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Holocaust Memorial Ceremony Held Outside of Columbia University

Ofir Akunis, consul general of Israel in New York

On May 6, the Israeli American Council (IAC), in partnership with several other organizations, marked Yom HaShoah by holding a Holocaust Memorial Ceremony outside of Columbia University. Described by the organizers as “Honoring the Past, Defending the Future,” the event focused on remembering the Holocaust, fighting today’s rising tide of antisemitism which we also saw before the Holocaust, and supporting students in the face of vile Jew hatred prevalent on college campuses.

Elan S. Carr, CEO of IAC and Former U.S. Special Envoy for Combating Antisemitism, stated: “We are here primarily to exhibit memory and to hold on to what was done to our brothers and our sisters and our children eighty years ago. But this isn’t only about looking backwards. This is about remembering the victims and honoring the victims of the Shoah by fighting against the evil that led to the Shoah.”

Gilad Erdan, Israel’s ambassador to the U.N.

Continued Carr, “We will never stop every effort to bring home our captives. We will never forget what was done to us and we will never forgive. And we will work together, all of us, not only Jews but all decent people in America and around the world… to put an end to this despicable, disgusting display of Jew hatred that we are seeing festering throughout our country and throughout the world.”

Several Jewish students spoke about their experiences on campus. Elisha Baker, a sophomore at Columbia University studying Middle East History and Arabic, stated: “I am here today because I am watching antisemitism become normal in my own backyard. For the first time in my life, it truly feels that never again is right now.”

Holocaust survivor Tova Friedman

Sonya Poznansky, a senior studying biology at Columbia’s dual degree program with Tel Aviv University, remarked that after October 7 she has learned the true meaning of the term, Righteous Among the Nations: “I’ve had countless friendships broken by those who no longer see me as human because of my Israeli ancestry and Zionist identity. A few of my non-Jewish friends, however, have stood by me with strength superior even to my own in the face of a huge wave of pressure to abandon all ties to Zionism and Israel.”

Ambassador Gilad Erdan, Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, painted a vivid picture of the double standard regarding Jews stating: “Did we see encampments to protest Russia’s war crimes in Ukraine? Did rioters barricade buildings to protest Assad’s brutality in Syria? Did we see Chinese students attacked because China is torturing Uighurs? Were quads vandalized while Iran murdered women and protestors? Of course not.”

Observed Erdan, “What we are seeing is not liberal activism, it is not Palestinian solidarity, this is pure Jew hatred and it must be stopped.”

Erdan then beseeched Jews to “divest from universities that allow antisemitism to spread. Don’t continue to give them your money. Ensure that pro-Hamas faculty and presidents are fired. Demand that students who use violence are expelled. Every academic institution that shows any tolerance for terror must be blacklisted.”

Columbia student Sonya Poznansky

Displaying a large Star of David found in Kibbutz Kfar Aza in the ruins of the October 7 massacre, Ofir Akunis, Consul General of Israel in New York, exclaimed that “no one will succeed in defeating us. No one will lower the power of the Star of David. Not from Kfar Aza, not from Sderot, not from Okakim, not from Tel Aviv, not from Metula, and Kiryat Shmona and the Upper Galilee, and not from New York, and not from Columbia, and not from Los Angeles, from nowhere!”

Lizzy Savetsky, a digital influencer and Jewish activist, noted the similarities between 1933 Germany and college campuses today, observing that “In 1933 in Germany, Jews were barred from universities. Today in 2024, Columbia Professor Shai Davidai’s ID card is deactivated. Jews are told they can’t walk on campus as their quad is overrun by calls for their annihilation.”

“In 1933 in Germany, the Nazis launched boycotts against Jewish businesses. Today on campuses across our nation, calls for boycotts against businesses from the only Jewish state in the world are raging once again. In 1933 in Germany, Hitler established a ministry of propaganda to spread his conspiracy and blood libels against the Jews. Today on our campuses, we see Jews labeled as genocidal baby killers, white supremacists, and ironically, yes, even Nazis.”

Elan S. Carr, CEO of IAC

Concluded Savetsky, “It is up to all of us, every single one, to carry the Jewish torch that has exchanged hands from generation to generation for thousands of years. Don’t let it end with you. When we say Am Yisrael Chai, it is a call to action. It is a call to remember yesterday, to stand our ground today, and to forge our path towards tomorrow. Past, present and future.”

In speaking to The Jewish Link, Ariella Noveck, who attended the rally and also helped coordinate it, stated “As a granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor, ‘never again’ holds profound significance for me. It is a constant reminder of the duty I feel to ensure that the atrocities of the past are never repeated. I learned firsthand the importance of vigilance against hatred and injustice, particularly in combating antisemitism. And I came here today to not only remember the Holocaust, but to show support to university students who are being subjected to horrific antisemitism.”

The common thread among the speakers’ remarks was the horrific rise in antisemitism we are witnessing. As Holocaust survivor Tova Friedman poignantly told the crowd: “My Holocaust memories have been reawakened.”

Lizzy Savetsky with her daughter Stella, who spoke about her great-grandmother who survived Auschwitz.

Judith Falk is the creator of the Upper West Side Shtetl Facebook Group. You can follow her on instagram @upperwestsideshtetl. She is a lawyer by day and a former legal reporter.

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