over murder and destruction. Every child and grandchild of a survivor is a testament to resilience, and a living rebuke to those who sought to extinguish the future of the Jewish people and others who were targeted.
Yom HaShoah reminds us not only of the Jewish victims of the Holocaust, but also reinforces our ongoing duty to counter all forms of dehumanizing bigotry directed against the LGBTQ+, disability, and other marginalized communities. While hate may never be permanently defeated, it must always be confronted and condemned. When we recognize the fundamental human dignity of all people, we help to build a more just and peaceful world. In the memory of all those who were lost, and in honor of all those who survived, we must continue to work toward a better, freer, and more just future for all humankind.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR., President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim April 4 through April 11, 2021, as a week of observance of the Days of Remembrance of Victims of the Holocaust, and call upon the people of the United States to observe this week and pause to remember victims and survivors of the Holocaust.
I thought it was impressive when a couple of dozen elected officials from state, county and local government came to a Shabbat service at Temple Beth-el of Great Neck to show support for the Jewish community after horrific attacks at a Rabbi’s home in Monsey and a massacre at Jersey City kosher grocery. I was moved by the outpouring of 25,000 mostly Jewish (surprisingly few Orthodox) who marched as a demonstration of Jewish pride and resolution over the Brooklyn Bridge, led by Senators Schumer and Gillibrand, Governor Cuomo and Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul, and faith leaders. But what was truly awesome were the 2500 Long Islanders who marched in a show of solidarity to fight anti-Semitism and hate crimes at the county seat in Mineola, representing just about every aspect, community and culture across the length and breadth of Long Island. Marchers came from across the Island, representing more than 125 religious and community groups.
Nassau County Executive
Laura Curran organized the march and rally in solidarity with the Jewish
community and against Anti-Semitism in response to horrific attacks in Brookyn,
Monsey, and Jersey City, as well as incidents of Anti-Semitic graffiti at the Holocaust Memorial and
Tolerance Center of Nassau County in Glen Cove. In December, Nassau and Suffolk Counties formed a bi-county coalition that
will identify and develop a plan of action to combat and report acts of hate
and bias incidents on Long Island. In conjunction with a number of
organizations, today’s march marked one of the task force’s inaugural
“We organized this march
to send a clear message in one voice: Long Islanders of all faiths and
backgrounds stand united with our Jewish community and against Anti-Semitism,”
said Nassau County Executive Laura
As Assemblyman Charles Lavine read off
the names of participating groups, closing out nearly two hours of speeches
(notably very short speeches, that’s how many speakers there were) included on
the list: Turkish, Chinese, Indian…
Many of the speakers spoke of bigotry
and anti-Semitism as being anathema to American values. But of course,
Americans have a Pollyannish notion of this country’s “tolerance,”
“acceptance.” The strain of bigotry, hatred and particularly anti-Semitism has
always been here, even during World War II. It was muted after the Holocaust,
after the US soldiers penetrated the concentration camps and saw, for the first
time, that it was not “propaganda” that millions and millions were caged for
extermination, that the Final Solution was real. But it was anti-Semitism that
kept America from accepting refugees before, during and after the Holocaust,
and no coincidence that the Palmer raids of the 1920s targeted Jewish labor
leaders and the McCarthy blacklist consisted mainly of Jewish writers and
The “popular” view is that anti-Semitism
is back on the rise because working people feel somehow disadvantaged, though
the connection eludes me. But here’s what I don’t get: in Nazi Germany, Jews
were a convenient scapegoat for the genuine suffering of Germans caught in a
Great Depression. That is not the case here in the United States. In fact, we
are constantly told that the economy is the strongest in history, unemployment
is at a 50-year low.
The rise in anti-Semitism – not just
vandalism and nasty remarks but physical violence like the massacres at the
Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburg, a synagogue in Poway, California, in
Jersey City and the attack at a rabbi’s home in Monsey during a Chanukah
celebration, has been quite astonishing. Over 2,000 hate crimes against Jews in
2019. In New York City, according to the New York Police Department, hate
crimes against all other groups (Asian, Catholic, Hispanic, Black, Arab, Muslim,
LBGTQ) totaled 206; the number directed against Jews, just in the five
Speakers referred to the fear that Jews now
feel in their own neighborhood, community, college campus. Many
Holocaust survivors are being wracked with renewed PTSD, their terrors
Indeed, a study by the American Jewish
Committee in October found that 31% of Jews hide the fact they are Jewish; 25
percent avoid certain places, events, situations out of concern for their
safety. In America? “We must be proud
and not shy away,” said Eric Post, AJC NY Associate Director.
“Anti-Semitism is not solely a Jewish problem. It’s an American problem. If not
eradicated, it will corrode our fabric.”
There is a difference in today’s
anti-Semitism, in that individuals armed with social media or semi-automatic
weapons can do horrific damage that before would have required some
organization or government sanction. And even if the defense is some sort of
mental illness, as in the Monsey case, the question is why the voices compel them to strike out
against Jews, what is it in the culture that directs hatred in that way?
But such hate turns out not even to be
solely “organic” or a representation of “grassroots” disaffection. Foreign
governments, particularly Russia, as well as domestic political factions that
are using anti-Semitism, racism and fomenting hate in order to sow division,
disrupt and destabilize our society to tilt elections and take power – after
all, it worked so well during the 2016 campaign.
five of our region’s Congressional representatives – Suozzi, King, Rice, Meeks and Zeldin – are requesting FBI
Director Christopher Wray, CIA Director Gina Haspel, Homeland Security acting
Secretary Chad Wolf and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper conduct an investigation into
potential campaigns sponsored by foreign adversaries to cause civil unrest on
“Whether anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, race
based or some other form of hate, internal divisions provide an opportunity for
our adversaries to exploit and further divide our nation,” the letter states.
“We must work together to combat those that exploit ignorance to sow division for
their strategic interest.”
The letter also cites a recent FBI study
that found the rate of hate crimes increased by 17 percent from 2016 to 2017
but the rate of anti-Semitic crimes increased by 37 percent in 2017 and attacks
motivated by racial or ethnical prejudice doubled. The timing since Trump’s
ascendancy is not coincidence; Trump has curried the support of racists and
bigots and basically green-lighted their activities. No longer is racism and
bigotry kept under wraps or in shadow; with Trump it is out in the open.
But to the extent America is a melting
pot, that melting pot is the New York metropolitan region – the city and suburbs,
especially Long Island. Which is why the dramatic escalation in anti-Semitic
hate crimes our area is all the more shocking and terrifying.
Rabbi Meir Feldman, who gave the sermon
at Temple Beth-el on that Friday night, had only 72 hours before been at Yad
Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem.
“Our question tonight is not why there
is anti-Semitism. It is simpler: what is this crazy evil thing, this abnormal
force of anti-Semitism?” He shows a cartoon that is displayed at the memorial,
an image of a parasite, an insect meant to be walked on but sits on top of the
world, in its right eye, a symbol of money, in its left eye a hammer and
sickle, the symbols of Capitalist and the communist seemingly
contradictory. That is anti-Semitism –
hated by both ends, a convenient scapegoat for anybody’s discontent and any
“Anti-Semitism is an impossible series
of contradictions,” he says. “What’s our response? How do we confront and fight
this scourge of contradictions?” He says with honesty, unity, solidarity and
“We must call out Anti-Semitism
wherever, whenever, reveal it for what it is: insane contradictions. Identify
the ideological source – right, left, White Nationalist, Black Nationalist.”
But this is the most
significant difference between Germany in the 1930s (where Jews had been living
for 1000 years) and now: the vast majority of elected officials are standing up
and calling out anti-Semitism, initiating new laws and calling for police enforcement,
as they did on Friday night at Temple Beth-el, in the March Against Hate in New
York last week, and in this weekend’s extraordinary march and rally on the
steps of the Theodore Roosevelt County Building.
it isn’t just speeches and marches, but actions. Senator Charles Schumer is
advocating $360 million more in spending to secure houses of worship and
federal assistance to localities to prosecute hate crimes; 298 Representatives
have signed on to sponsor the Never Again Education Act to authorize the Secretary of Education
to award grants to eligible entities to carry out educational programs about
the Holocaust. (It was introduced in the House in January 2019.)
