• 27th Annual Tribute Dinner

    Digital journal and remarks from HMTC’s 27th Annual Tribute Dinner.

    Photos will be posted soon!

    27th Annual Tribute Dinner Digital Journal Slideshow

    Remarks by Steven Markowtiz, Chairman HMTC

    “These are extraordinary times which call for extraordinary measures and efforts.  And I am proud to say that the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County – the women and men whom make it go – the Survivors, Rescuers and Liberators, the staff and volunteers, the Board of Directors, our supportive elected and government officials, and the many generous financial contributors – have all stepped up.  This past calendar year and past school year were the most successful and productive in the history of the Center.  This success and productivity reflects the urgent need for our services to educate young people and adults on what hate is, what hate led to, and how to deal with, how to mitigate and avoid hate today.  Hate manifests itself locally, nationally and globally, and HMTC plays a role in the war against it.

    Our core mission at the Center’s founding over 30 years ago, which has not, and will never change, is to memorialize the  victims of the Holocaust, to honor the Survivors, and to educate people of all ages about this lowest point in human history.  The mission has been expanded to utilize this history to teach what we call the lessons of the Holocaust, and to apply them not only to every day life here on Long Island, but to the frightening growth and normalization of antisemitism around the world, as well as to the depressing fact that state sponsored genocides against targeted peoples are occurring as we sit here tonight.

    First, congratulations to our honorees.  John Cameron has been an active and very generous member of our Board and is largely responsible for the wonderful and growing relationship the Center has with the Catholic community, Catholic schools and hospital system and with the Diocese.  Gail Kastenholz is one of our longest serving and most dedicated educators and is loved by all.  Martin Bloch has a harrowing and heroic story of surviving the Holocaust and is the most amazing example of the American dream.

    When the Nassau County Holocaust Center, which was what it was originally called, was conceived and established in the late 1980’s, no one was more instrumental, supportive and inspirational than the Nassau County Executive at the time, the Honorable Thomas S. Gulotta.  He established the commission that designed and created the Center, and then served on our Board for many, many years.  As you know, Tom Gulotta, one of the most honorable and decent men most of us will ever know, recently passed away.  We will be creating and installing a permanent memorial to Tom in our building and he will always be revered as a central figure in our history and legacy.

    We recently marked two very important historical anniversaries.  November 9 was the day 81 years ago on which the persecution of the Jews in Germany and ultimately in all of Europe exploded on Kristallnacht.  And when the war ended, and the Nuremberg trials took place, the United Nations established, a recognized national homeland and state for the Jewish people created, and we entered a golden age of acceptance, peace and security in the United States, we find ourselves, so close to Kristallnacht, reliving the horror a year ago of the Pittsburgh massacre of Jews, only because they were Jews.

    As I said, we live in extraordinary and troubled times in a troubled world … and it is increasingly clear that we are hardly immune here from hate and intolerance, and we are not talking only about Jews.  Whether it’s provoked by a hijab, a turban, a yarmulke, an accent or foreign language, or just skin color or the shape of one’s eyes, we see increasing intolerance and violence everywhere.  The rapidly changing demographics of our country and on Long Island has led to increasing tensions in schools, workplaces and anywhere people interact.  National political conflicts and divisions fan the flames.  It seems that hardly a day goes by that we do not get a call from a school or school district about another swastika or a verbal or even physical attack.  We respond every time with our proven programs teaching about hate and the need to stand up against bias and bullying.  This last school year we provided programming to 23,000 students and the number will undoubtedly be higher this year.  And we do that at no charge and often pay for or subsidize the costs of transporting the kids to our Center.  Our adult programs are growing as well, including highly regarded courses tailored for law enforcement, nurses and others.  I am sure many of you have attended our acclaimed series of public programs, lectures and films open to the public, and have toured our outstanding Museum and utilized our Library.  We pride ourselves on the innovative and unique programming we offer and look forward to seeing you at the Center.

    After the world woke up to what happened during the Holocaust the guiding dream and commitment was “Never Again.”  Well, again is happening today with state sponsored genocides going on in a number of places around the world including Kashmir, Myanmar and western China.  Muslim communities are being wiped out, people incarcerated and expelled, women raped, and concentration camps created.  Mass deaths have been reported.  A recent headline in the Washington Post: “For Muslims in China, every day is Kristallnacht.”  The failure of the civilized world to adequately respond is redolent of the attitude of almost every nation to the plight of the Jewish people in 1938 and 39 when rescue was still possible.  We have hosted one program about the persecution of the Rohingya people and will be co-sponsoring a program with the Islamic Center of Long Island about the horrors that are going on – as we sit her tonight – in Asia against Muslims.  The antipathy towards refugees, escaping from horrendous and dangerous situations in their home countries, that we see in our own country as well as in Europe, is sad and discouraging.  Watching neo-Nazis and other right wing groups parade through the streets of America waving the swastika and chanting anti-semitic slogans is something we never thought we would face.   The hostile environment that many Jewish students face on college campuses from organized left wing, anti-Israel and BDS groups is worsening.

    So let me be very clear:  it is so incredible that in 2019 we are witnessing an undeniable explosion of antisemitism around the world and in the United States.  It cannot be minimized, underestimated or shrugged off.  It is a clear and present danger to the Jewish people everywhere.  At the same time, as I have noted, Holocaust-like situations are occurring in Asia – people marked for persecution and death because of their religion and ethnicity – and, like in the 1930’s and 40’s, the world seems blind and indifferent.  The Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center has and will do everything we can to respond to these nightmares.

    The outsize role that HMTC plays in dealing with all these challenges comes with its own challenges.  The major one, of course, is raising the funds necessary to maintain our operations, pay our small but highly dedicated staff, and maintain our building.  We are now also faced with the costly need to upgrade our security measures in light of incidents all around us.  The County helps us as much as it can with the building and grounds but it really takes herculean fundraising efforts to survive.  Your presence here and your financial support is so, so crucial and I cannot thank you enough.  I’d like to particularly recognize and thank a few individuals for really stepping up to help: Survivor and long time member of the HMTC family Herb Cooper, who made a very generous gift; Board member and honoree tonight, John Cameron and his wife Loretta, who also made a major contribution; Board members Frank Lalezarian, Jack Foley and Peter Klein as well as good friends of the Center David Sterling and Iris and Saul Katz, and, of course, our other honorees, Martin Bloch and Gail Kastenholz.

    I also want to announce that we are launching this evening our new membership program.  I hope everyone will take advantage of this easy way to help the Center and reap the benefits of membership.

    Finally, I need to publicly thank the many people who are responsible for all our accomplishments.  First, my fellow officers: Vice Chairman Neil Tannor, Secretary Bernard Vishnick and Treasurer Andrea Bolender.  Next, this Center does nothing without the many volunteers who take people through our Museum, conduct the classes, run our Library and do so much to keep the place running.   And lastly, I cannot say enough and adequately praise and thank the outstanding small, dedicated and passionate staff who are the heart and soul of the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center.

    One of the most important aspects of our Center is our Children’s Memorial Garden, dedicated to the children murdered in the Holocaust.  As you may know, we have had an ongoing project these past two years to renovate and restore the Garden to its glory and to convert the central fountain into an outdoor amphitheater.  The project is now essentially completed and we will be having a formal grand opening in the Spring.  But tonight I want to acknowledge the supporters who made this dream possible: Steve Dubner, Steve Fleischer and the Fleischer family, the Gessin family, Stu Narofsky and, most of all, the two people who were the driving force and put so much of their souls into this project: Board member Jolanta Zamecka and volunteer Bob Praver.

    And thank you for the honor and privilege you have given me these past seven years.”

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