May 25, 2024
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Westchester Holds County-Wide Yom HaShoah Commemoration

WJC annual procession of rescued Torahs.

On May 6, the Westchester Jewish Council presented their annual Westchester County Yom HaShoah Holocaust commemoration.

County Executive George Latimer recapped the rise of the Nazis. “It began when Hitler got power to implement the very things he said in ‘Mein Kampf.’ Many of us are accustomed to hearing politicians talk, saying they’ll never do what they’re talking about. They don’t mean it. Hitler meant it. He proved it to the world. It didn’t take long. He came to power in January 1933. Within a month, the Reichstag was burned. The Reichstag Fire Decrees nullified Germans’ civil rights. They were told the victims were the oppressors in society. Joseph Goebbels goes down in infamy as perhaps the best marketeer that ever existed. He was able to propagandize and convince people black was white, up was down. The actions of that government led to camps, and deaths in these camps was perfectly acceptable to raise Germany to greatness.”

Latimer continued: “Learn from history. Look at the world we live in, the country we live in right now. Are we being told black is white again? Turmoil is acceptable? There will be some greater good coming out of the turmoil? I’m sure many people not there at the time question people and leaders of Germany. How could you let this happen, and in so short a time? That question is not a 1933 question, but a 2024 question. What are we prepared to do to make sure this doesn’t happen?”

Westchester leaders in White Plains’ Garden of Remembrance marking Yom HaShoah.

Holocaust survivor Annie Kleinhaus said: “Today, we collectively honor the memories of 6 million Jews. To this day, I never understood how millions of otherwise sane and educated people could be convinced their problems were due to the presence of a particular group of peaceful citizens, that the solution was simply to exterminate them all. However, we must realize, for many not directly affected, this event is receding into history. As time moves on, denials, distortions of this tragedy may create doubt in some, especially among those ignorant of history. In spite of signs of rising antisemitism in Europe, at first, then to the US, American Jews are complacent that nothing could ever change their situation. October 7th was a wakeup call.

“I couldn’t believe that professors and students of American universities were responding to this massacre with glowing admiration and support for the murderers,” Kleinhaus continued. “One professor called the slaughter ‘awesome and exhilarating.’ A leader of the protest on the campus of Columbia claimed Zionists do not have a right to live. A Jewish professor was barred from the campus where he’s a faculty member.

“The Holocaust and October 7th are linked by the same ideology. Jews were considered the cause of misery in Germany. Now, Zionists are supposed to be at the root of what’s wrong with the world at large. Antisemitism has been described as a mutating virus. Education was supposed to act as a preventive vaccine. Sadly, it seems many more need to be vaccinated. Perhaps the vaccine needs to be adapted to the new variant.”

After October 7, Congressman Mike Lawler went to Israel, meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Lawler viewed raw footage of the terrorist attack. “One of the parts that stood out to me most was a young Palestinian man calling home. He said, ‘Mom, Dad, I just killed 10 Jews with my bare hands.’ That level of hatred is taught in the schools in Gaza. Sadly, it is being taught in schools here in America. It must stop immediately.”

Westchester County Executive George Latimer addressing the 2024 Holocaust Commemoration.

Lawler continued: “I went to Columbia University two weeks ago. I stood on the steps, as a sea of students engaged in antisemitic hate speech, intolerance and threats against Jewish students, chanting. ‘From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.’ We all know this calls for the eradication of the State of Israel and the elimination of the Jewish people. Demanding that Jews go back to Poland. Calling for death to Zionists. This isn’t free speech. This is a level of hatred I never thought I would see in my life.”

Lawler noted the passage of his bill, ‘The Antisemitism Awareness Act.’ “Chanting ‘I am Hamas’ when Hamas is endorsing your protest, when Iran, whose stated goal is to eradicate the State of Israel, is endorsing your protest, is an absolute abomination. We will not tolerate antisemitism now, not ever. We certainly won’t tolerate it from our elected officials.”

Lawler continued: “All of us have a responsibility, Republicans and Democrats, to stand united in support of our Jewish community, to oppose antisemitism, hatred or bigotry of any kind. I will continue to be a voice of sanity in a sea of chaos, and make sure we are doing everything we can to ensure that the Holocaust never happens again.”

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