Congressman Tom Suozzi attributed the
rise in anti-Semitism to social media which makes it easy to spread and magnify
hate, some of it promulgated by foreign adversaries trying to stir up civil
unrest. It works because “there is too much ignorance. How many deny the
Holocaust or don’t know about it? That is a recipe for disaster.” The US
soldiers, he said, who were just two or three months away from liberating the
concentration camps were still debating if the Holocaust was real or propaganda.
“We must educate.”
The state and county are stepping up
prosecution of hate crimes, as well. Governor Cuomo is proposing a domestic terrorism law that encompasses
hate crimes, and is seeking resources and security funding for law enforcement
and faith based institutions.
State Senator Anna
Kaplan has introduced four bills aimed at combating the rising tide of
anti-Semitism and hate in New York State, through education, awareness, and a
stronger hate crimes statute to ensure prosecutors have the tools necessary to
hold accountable those committing anti-Semitic and hate motivated crimes.
“As a Jewish
refugee who came to this country fleeing anti-Semitic violence in my homeland,
my heart aches over the out-of-control spree of anti-Semitic violence taking
place here in New York. I’ve been proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with New
Yorkers of all faiths and backgrounds as we have marched in the streets and
loudly proclaimed that we will not allow anti-Semitism and hatred to take hold
in New York, and today, I’m proud to announce that I am taking concrete steps
to address this crisis from every direction.”
the first Persian-American elected State Senator: “We speak with one voice. We
are never going to accept anti-Semitism in our community or anywhere. Anti-Semitism
has been a plague on society for thousands of years. We have to be the
generation that stands up and takes decisive action.”
Nassau County District Attorney Madeline
Singas said, “We see thousands of you shoulder to shoulder, different colors,
creeds, faiths, standing with neighbors, community to say ‘Enough.’ Hate is
offensive to a nation born of tolerance, and it is criminal. We will work hard
to arrest, prosecute, hold offenders accountable. “ She has created a hate
crimes bureau. ‘We hope one day soon we won’t need it. We say no to
anti-Semitism, racism, misogyny, homophobia, bigotry.”
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran,
who organized the massive display, said, “Hate has no place on our beautiful
island. We have got your back,” and introduced five Holocaust survivors.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone:
“this is the one nation on earth where every form of humanity is a citizen…
January 27 is the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.
That date is a reminder, we must stand up, any time we see bias or hate in
words or actions.”
Senator Schumer, relating how his great
grandmother, along with 30 other
relatives aged 3 months to 85 years old, were machine gunned by Nazis in
Ukraine, said, “Unfortunately people there didn’t speak up.”
New York State Attorney General Letitia James said, “As an African American, I know hate, know discrimination. An attack against one of us is an attack against all of us… During the civil rights movement, it was Jews who referred to blacks by their last name, not their first; who let Blacks enter the front door, not the back door, Jewish people who died for my people. Not just black blood but Jewish blood [was shed for civil rights]. Hate won’t be tolerated on Long Island or anywhere in the State.”
New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli
said it is hard to believe how the numbers of anti-Semitic incidents, of hate,
violence are going up in the New York metro area. “You being here show that we
will not accept this as the new normal. What we take from today, in our homes,
workplaces, houses of worship, neighborhoods, that’s where we must fight hate.”
Everyone, he said, should see the “Auschwitz: Not Long Ago, Not Far Away”
exhibit at the Museum of Jewish Heritage (extended until August 30, 2020). “Eli
Wiesel warned of the great peril of indifference in the face of hate.”
Dr. Isma Chaudhry, president of the Islamic Center of Long Island, which turned out in force for the march, said, ‘What I see today is a strong Long Island. As a Muslim, our moral obligation to stand by humanity suffering in pain, prosecution of hatred, discrimination. We stand with our Jewish brothers and sisters in solidarity… Nassau is making history by this strong statement of solidarity of diverse communities.”
Kevin Thomas, the first Indian-American
elected State Senator, holding his 13-month old daughter: “My community stands
with the Jewish community” adding, we need to teach our children when they are
Assemblyman Tony D’Urso’s family is a
model of the courage that it takes. When he was just a boy, Nazis took over his
village in Italy. His father protected the only two Jewish families who lived
in the village, hiding them in the mountains when others would have happily
given them up for a little money or food.
Probably most touching was Linda Beigel
Schulman, whose son Scott was a teacher-coach when he was murdered in
the massacre at Parkland school in 2018. She noted that the target of his
killer was a history class teaching about the Holocaust.
“We held a celebration of his life at
the temple where Scott was bar mitzvahed. The rabbi asked if I wanted any
security. I said ‘Why?’ Six days later, a gunman massacred Jews at the Tree of
Life synagogue, simply because they were Jewish.”
Schulman’s father was a Holocaust
survivor and when she taught in Germany 1977-9, “I feared telling people I was
a Jew. But living in Louisiana, a woman asked me, ‘where do you hide your
horns.’ Her husband attended NYU; his roommate moved out when he discovered he
“I know why I am here today, why we all
must be here, to have our voices heard. Over 2,000 anti-Semitic incidents in
2019 – gestures, name-calling, painting swastikas, toppling headstones,
physical attacks and murder, merely because a person is Jewish or believed to
be. Anti-Semitism is like a virus infecting, sometimes killing its host. The
body tries to fight it off, but it lies dormant, and rears up again. If we
allow anti-Semtiism to take hold in the United States, it will destroy the
fiber that holds us together. E Plubus Unum – out of many, one. Without that
motto is tribalism and ‘me first’.
“We need to become the best society we
can. We the people are the antidote. It
doesn’t matter if Jew, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh or no religion, Asian
American, Hispanic, Italian, African American, whether citizen or immigrant, if
you came by airplane, ship or on foot. We are the antidote to wipe out
anti-Semitism once and for all. Our voices must be heard. Silence only brings
acceptance and gives anti-Semitism the fuel it needs to spread.”
Assemblyman Charles Lavine, who served
as the emcee for the event, said, “For generations, tragedy after tragedy, Jews
have been saying “Am Yisrael Chai” – the people of Israel live. It is time for
us all Americans to stand together, united to say, Am America Chai. These are
Here is a list of the elected officials,
community and faith leaders who participated in Long Island’s march against
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran and Suffolk County
Executive Steve Bellone
Chuck Schumer, Senator
Letitia James, State Attorney General
Tom Suozzi, Congressman
Peter King, Congressman
Kathleen Rice, Congresswoman
Tom Di Napoli, State Comptroller
Todd Kaminsky, State Senator
Kevin Thomas, State Senator
Anna Kaplan, State Senator
Jim Gaughran, State Senator
John Brooks, State Senator
Chuck Lavine, Assemblyman
Judy Griffin, Assemblywoman
Mike LiPetri, Assemblyman
Michelle Solages, Assemblywoman
Madeline Singas, NC Distirct Attorney
Jack Schnirman, NC Comptroller
Don Clavin, Town of Hempstead Supervisor
Anthony D’Esposito, TOH Councilman
Charles Berman, Town of North Hempstead Tax Reciever
Wayne Wink, ToNH
Peter Zuckerman, ToNH Councilman
Veronica Lurvey, ToNH
Viviana Russell, ToNH Councilwoman
Debra Mule, County Legislator
William Gaylor, County Legislator
Thomas Mckevitt, County Legislator
Delia Deriggi-Whitton, County
Ellen Birnbaum, County Legislator
Richard Nicolello, President Officer of County
It took more than 2 ½ hours before all the marchers standing against Anti-Semitism, racism and bigotry got across the Brooklyn Bridge from Foley Square – an estimated 25,000 marching behind Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, Governor Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Bill DeBlasio, and a slew of state and local leaders, marching in solidarity with Michael Miller, Executive VP & CEO of Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, Eric Goldstein, CEO of UJA Federation of NY, the Anti-Defamation League, American Jewish Congress, NY Board of Rabbis, and faith leaders across Brooklyn Bridge, with a singular message: “No Fear, No Hate”.
political leaders did not just come to give speeches and march, but to take
Schumer said Congress would quadruple federal funding to $360 million to help
places of worship increase security – video cameras, doors, hired guards, and
$100 million to coordinate with local police to act more effectively to
prosecute hate crimes.
has a culture of diversity and tolerance. Anti-Semitism and bigotry is a
national crisis…We will not stand for bigotry of any type,” Schumer said. “We
will not only speak and march, but act.”
