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By Andrea Winograd, Executive Director
Holocaust Museum & Center for Tolerance and Education
February 4, 2020
By all accounts, last week was a somber one as the global community commemorated the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Leaders around the world attended ceremonies and reaffirmed vows to never let such an atrocity ever happen again.
But the world we live in is challenging that belief. Antisemitism and other hate crimes are growing, and the recent attack on the home of Rabbi Rottenberg in Monsey, less than one mile from the site of our Museum, has brought fear anew to our community.
Against this backdrop, I was honored to be part of three extremely meaningful events last week. It began when I received a call on Saturday from Paul Adler, Esq., Honorary Board member of HMCTE, letting me know that a group of us had been invited to JFK Airport the next day to send off Governor Andrew Cuomo as he left for Poland to attend the Auschwitz commemoration.
I greeted the Governor, thanked him for his efforts and gave him several books for his journey, including one on the history of our Museum. Governor Cuomo planned to leave a rock at Auschwitz engraved with the words “New York State Remembers.”
Governor Cuomo is a longtime supporter of our mission to educate through the lens of the Holocaust, highlighting its relevance in our world today. As part of his 2020 State of the State address and budget plan, the Governor has advanced legislation requiring that every student visit a museum that covers topics related to the Holocaust and has committed $45 million for the initiative.
The next evening was a moment we’ve been anticipating for quite some time – the first public event at the Museum in six years! Over 200 people – including survivors, a liberator, government officials and members of the clergy – came to the Museum to remember the liberation of Auschwitz and to see the opening of our new exhibit – Holocaust by Bullets.
This powerful exhibit showcases the work of Father Patrick Desbois, a seminal figure in helping to uncover the forgotten history of the nearly two million people executed by gunfire before the opening of the death camps. His organization, Yahad-In Unum ("together in one" in Hebrew and Latin), works tirelessly to locate the sites of mass graves of Jewish victims of the Nazi mobile killing units in Eastern Europe, accounting for at least one-third of all deaths during the Holocaust.
Holocaust by Bullets is open to the public and private groups at the Museum until June 12, 2020. You can get more details on the exhibit here.
The day after our event, several of us were invited to go to Albany by Senator David Carlucci to hear a resolution on the Senate floor acknowledging International Holocaust Remembrance Day and the work of the Museum and Liberator Alan Moskin. In Senator Carlucci’s resolution, he wrote, in part: “It’s important we always remember. One day does not seem enough to mark the gravity of one of the greatest human tragedies in history. When we stay silent is when hate and bigotry fester and rear their ugly heads.” You can see the Senate recognition here.
Making the most of our time in Albany, we were also privileged to meet with two local members of the New York State Assembly, Ellen Jaffee and Kenneth Zebrowski, who are longtime supporters of our work and new location at Rockland Community College.
It was truly humbling to spend the week in the presence of such heroes and further energizes me for the work that we’re doing at the Holocaust Museum & Center for Tolerance and Education. I look forward to staying in touch with all of you as we strive to fulfill our mission and bring the lessons of yesterday to change the present and future.