Cuomo also announced $45 million in additional funding to protect New York’s
religious-based institutions, including parochial and private schools and
cultural centers. He said that there would be increased state police patrols in
Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods across the state, and has created a new state
police tip line for people to report incidents (1-877-NO-HATE-NY). Also, Cuomo
said he would introduce legislation to elevate hate crimes to the level of
domestic terrorism, and prosecuted as such.
Funding is being made
available through Requests for Applications under New York’s
Securing Communities Against Hate Crimes Grant Program. Created by
Governor Cuomo in 2017, the program provides funding to strengthen security
measures and prevent hate crimes against non-profit day care centers, community
centers, cultural museums, day camps andnon-public schools,which
may be vulnerable because of their ideology, beliefs or mission. Since the
program’s inception, more than 500 such projects have been supported by $25
million in state funding. The Governor also announced the creation of a
new tip line that New Yorkers should call if they experience bias or
discrimination – 1-877-NO-HATE-NY. Additionally, the Governor announced
that State Police will continue increased patrols and security in Orthodox
Jewish neighborhoods across the state.
“The recent rash of anti-Semitic and other hate-fueled
attacks in New York and across the nation are understandably causing anxiety,
but we will not be intimidated,” Governor Cuomo said.”In New York we stand up to
those who try to sow division and fear, and this new funding
will provide religious and cultural institutions the support they need to help
protect themselves and keep people safe. We will not let the cancer of hate and intolerance weaken us – we
will continue to stand up and denounce it every time it rears its ugly
Hate crime statistics
indicate a surge of anti-Semitism and hate crimes against the Jewish community,
nationally and in New York. Nearly half of all hate crimes in New York over the
last several years have been against the Jewish community. Last year, more than
half the hate crimes recorded in New York City, 229 (a modern city record, up
from 185 in 2018) were recorded against Jews – and these statistics do not
include hate crimes directed at Jews outside the five-boroughs, such as the the
slashing of five people attending a Chanukah service in a rabbi’s home in
Monsey, NY. The October 27, 2018 mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in
Pittsburgh and the recent terror attack at a kosher market in Jersey City, New
Jersey, in which a local Yeshiva and Catholic school faced gunfire, underscore
the need to protect Jewish institutions from violent extremism and
The grants, which
will be directed by the New York State Division of the Budget,
provide up to $50,000 in funding for additional security training, cameras,
door-hardening, improved lighting, state-of-the-art technology and other
related security upgrades at each eligible facility. Organizations that operate
more than one facility have the opportunity to submit up
to five applications.
The program provides funding to strengthen security measures
and prevent hate crimes against non-profit day care centers, community centers,
cultural museums, day camps andnon-public schools,which
may be vulnerable because of their ideology, beliefs or mission. Since the
program’s inception, in 2017, more than 500 such projects have been supported
by $25 million in state funding.
The Hate Crimes Task Force was created last year to mitigate recent incidents of bias-motivated threats, harassment and violence in New York. As part of the Task Force, New York State Police, the Division of Human Rights and the Division of Criminal Justice Services engage local stakeholders and law enforcement agencies, and work to identify and investigate hate-motivated crimes and bias-related trends, community vulnerabilities and discriminatory practices.
The Governor also announced the creation of a new tip
line that New Yorkers should call if they experience bias or discrimination –
1-877-NO-HATE-NY. Additionally, the Governor announced that State Police
will continue increased patrols and security in Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods
across the state.
“I’m heartened to see this amazing show
of support and solidarity,” the Governor said at a press conference before the
march. “Literally over 10,000 people have shown up to show support and love for
the Jewish community. And that’s New York at her best. And it’s fitting.
Because what has happened in Brooklyn, what has happened in Monsey, New York
was an attack on every New Yorker. And every New Yorker has felt the pain.
Discrimination, racism, anti-Semitism is repugnant to every value that every
New Yorker’s holds dear. And it’s repugnant to every value that this country
represents. Racism and anti-Semitism is anti-American and we have to remember
“It is ignorant of our history because to know the history of the Jewish community is to love and appreciate the Jewish community because New York would not be New Yorker without the Jewish community. It is intolerant of who we are as a people. It’s intolerant of our diversity and our humanity and it is also illegal. And while we’re here today in the spirit of solidarity and love, government must do more than just offer thoughts and prayers, government must act. This is illegal and it is government’s responsibility to protect the people of the State of New York and the State government will be doing just that. As soon as the Legislature comes back I’m going to propose a new law for the State of New York that calls this hate what it is – it is domestic terrorism. These are terrorists and they should be punished as such. We’re going to increase the State Police force and the Hate Crimes Task Force so we have more State Police in vulnerable communities.
“We are going to work with schools all across the state to make sure our young people are educated on our history and our diversity and the strength of that diversity. We’ll be working with faith leaders, because from every pulpit, every podium to every congregation in this state, we have to be condemning these acts.
“And today the state is going to make an additional $45 million available to non-public schools and religious institutions for security. We also ask every New Yorker to be involved in this crusade today. And if any New Yorker has any information about a possible attack or an attack that has happened, we ask them to be active and to help us thwart these attacks. We have a 1-800 number – 1-877-NO-HATE-NY. If you have any information, we have that tip line open, let’s all stand together and united.
“These acts of hate may not have started in New York – we’ve seen them across the nation – but these acts of hate must stop and end in the State of New York, and that’s New York at her best. Everyone today says the same thing: No hate in our state, period. We won’t tolerate it, we condemn it, we stand united against it and we are going to act against it. Let’s march.”
Here are more photo highlights from the Solidarity March:
With increasing violence against Jewish people, including the massacres at a New Jersey kosher grocery, in California and Pittsburgh, desecrations at Holocaust Memorial Center on Long Island, and attacks on Jews in New York City and upstate New York, as Jews around the world celebrate Chanukah and the historic victory over religious repression, Vice President Joe Biden, a candidate for President, issued a statement decrying the rise of Anti-Semitism and reflecting on “the battle for the soul of this nation.” This is from the Biden campaign:
Statement from Vice President Joe Biden on the Rise of
Anti-Semitism and the Battle for the Soul of This Nation
Across America, and around the globe, the disturbing rise of anti-Semitism is shredding the fabric of our communities, tearing apart the lives of innocent people and their families, and eroding the soul of our nation.
This tide of hatred fueled last week’s horrific act of domestic terrorism that took the lives of a police officer and three people at JC Kosher Supermarket in New Jersey. It’s the same hatred that unleashed the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in U.S. history last year at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. That led a gunman armed with an AR-15 style gun to storm the Chabad of Poway Synagogue in California earlier this year on the last day of Passover.
We have to fight the pernicious and persistent evil of anti-Semitism at every level of our society — starting with our political leaders. My dear friend, the late Tom Lantos, had a saying that I’ve quoted frequently. He said, “The veneer of civilization is paper thin. We are its guardians, and we can never rest.” That means we have to stand up and speak out every time anti-Semitism rears its head, because silence can all too quickly become complicity.
Yet, after Charlottesville, instead of condemning a naked display of hatred, Trump assigned a moral equivalence between those streaming through the night with torches, chanting anti-Semitic bile — and the courageous neighbors and activists who stood against them. He gave license and safe harbor to white supremacists, Neo-Nazis, and the KKK.
We have all seen what has followed. There’s a short line from those white supremacists in Charlottesville chanting “Jews will not replace us,” to the shooter at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh last year, saying Jews “were committing genocide to his people.”
Since he took office, Trump has presided over a historic increase in hate crimes and biased-incidents targeting people of color, immigrants, LGBTQ Americans, and people of Jewish faith. Active hate groups grew to 1,020 in the U.S. last year, with white nationalists leaping almost 50%, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. FBI data shows that most of our religion-based hate crimes are aimed at Jews. At the end of 2017, Trump’s first year in office, anti-Semitic incidents increased nearly 60%, the largest one-year increase since the Anti-Defamation League started keeping records 40 years ago.
As I said after Charlottesville, we are in a battle for the soul of this nation. And, it’s why I am running for president.
Trump announced his first campaign by calling Mexican immigrants “rapists.” He called a major American city a “disgusting rat-and rodent-infested mess” that “no human being” would choose to live in. He tried to ban a whole religion from entering our country. He has repeated anti-Semitic tropes and sought to turn U.S. support for Israel into a political football.
In both clear language and cynical code, this president has fanned the flames of white supremacy and anti-Semitism in this nation. The Jewish people know better than anyone, that any action designed to marginalize one ethnic or religious group imperils us all.
Trump’s actions have only worsened the crisis: retweeting white nationalist postings. Cutting funding for Obama-Biden initiatives put in place to counter violent domestic extremism.
As I said earlier this year, we must enact a federal domestic terrorism law. We have to make the same commitment to rooting out domestic terrorism as we’ve made to stopping it internationally. And, we can do it without infringing on people’s free speech and without trampling civil liberties.
We must appoint leadership at the U.S. Department of Justice who will prioritize the prosecution of hate crimes – making clear that there is no place for such vitriol in this country.
We must defeat the National Rifle Association to get weapons of war off our streets and out of dangerous hands. I know we can because I’ve done it before – twice. As president, I’ll do it again. I’ll ban the manufacture and sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, require background checks for all gun sales, and close the hate crime loophole by enacting legislation to get guns out of dangerous hands of those convicted of a misdemeanor hate crime.
And, we have to condemn pernicious stereotypes wherever we find them, and stand up to those who seek to delegitimize Israel, including at the United Nations. No nation, including Israel, is immune from legitimate criticism, but it should not be unfairly singled out.
Hate didn’t begin with Donald Trump, and it won’t end with him. But this is a defining moment in our nation’s history. A moment where we are once again called to fight against the same forces of hate and intolerance that we’ve battled throughout our history. Yet it’s in these times, when what’s at stake matters the most, that we decide who we are, and maybe more importantly, who we want to be.
I am running for president because I believe in the best of America. I believe in our values of equality, giving everyone a fair shot, and treating everyone with dignity and respect. We are a country that gives to hate no safe harbor. We lead by the power of our example, not just the example of our power. So let us renew our commitment to our better angels and do what this president cannot: Stand together against hate, and stand up for what, at our best, this nation believes.
of thousands of marchers and supporters turned New York City’s Fifth Avenue
white and blue for this year’s Celebrate Israel Parade, the 55th
annual parade which has become one of the biggest events in a city known for
its fantastic parades and festivals. Among the dignitaries and elected
officials who marched to show support was Governor Andrew Cuomo who used the
occasion to denounce anti-Semitism and announce he will soon make a visit to
Israel to show solidarity.
Andrew Cuomo, who marched with his mother, Matilda, daughters Michaela and
Cara, and administration officials, government leaders including State Senators
Anna Kaplan and Brad Hoylman, and Assemblymember David Welprin and Council
Member Ben Kallos, as well as the Israel General Consul Dani Dayan, noted his special
guest, Devorah Halberstam, who runs the Jewish Children’s Museum. Halberstam started the museum in honor of her son
Ari Halberstam who was killed in an anti-Semitic attack; this week,
an anti-Semitic note was left there, “Hitler is Coming.”
“We are here to celebrate Israel,” Cuomo said. And it’s more appropriate than usual this year because the blunt truth is there has been an increase in the number of anti-Semitic attacks in this country and in this state. There’s been about a 57 percent increase in anti-Semitic attacks in the United States of America. People have heard about the Pittsburgh horrendous temple attack, in California. But a 57 percent increase. There’s been an 83 percent increase in anti-Semitic attacks in the State of New York, 83 percent increase all over the state – upstate, Long Island, Brooklyn. I just mentioned Devorah Halberstam’s most recent attack.”
Cuomo said the rise in bias and hate crimes was akin to a “cancer
of the American body politic.”
“Cancer of the American body politic has been the new way.
Cancer because one cell attacks another. When you have Jewish people being
attacked, gays, members of the LGBTQ community being attacked, with
anti-Semitic sayings just last night, anti-Muslim, anti-African-American.
This is a cancer of hate that is all throughout our country and unfortunately
even in our State of New York.
“There was a time when we could have political differences, but
it didn’t turn into hate. We’ve always had political differences, back to our
founding fathers we had political differences. But we tolerate them and we
understand them. We can have political differences about Israel and Palestine,
that’s what makes democracy that debate. But when did the strongest four letter
word in America become hate instead of love? That’s what’s most troubling. And
that is what is now going on. These anti-Semitic attacks are personal to the
Cuomo family. We have many friends who we grew up with who are of the Jewish
faith. I have two brothers in law who are Jewish, my mother has two sons in
law, my daughters have two uncles – Howard and Ken – who are Jewish. These
anti-Semitic attacks, the Cuomo family takes personally. Every family in New
York takes personally.
“And I want the people of this state to be clear: anti-Semitism
is not just wrong and immoral and unethical and anti-American; it is also
illegal. And we will enforce the law to the fullest extent and you have my word
“As a sign of solidarity, at this time of crisis for the Jewish
people, I’m going to be doing another trip to Israel as a trip in solidarity
right after the legislative session and I invite my Jewish colleagues to join
us as a sign of solidarity. New York stands with Israel. We are all Jewish
today. We all appreciate the Jewish community. They are part of what makes New
York, New York and one of the best parts.”
Asked what is being
done to combat the wave of anti-Semitism, Cuomo said, “We have increased the
hate crime penalties all across the state. We are working on more
understanding, more communication, but we’re also going to enforce the law
because it has reached a critical point. Eighty-three percent
increase in the state of New York. Twenty-two percent increase in neo-Nazi
groups. And by the way, I invite all politicians to condemn the neo-Nazi groups
for what they are. They are domestic terrorists. That’s what they are. And this
is not part of the democracy. They spread hate, they spread violence, they
attack and every politician—Democrat, Republican—should condemn these neo-Nazi
groups and call them for what they are.”
Cuomo made his remarks
just before starting the march, the gaggle collected on the street which turned
out to be across from Trump Tower. When a reporter pointed that out, Cuomo
said, “I didn’t even notice that until you mentioned it.”
Asked about the Pride flag that was burned at a downtown bar, Cuomo said, “Same thing. I call it a cancer that is spreading in this country. Why a cancer? Because cancer—one cell in the body attacks other cells and that’s what you’re seeing in this country right now. You’re seeing white versus black, Christian versus Muslim, anti-Semitism, anti-LGBTQ the other night. This is destroying America. Because America is diversity and once we start attacking each other for our diversity, that defeats America and who we are.
“We are a pluralistic society. Emma Lazarus, a great Jewish New Yorker who wrote the words for the Statue of Liberty. That’s the founding of this nation. George Washington visited a synagogue in Rhode Island and said, the Jewish people are here, free to celebrate their religion. It was freedom of religion. And now we are demonizing each other’s religious preferences? This is not America. This is not who we are. And we’re going to make the opposite statement in the state of New York. Let’s march, thank you.”
55th Celebrate Israel Parade
year marks the 55th anniversary of what has become one of the largest events in
New York City, known for mammoth parades and festivals, growing exponentially
each year in attendance and excitement since its founding in 1965 by Ted Comet.
40,000 marchers representing some 250 organizations from throughout the New
York metro area, Connecticut, New Jersey, Philadelphia, dignitaries and musical
guests, 30 floats, 15 marching bands including the famed Mummers from
Philadelphia, groups of rollerbladers, motorcyclists, dance groups, juggling
clowns, marched from 57th
Street to 74th Street, with
the theme, “Only in Israel,” to highlight the positive impact the Jewish and
democratic state of Israel has on people in New York and around the world.
Celebrate Israel Parade broadcast is sponsored by Friends of Maimonides Medical
Center. Parade Co‐Chair
Judy Kaufthal remarked, “The Celebrate Israel Parade is the world’s largest
expression of support for solidarity. It’s breathtaking to see Fifth Avenue
filled with people of all ages celebrating Israel and its culture.”
Parade is produced by the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York (JCRC‐NY), in
cooperation with UJA‐Federation
of New York and the Consulate General of Israel in New York.
Miller, Executive Vice President & CEO of the Jewish Community Relations
Council of New York (JCRC‐
NY) said, “The Celebrate Israel Parade acts as a convener each year for
international communities to stand together to promote unity on a global scale,”
Michael Miller, Executive Vice President & CEO of the Jewish Community
Relations Council of New York (JCRC‐ NY) said.
A. Mermelstein, Founder and CEO of One & Only Realty and President of ZAKA,
the Grand Marshall, said, “As an
immigrant New Yorker and a proud Jew, walking up Fifth Avenue as the grand
marshal of the Celebrate Israel Parade is the pinnacle of the American dream. I
am so proud to stand with Israel.”
addition to the Grand Marshal Edward A. Mermelstein, honorary Grand Marshals
Ted Comet, Founder of the Celebrate Israel Parade
Siggy Flicker, Author and TV Personality
Sid Rosenberg, Co-Host of Bernie & Sid in the Morning
Stephanie Butnick, Host of the Unorthodox Podcast
Liel Leibovitz, Host of the Unorthodox Podcast
Elizabeth Savetsky, @ExcessoriesExpert Instagram Influencer
Israeli Public Officials included: Consul General Dani Dayan; Deputy Consul
General Israel Nitzan and Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon
American Public Officials included:
Cuomo, NYS Governor, Attorney
General Letitia James and NYS Comptroller Tom DiNapoli
US Senator Charles Schumer
US Congress Members Eliot Engel, Jerry Nadler and Carolyn Maloney
de Blasio, NYC Mayor andCity
Comptroller Scott Stringer
Borough President Gale Brewer and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams
District Attorney Darcel Clark and Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez
Assembly Speaker Felix W. Ortiz and NYS Assembly Members Steven Cymbrowitz, Nicole
Malliotakis, Helene Weinstein
NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson and NYC Council Members Margaret Chin, Chaim Deutsch, Vanessa Gibson, Barry Grodenchik, Mark Levine, Mark Treyger, Eric Ulrich, Helen Rosenthal, Ben Kallos, Joseph Borelli, Andrew Cohen, Rafael Salamanca.
Here are more highlights from the Celebrate Israel Parade:
The reaction to the massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, the deadliest against the Jewish community in American history, Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum told the Congregation Beit Simchat Torah in Manhattan, to be more Jewish, more visibility, not be (terrorized) into bunkers or invisibility.
Leading a communal shiva service, she said, “We will study, build community and not lose our focus as to what it is to be Jewish.”
New York State Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, addressing a communal Shiva gathering for victims of the Tree of Life synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh said, “The word is resilience, a refusal to succumb to victimhood. That’s how we win out. Willingness to gather as a community …
“The shock, outrage, disbelief, overwhelming sadness and grief is overwhelming,” she said.
“How it happened? We don’t have political courage to ban weapons that allow such carnage.
“As to why? We know there is hatred, evil, but in t last two years, it has evolved… Evil lurking under surface, the serpents feeling they can rise up out from under rocks because leadership is willing to do the same. .. What was submerged is unleashed.
“What gives hope is the knowledge that no child is born anti-Semitic, homophobic, racist, misogynistic. [We must] capture hearts and minds of next generation before they learn hate.”
She advised, “Live a more publicly Jewish way, not be a victim, but embrace your heritage and embrace the ones not yet [tainted] by hate. Push [hate] back under a rock.
“On behalf of Governor Cuomo and 20 million New Yorkers, I express condolences to all of us because we are all heartbroken today.”
Rabbi Kleinbaum noted that the first response after the news of the massacre in Pittsburgh came via text and email from Muslim and Christian leaders in the city.
She said that since the inauguration, she and members of the synagogue have held a vigil at the nearby mosque every Friday, to stand up for Muslims who have been vilified by Trump.
“We say to ourselves what would it have been like in Berlin, in Vienna, if non-Jewish Germans and Austrians stood with their Jewish neighbors.
And now, the Iman has said his members would come to the synagogue this Friday before Shabbat services.
“We are in solidarity with our Jewish brothers and sisters,” he wrote. “Throughout the constant attacks and dehumanization from this administration, [Beit Simcha Torah] has been a source of faith and love. … Our duty is to stand with our Jewish brother and sisters. We stand with them, put our bodies on the line for their safety. … [We must] stamp out White Supremacy and anti-Semitism….Any attack on your community is an attack on ours.”
Rabbi Kleinman said, “We can replace hate in the world, the violence, with love.”
She noted that the attack on Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh was not only an act of anti-Semitism, but because the synagogue supported refugees to the US.
“Abraham was told to leave his home, go to a place he did not know and build and live there.
HIAS – Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society – provided finances to help Jews, and today, HIAS helps non-Jews become part of the American tapestry, “because we are Jews, we welcome the stranger, the immigrant,” she said.
“God forbid this act of violence deters us from that, puts us into bunkers. That’s what the terrorists, anti-Semities want…. We must respond to anti-Semitism with deepened strength of Jewish identity. We must not let fear, despair control us.
At the end of the service, members of the synagogue’s board read the names and something personal about each of the 11 victims at Tree of Life Synagogue, murdered for no other reason than being Jewish. Most notably, was the personal remembrance of Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, 66 years old, who was one of the first to treat people with HIV. The gentleman had grown up in Pittsburgh and was treated by Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, until he left Pittsburgh in 2004. “He was the one to go to. He was known in the community for keeping us alive the longest. He held us without gloves. You will be remembered by me always. You are one of my heroes.”
It is also notable that the first to treat the assassin at the hospital were Jewish, including a doctor who was a congregant at Tree of Life.
“I refuse to give up on the dream of what this world could be,” Rabbi Kleinbaum said, “[to be a victim of] the violence, hatred unleashed by this administration. I refuse to give up on the power of human beings. We who are Jews, have a deep and proud tradition. There are those who would want us to turn inward. Don’t believe that.
“Before the immigration laws, a young boy whose mother couldn’t speak English, came with no money, worked very hard cleaning other people’s homes and would tell him, ‘God bless America,’ not because it was perfect but it was better than the place she fled. The son grew up in New York City, became one of the greatest songwriters. Irving Berlin wrote “God Bless America,” not as a militaristic, triumphant chant. He wrote it as a prayer. He wrote it understanding her dream, coming to this country without skills, language or money, for her son to grow up away from a land that hated Jews. God Bless America. We won’t give up. And remember to vote. Sing it, as a prayer.”
And the congregation sang.
Founded in 1973, Congregation Beit Simchat Torah (CBST) is a progressive synagogue that attracts and welcomes gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender, queer and straight, individuals and families who share common values. Hochul had participated in the opening of the building in 2016.
Following the deadliest assault on the Jewish Community in US History, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo delivered remarks at an Interfaith Prayer Vigil at Central Synagogue in New York City with Rabbi Angela Buchdahl and other interfaith leaders including Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Reverend Amy Butler, Pastor Amandus Derr and Rabbi Chaim Steinmetz.
Earlier in the day, Governor Cuomo announced that the $10 million grant program to help protect New York’s non-public schools and cultural centers, including religious-based institutions, against hate crimes is now accepting applications. Additionally, the Governor directed that flags on all state government buildings be flown at half-staff until sunset on Sunday, November 4 in honor of the victims of the shootings at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh and at a supermarket in Jeffersontown, Kentucky.
Cuomo began by evoking Rabbi Angela Buchdahl’s extraordinary background as exemplifying America and New York State:
“The Rabbi was born in South Korea, to a Japanese-born Korean Buddhist mother, and a father who was an American Ashkenazi Reform Jew. Her father’s ancestors emigrated from Romania to the United States. At the age of five, she moved to the United States with her family.
“She was raised Jewish, attending Temple Beth El in Tacoma, Washington, which her great-grandparents had assisted in founding a century before. Rabbi Buchdahl is the first Asian American to be ordained as a cantor and as a rabbi in the world. My friends, that says it all – God Bless America. Only in America. She is the first woman and the first Asian-American to be the Senior Rabbi of Central Synagogue in its 175-year history. God Bless the state of New York.
“But we gather tonight on a somber moment, because this is a dark and frightening time in our nation. Our better angels are being overpowered. The character of America is being perverted. And yes, the power of hate is overtaking the power of love. We mourn and we embrace the families of the 11 victims in Pittsburgh and grieve with them. We mourn and grieve for the African American community in Kentucky. And, we suffer with those who endured the anxiety and threats of mail bombs last week.
“But we would not be here tonight if these were isolated incidents. They are not. There is a frightening pattern developing on many levels of American society. Anti-Semitic incidents have increased 57 percent nationwide. Neo-Nazi groups have increased 22 percent in this country. Nativists and white supremacy groups are on the rise. At the demonstration in Charlottesville in August, 2017, members of the Ku Klux Klan felt so empowered they didn’t even need to wear hoods to hide their faces. The societal fabric of America is stressed and frayed. We gather this evening to pray and to marshal the voices of support and love as an antidote to the forces of division and hate.
“Elie Wiesel said, ‘there may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.’ As Governor, I pray with you this evening. But as Governor, I also state in the strongest terms that we are a nation of laws and we are a state is a state of laws, and we have zero tolerance for discrimination or hate in the state of New York. Hate is not protected by our law, not in speech and not in action. Quite the opposite. And our state has the most aggressive hate crimes laws in the county and I announced today that we are doubling both our security efforts and our prevention efforts. You have my word as governor that we will stamp out the evil of discrimination wherever it rears its ugly head. The Jewish community is an important member of the family of New York and we will protect our family–all together, all united.
“But I am afraid that enforcing the law, while an essential important step is not the only step. Being prepared to fight the fire is necessary, but we must work to prevent the fires from starting in the first place. I feel as if we are standing in a field of dry grass with smoldering embers surrounding us. And a strong wind is shifting directions. We must stamp out the embers before they become flames and we must reduce the winds of hate that threaten the fields of peace.
“There are those who now will wrap themselves in the flag of America and then go out and do violence in the name of America. But they could not be more wrong or more misguided. They do not begin to understand the character of America, and they disgrace the very flag they carry. Our founding fathers would be repulsed by these ignorant acts of violence.
“In school, one of the first lessons we learn about America is when we are asked to raise our hands to the Pledge of Allegiance. I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. Indivisible. With liberty and justice for all. Whatever your religion, whatever your race, whatever your creed, we are indivisible.
“Our founding fathers anticipated that there would be differences because we were born as a collection across the globe. But we would have, as Jefferson said, “a decent respect” for the opinions of others. One of our Founders’ first acts was to pass a law to make the motto on the seal of the United States, “E Pluribus Unum”—out of many, one. It set the tone of unity and commonality. The very same founders didn’t fear immigration, they embraced it. It was the British government’s bid to block migration to the colonies, that was among one of the reasons cited for the Revolution and the Declaration of Independence.
“The tremendous right to practice your religion of freedom was a powerful magnet drawing many to America. The Pilgrims were separatists from the Church of England, the Huguenots settled the Hudson Valley, French Protestants fleeing persecution in Roman Catholic France, English Catholics under George Calvert colonized Maryland, Quakers in Pennsylvania, Jewish people in Rhode Island, seeking the religious freedom established by Roger Williams.
“One year into his presidency, George Washington visited a synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island as the first amendment was being debated. To his Jewish hosts, Washington wrote a remarkable letter. He reasserted that the Government of the United States, quote, ‘gives no sanction to bigotry, no assistance to persecution, and requires only that the people who live under the protection of the government conduct themselves as good citizens.’
“Washington quoted the bible to remind them that, in effect, they had reached their Promised Land: ‘May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants—while everyone shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.’
“That was George Washington. There was no period that tested our unity more than the Civil War. And as the war closed, President Abraham Lincoln pointed the nation to the future in his Second Inaugural Address, saying: ‘With malice towards none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds — to achieve and cherish a just, and lasting peace.’
“Lincoln’s invoking god is relevant and instructive. We are one nation under God. It is not just our government that instructs peace and tolerance, but our religious heritage as well. We are gathered in a house of worship today. Christianity teaches us tolerance. Matthew 25 instructs us Catholicism to do for the least of our brothers. Judaism speaks to the concept of Tikkun Olam, to reach out and heal the breach, and the concept of Tzedakah literally charity, but more broadly meaning the concept of social justice. Buddhism, Islam, virtually every religion speaks of tolerance, acceptance, and condemns violence.
“The victims in Pittsburgh were engaged in a sacred Jewish naming ceremony of a newborn—a bris—celebrating the joy of a new life, only to perish in the face of hate. We will not let them die in vain. We must once again, in Lincoln’s words, “bind up the nation’s wounds.” We must rise above our traditional political divisions. We must refrain from fanning the embers of hate before the flames are out of control. Our American values override our political, partisan differences. Intolerant voices of division must be condemned by all, and not episodically, but consistently. Not only for public consumption but genuinely with personal commitment. Political debate must honor Jefferson’s mandate of civil discourse. Our political leaders must heed this wisdom today.
“At this time of chaos, confusion, ignorance and fear, this nation needs a light to follow. And Let that light be the torch that is held by the great lady in our harbor. Let New York State once again serve this nation as an example to follow. That is the legacy of this great state: throughout history, a beacon of progressive values. We are home to 19 million people from every nation on the globe–New York State is the laboratory of the American experiment in democracy. We are not threatened by diversity, we celebrate diversity. Generations of immigrants stepped off ships and planes onto our shores. This state has thrived because we have no tolerance for discrimination. Not in our laws, and not in our spirit. We are a people of differences, but we have forged community through chords of commonality. This state exemplifies the best of the American spirit.
“The Rabbi asks us what we can do. Let us commit ourselves this evening to a constructive course of action. Let New Yorkers exemplify what it means to be a true American patriot. Let New York show this nation what the flag actually means. Let us lead forward in the way of darkness. Let us lead as a government, as a community and let us lead as individual citizens. Let us lead this nation at this time of confusion by the power of our example. There is no place for hate in our state and New York lives by the credo: that the most powerful four-letter word is still love.”
In her remarks, Rabbi Buchdahl noted that she expressed concern of the rise in anti-Semitism during Rosh Hashanah services. “I never expected, six weeks later, the worst attack on Jews in the United States ever. It is the Jewish community’s worst nightmare, impossible to believe here in America. Not just as Jews – Muslims, immigrants – day after pipe bombs against prominent Democrats, and two Blacks shot dead. Charlottesville. A gay nightclub in Florida. A Sikh Temple in Wisconsin. There is a systemic environment where hate can grow.
“Anti-Semitism is the oldest, most adaptive hatred in history. But where tolerance for anti-Semitism, there is tolerance for hate of all kinds. This is not an America we want to leave to our children.
Rising Anti-Semitism, demonization of immigrants and refugees, gun violence, fake news on social media and the dark web.
“But now, we call to our higher selves. We ask, how do we make sure love wins, solidarity and faith and goodness win. There are hundreds of vigils taking place all over the nation and the world.
“You may have needed courage to show up in a synagogue. You will need more courage to build alliances even with people with whom you don’t agree and to people who hate us, in order to build bridges and rise above cynicism.”
The bimah was lined with representatives of the spectrum of faith in New York.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan noted that the gospel on Sunday, the day after the massacre at Tree of Life Synagogue began, “It was the Sabbath and Jesus went to the synagogue to pray.” “The people in St. Patrick’s gasped at the profound nature of that: “it was the Sabbath and Jesus went to the synagogue to pray.” Jesus, he said, “the faithful Jew.”
Reverend Amy Butler pointed to the power of words. “The violence we saw did not begin at 9:54 on a Saturday morning. It was generations of hate, lies that has found refuge in the political climate where words are weaponized for political gain. Language that dehumanizes, foments suspicion and fear rather than love and compassion. That’s what resulted in a gunman walking into a synagogue. We reject discrimination and hatred.”
Pastor Amandus Deer noted that he has spoken from Central Synagogue’s bimah dozens of times to mark “Shoah,” which marks the beginning of the Holocaust, with a call to “Never Again.” “I am heart broken,” he said, leading a reading of the 23rd Psalm, “The Lord is my shepherd… Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me…”
Rabbi Buchdahl pointed to the ancient Jewish custom of tearing cloth to mourn a close relative. “We lost 13 innocent souls [11 in Pittsburgh and two African Americans gunned down in Kentucky] to acts of hate and violence. We are all mourners. They might want to t3ear our community apart; they can’t tear what binds us together as Americans. The ribbons remind us of the work we have to do.”
Each of the dignitaries then lit a candle for those who were taken and a special prayer of memory was recited. Noting the obligation to remember those who have died, Rabbi Steinmetz remarked that one of the murdered, Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, would say kaddish for those who died but did not leave family to recite the prayer. “His reason was that they would not be forgotten. “
The synagogue, which dates from 1872 and is the oldest synagogue in continuous operation in New York City, packed some 1,250 people into every seat.
Participants included Governor Andrew Cuomo, Rabbi Angela Buchdahl, Cantor Dan Mutlu,Cantor Julia Cadrain, Rabbi Mo Salth, Cardinal timothy Dolan, Reverend Amy Butler, Pastor Amandus Derr, Iman Shansi Ali, Rabbi Chaim Steinmetz, Iman Tahir Kukaj, Reverend Bertram Johnson, Dianne Lob, Rabbi Deborah Joselow, Rabbi Lori Koffman, Rabbi Nicole Auerbach, and Dr.Simran Jeet Singh.
The interfaith service concluded with a prayerful singing of a song which begins, “It is a tree of life to those who hold fast to it.”
What is most remarkable about the HBO short film, “The Number on Great-Grandpa’s Arm,” is how effectively and clearly it presents the Holocaust to young people – 8 and 9 year olds, the fourth generation, and how urgent it is to have such a teaching tool with the last of the survivors, now in their 80s and 90s, passing away into eternal silence.
The short film, created with live action, photos and videos and most remarkably, watercolor paintings that animate the still photos, strikes just the right tone.
You are privy to the astute questions and storytelling by 10-year old Elliott and his 90-year old great-grandfather, Jack, about the number tattooed on his arm, and fall into his memories – of a happy childhood in Poland, not quite carefree but with no existential fear, until everything changed.
The HBO film, which aired on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, January 27, was presented for its Long Island premiere at the Gold Coast Arts Center, in a free program (a second showing had to be organized to accommodate the number of people who wanted to attend), in commemoration of Yom Hashoahin Partnership with the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County and Great Neck Sh’ai, and featured a conversation with Irving Roth, a Holocaust survivor with a similar story to Jack’s, the great-grandfather in the film. Indeed, Roth came with his own granddaughter and great-grandchild, a touching display of the miracle of survival.
“The Number on Great-Grandpa’s Arm,” executive produced by Sheila Nevins and directed and produced by Amy Schatz, with the evocative animation art of Jeff Scher, was inspired by David A. Adler’s 1987 book; Adler is well known to children for his popular Cam Jansen series.
In this moving film, 10-year-old Elliott asks his 90-year-old great-grandfather, Jack, about the number tattooed on his arm, sparking an intimate conversation about Jack’s life that spans happy memories of childhood in Poland, the loss of his family, surviving Auschwitz, and finding a new life in America. Their tender exchange is woven with historical footage and hand-painted animation to tell a heartbreaking story of Jewish life in Eastern Europe before and during the Holocaust.
You are first introduced to Jack who mentions how much he loves hats, and can’t resist buying them. A little later, you learn that his father was a hat maker and had a shop in Poland. The last time he saw his parents was when he was 14, taken away by Nazis and sent to a labor camp where inmates were worked to death. “We were slaves, forced to dig holes just to make work.” He receives a cap his father has managed to send and finds some money hidden in it, which he uses to bribe the guard for extra food. “That extra food was how I survived.”
“I always hoped to see my parents again. Always think about them.” But Jack never saw his parents again.
Jack was sent to Auschwitz, and then, when the Germans realized they were losing the war, put on a death march to Buchenwald, forced to march without food or shoes. “Thousands and thousands died,” Elliott relates. “If they stopped, they were shot and thrown into a hole.”
His great-grandfather was finally liberated in August 1945 by the Russians, and then by the Americans. He went back to his hometown, but no one he knew was left. He married and ultimately took a boat to start a new life in America, where he opened a fish market.
His worker says, “This is the only place a man can get food for no money.”
Elliott says, ”We need to know the story to stop it from happening. In a year or two, no survivors will be left. We want to get the stories before they pass away.”
At the Great Neck screening, Irving Roth, a survivor of Auschwitz and the Death March to Buchenwald, related his experience which so eerily mirrored that of Jack.
Irving Roth was born in Czechoslovakia in 1929. He grew up going to school and playing soccer. But by 1938, as the Nazis took power, his life, step by step, became more constricted, bleaker. Jews were not allowed to attend school, play soccer, or go to the park. His family lost their lumber business and they forced into hiding in Hungary.
In 1944, at the age of 14, he was loaded into a cattle car and transported to Auschwitz, a three-day journey with many dying along the route Once there, he was immediately separated from his grandfather, grandmother, aunt, and 10-year-old cousin. He never seen them again – they were sent to the gas chambers.
Of the 4000 on the train, only 300 survived, he said.
Roth and his brother survived Auschwitz but in January 1945, with the Germans realizing they were losing the war, the concentration camp victims were forced on the infamous death march to Buchenwald. Roth was separated from his brother who was sent to Bergen Belsen where he later died. Buchenwald was liberated on April 11, 1945. Roth returned home to find his parents, the only other surviving family members.
But when he arrived back in his town, the reaction was hardly welcoming. “The comment was ‘So many Jews survived, more came back than left.’ It made it easy to leave,” he said.
Roth is the director of Temple Judea of Manhasset Holocaust Resource Center’s Adopt A Survivor Program which brings together children in the greater New York Region with Holocaust Survivors, where he feels a duty to relate the horror of the Holocaust.
“We tell a story of horrific proportion. It’s an important job. 6 million Jews were exterminated because of the lie that Jews were responsible for all the problems of the world. The world needs to know what happened – Shoah did not happen all at once. It began with a simple statement: I hate you.
“I call that the first signpost along the road. A few steps beyond, ‘I don’t like you because of what you are.’ And then, ‘You are not human.’ The next step, ‘I don’t want you to live in my town, my country, I don’t want you to live at all.’ Those are the signposts along the road.
“People need to understand, as you look at the world today, every day, I see the signposts along the road.”
“When I see a missile being paraded in Tehran with words, ‘To be delivered to Tel Aviv’, those are identical ideas perpetrated and spoken of in the 1920s, 1930s – resulting in total devastation.
“I see in my mind that weapon lifting off the ground and murdering tens of thousands – that’s why it’s important to understand, to watch the signposts along the road. I ask you to understand the Shoah – study the Shoah – see the step by step process so you recognize the words, the signposts – to insure that anything of that nature never happens again.
“There are always evil people in the world – it is the choice that God gave you. I am glad have a video of this nature to show to young people so can begin to understand evil an good.”
830,000 were murdered in Treblinka, alone.”It’s hard to imagine that many murdered. I ask you to take one, let them be part of you – if we don’t remember them, it is as if they never existed.”
Just a week ago, Roth made a trip to Poland, where the leadership has made discussing the Holocaust a crime, where they have replaced the signs at Auschwitz to shield the Polish people from any culpability, and where they have shut down Schindler’s factory which had been kept as a museum.
One of the places we visited last week was the Warsaw Zoo in Warsaw, where Antonina and her husband, Jan Żabiński, the zoo director, saved the lives of 300 Jews who had been imprisoned in the Warsaw.
“There were 3.5 million Jews before the war; now if you look hard, you might find 35,000. Poland would like to say that 6 million Poles were murdered – 3 million Jews and 3 million Catholics. Poland wants to be recognized as a Western country, wants to bury its history of persecution of Jews as soon as possible so the world will not know. In Auschwitz last week, going through the exhibits, they are selling propaganda, that no Pole was responsible…. Now, if you say ‘Auschwitz was a Polish death camp,’ you go to jail.”
“Two extremes of humanity existed in Shoah –there were too few Chasidim (righteous), too many on the other side. Our job is to make sure our neighbors, our friends in our country, in every country understand the sacred nature of every human being – through understanding Shoah, we can understand how evil comes to be. We must not let evil triumph again.”
Roth raises concern about a rise of anti-Semitism.
“Anti-Semitism has been replaced in an acceptable form to many people – that’s why we need to understand. It is no longer ‘anti-Semitism’ it is called ‘anti-Israel’. This is a new form of anti-Semitism, repackaged so brilliantly, Goebbels would be proud. All of a sudden, Jews are aggressors.”
He noted that a United Nations conference held to review treatment of rights declared only one country an oppressor of women – not Saudi Arabia or Sudan, but Israel.
Roth has spoken at hundreds of schools. “On college campuses around the country, Israel is cast as an oppressor of Palestinians, even committing genocide.
“Our children and grandchildren must know because they have to stand up to the lies on college campuses. What is on campus today will be policy tomorrow. Make sure your children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren understand, the lies, the history. Unless we really know it, we can’t argue. 99% of evil people have no idea what history is – one student at university said the reason problem exists in Mideast is because of Jews, that it is because when Israel was formed in May 1948., Israel attacked 5 Arab countries. Do you think a country just born, with no army navy, air force would attack five countries. Is that possible? ‘Oh,’ he said.
“We need to be prepared to fight this evil, every day of the week.”
On the other hand, unabashed Holocaust deniers have gained prominence. Arthur Jones, 70, of Lyons, Illinois, a former head of the American Nazi Party and self-described white racialist and Holocaust denier, is the Republican candidate for Congress in Illinois’ 3rd district which includes parts of Chicago.
Glickman noted the importance of bringing Holocaust study into communities, particularly communities where there are not a lot of Jews or Holocaust survivors and why a curriculum is being developed by the museum, supported by the City and State’s Department of Education for middle school and high school children for ELA and social studies- some 400,000 students, the vast majority of which are not Jewish.
It is for this reason of making the Holocaust relevant to non-Jews that it has become a common practice among Holocaust museums (such as in St. Petersburg, Dallas, Houston), to keep a running clock of the numbers killed in genocides since the Holocaust, such as Rwanda.
But Roth expressed concern “that the Holocaust is being de-Judeized. There is nothing wrong in discussing Rwanda genocide, but you have to understand the difference between Holocaust and mass murders that have taken place. The death of 5 million Ukrainians during Stalin – but the objective was not the destruction of Ukrainians, the objective was collectivization of Russia; the objective of Rwanda was control. The Holocaust objective was destruction of the Jews. That’s not the same. Death is death you might say, but the cause of it.” He argues against lumping individual genocides together. “We need to understand the differences and similarities. This is what I do every time I speak. In churches, I have spoken to 500,000 Christians all over the United States. I talk about Shoah and what is happening today, how the propaganda of today is a replica of the 1930s. They understand. That’s what we need to do.”
The film is part of a new curriculum in conjunction with Scholastic being rolled out to some 1,500 schools, and organizations can make arrangements for a screening, Michael Glickman, who is president and CEO of the Museum of Jewish Heritage as well as president of the Gold Coast Arts Center, said.
“The Number on Great-Grandpa’s Arm” was aired on HBO in January and is streaming for free at hbo.com. It was screened at Gold Coast Arts Center as part of the Gold Coast Cinema series, goldcoastfilmfestival.org.
An accompanying installation on view at the Museum of Jewish Heritage features the art of acclaimed artist Jeff Scher, whose rotoscope animation brings the film’s archival footage and photos to life. Visitors of all ages are invited to explore this incredible work, view the film, and experience the transformative power of survivors’ stories. (For more info on the exhibit visit www.mjhnyc.org).
After neglecting to mention the extermination of 6 million Jews by the Nazis in his statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, January 27, speechwriters werecareful to include Jews in Donald Trump’s remarks at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s National Commemoration of the Days of Remembrance event that took place at the U.S. Capitol, April 25.
Here is the pool report by Philip Rucker, White House Bureau Chief for The Washington Post:
Trump delivered a 15-minute speech from teleprompters between roughly 11:15 a.m. and 11:45 a.m. in the Capitol Rotunda before an audience of several hundred people.
Trump talked about anti-Semitism on university campuses and in the public square.
“This is my pledge to you: We will confront anti-Semitism,” Trump said, receiving applause from the audience. “We will stamp out prejudice, we will condemn hatred, we will bear witness and we will act. As president of the United States, I will always stand with the Jewish people, and I will always stand with our great friend and partner, the state of Israel.”
Trump [whose daughter, Ivanka converted to Judaism after marrying Jared Kushner, an Orthodox Jew] spoke extensively about what he called the “Nazi genocide of the Jewish people.”
“You saw the organized attempt at the extermination of an entire people – a great people, I must say,” he said. “You survived the ghettos, the concentration camps and the death camps, and you persevered to tell the stories.”
Trump said millions of “innocent people were imprisoned and executed by the Nazis without mercy – without even a sign of mercy. Yet even today, there are those who want to forget the past, and there are even those filled with such hate – total hate – that they want to erase the Holocaust from history. Those who deny the Holocaust are an accomplice to this horrible evil and we will never be silent. We just won’t. We will never, ever be silent in the face of evil again.”
Trump said today was a “very, very solemn occasion.” He said, “I’m deeply moved to stand here with those who survived history’s darkest hour.”
The president spoke at length about the legacy of Elie Wiesel, noting that this is the first Day of Remembrance since his passing.
“His absence leaves an empty space in our hearts, but his spirit fills this room,” Trump said. He said Wiesel had a “gentle spirit” and said he “lived through hell” and that his “courage still lights the path from darkness.”
Trump also said, “The Jewish people have endured oppression, persecution and those who have sought and planned their destruction, yet through the suffering they have persevered, they have thrived and they have enlightened the world.”
At the conclusion of his speech, Trump said, “We must never, ever shrink away from telling the truth about evil in our time. Evil is always seeking to wage war about the innocent and to destroy all that is good and beautiful about our common humanity, but evil can only thrive in darkness.”
Vice President Pence, senior White House adviser Jared Kushner, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn were among the guests sitting in the front row for the president’s remarks.
Several speakers delivered remarks before Trump. Ron Dermer, the ambassador of Israel to the United States, remembered the Holocaust, which he said “laid bare unimaginable hatred” and was defined by “horrors” and “cruelty.”
Dermer celebrated Trump’s strike on Syria in retaliation for Assad’s chemical weapons attack on his own people.
“That decision was a defiance of indifference,” Dermer said. “And if evil triumphs when good men do nothing, we should all seek to live in a world that defies indifference.”
Dermer went on to say that the civilized world should be “prepared to use military might to confront barbarism.”
Trump returned the praise, saying of Dermer, “He’s done a great job and said some wonderful words.”