• Become a Member at HMTC!

    Become a Member at HMTC through our new Membership Program!

    Join our membership online

    or

    Fill out the registration form and send it to HMTC, Welwyn Preserve, 100 Crescent Beach Road, Glen Cove, NY 11542, info@hmtcli.org, or fax to (516)571-8041 with your payment

    See our membership options below!

  • 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.”

  • Press Release: HMTC Presents “Witnessing Hate from Afar: How Americans Learned of “Kristallnacht” and the Lessons for Americans Today

    The Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County Presents “Witnessing Hate from Afar: How Americans Learned of Kristallnacht and the Lessons for Americans Today”

    Sunday, November 10, 2019, at 1:00 p.m.

    Glen Cove, NY…  The Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County (HMTC), in commemoration of the 81st anniversary of “Kristallnacht,” presents “Witnessing hate from Afar: How Americans Learned of ‘Kristallnacht’ and the Lessons for Americans Today” on Sunday, November 10, 2019 at 1:00pm at HMTC, Welwyn Preserve, 100 Crescent Beach Road, Glen Cove, NY 11542.

    To mark the 81st anniversary of “Kristallnacht,” HMTC’s Museum and Programming Director, Dr. Thorin Tritter, will give a talk about the information Americans learned about the pogroms of November 9 and 10, 1938 in Germany, and how quickly news of those events crossed the Atlantic. Drawing on newspaper of the time and autobiographical accounts, Dr. Tritter will explore the event as Americans saw it. He will also compare the news stories from 1938 with news stories that have covered contemporary hate speech and atrocities, asking the audience to think about what are the lessons that we should draw from the past when facing genocides and atrocities in distant places today.

    Before coming to HMTC earlier this year, Dr. Tritter served as Executive Director of the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics (FASPE), an organization that takes 60-70 graduate students in various fields to Europe each year where they explore the actions of professionals in Nazi Germany and then use that history as a launching point for an intensive course of study on contemporary professional ethics. As Museum and Program Director, Dr. Tritter oversees the upgrading and curation of HMTC’s permanent and special exhibitions and is responsible for continuing HMTC’s topical and impactful community programs open to the public. Dr. Tritter holds a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Chicago and both a Master’s degree and Doctorate from Columbia University.

    Light refreshments will be served. There is a suggested admission of $10 to attend. Seating is limited and reservations in advance are required. To register, call (516) 571-8040 or email info@hmtcli.org.

    ###

  • Press Release: “The Holocaust: History and Lessons

    The Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County Hosts “The Holocaust: History and Lessons”

    Thursday, October 10, Thursday, October 24, and Wednesday, October 30

    10:00 AM – 3:00 PM

    Glen Cove, NY… The Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center (HMTC) hosts “The Holocaust: History and Lessons” a three session interactive seminar focusing on history, roles, choices, and behaviors on Thursday, October 10, Thursday, October 24, and Wednesday, October 30 from 10 am through 3 pm at HMTC, Welwyn Preserve, 100 Crescent Beach Road, Glen Cove, NY 11542.

    This adult seminar is an introductory course in the history of the Holocaust from its beginnings in antisemitism through the Final Solution.  Participants will investigate the roles, choices, and behaviors observed during the Holocaust and how we can apply them to contemporary issues.  The seminar will be facilitated by Gail Kastenolz and Meryl Menashe, two Second Generation Holocaust Survivors, speakers, long-time museum educators, and leaders in Holocaust education.

    Over the course of the three sessions, participants will participate in a docent-led tour of HMTC’s state-of-the-art museum and hear testimony from a Holocaust Survivor.  Additionally, participants will sit-in on a panel in which Second Generation Holocaust Survivors will discuss their experiences as children of Holocaust Survivors and how it has affected their lives from the professions they have chosen to the way they work to prevent hate every day.

    There is a $100 fee per participant; light breakfast, lunch, and materials included.  To register please call (516)571-8040 or email info@hmtcli.org.  To learn more about this program please visit www.hmtcli.org/events.

    ###

  • Synopsis: “Prosecuting Evil: The Extraordinary World of Ben Ferencz”

    Prosecuting Evil: The Extraordinary World of Ben Ferencz

    Check out the Trailer!

    Armenia, the Holocaust, Uganda, Cambodia, Kosovo, Rwanda, Sudan, Syria, Myanmar. The list of atrocities against humanity in our time is tragically long, and incomprehensible.

    Barry Avrich’s gripping documentary PROSECUTING EVIL: THE EXTRAORDINARY WORLD OF BEN FERENCZ tells the fascinating story of one man’s lifelong quest for justice for victims of crimes against humanity – a concept Ferencz was instrumental in developing after The Nuremberg Trials post-World War II.

    A true visionary, a key architect of the international war crimes system and passionate advocate for peace, Ben Ferencz has lived a remarkable life. At 98 years old, the last living lead prosecutor at The Nuremberg Trials remains an active and unstoppable force for justice in an unjust world. He’s witnessed and influenced the most consequential chapters of the last 70 years – from liberating war camps and investigating Nazi war crimes, to acting, at 27 years old, as the Chief Prosecutor for the U.S. Army at the Einsatzgruppen Trials at Nuremberg and successfully advocating for the establishment of the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Through it all he’s never wavered in his vision of a world that finds peace through the force of law, not the force of war.

    There’s nothing in Ben Ferencz’s earliest years to suggest the trajectory his life would take, and the history he would make. The son of Romanian immigrants fleeing anti-Semitism for New York City, Ferencz was born in 1920, and his small stature and poor English delayed his education. Nonetheless, he won a scholarship to Harvard Law School.

    Ferencz joined the U.S. Army serving in the 115th AAA Gun Battalion. In 1945, he was transferred to the headquarters of General Patton’s Third Army, and tasked with setting up a war crimes branch and collecting evidence. In this function, he was sent to the concentration camps as they were liberated by the U.S. Army. His assignment was to collect all the evidence of the crimes for future trials. The first camp he hit was Buchenwald. What he saw traumatized him for the rest of his life and fueled his desire to see a world in which those responsible for crimes against humanity are held to account. He gathered enough incriminating evidence to prosecute 22 Einsatzgruppen Nazis, responsible for murdering over a million people – a trial of which he was the lead prosecutor at the Nuremberg war crimes trials. Called the biggest murder trial in history, Ferencz was only 27 years old, and it was his first case.

    After the trials, Ferencz went on to advocate for restitution for Jewish victims of the Holocaust and later the establishment of the International Criminal Court. He also published several books on this subject. Already in his first book published in 1975, entitled Defining International Aggression-The Search for World Peace, he argued for the establishment of such an international court. In 2009, Ferencz was awarded the Erasmus Prize, the award is given to individuals or institutions that have made notable contributions to European culture, society, or social science. In April 2017, the municipality of The Hague announced that the city will honor Benjamin Ferencz by naming the footpath next to the Peace Palace after him as “one of the figureheads of international justice”.

    PROSECUTING EVIL includes a treasure trove of archival footage and photos that bring Ferencz’s world to life. The film was shot in Toronto, New York City, Nuremberg, The Hague, Delray Beach Florida, Chicago and Ottawa. It features interviews with top minds working in the fields of human and civil rights and international justice including Alan Dershowitz, Justice Rosalie Abella, General Wesley Clark (Ret.), David Scheffer, first U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues; Richard Dicker, Director, Human Rights Watch International Justice Program; Fatou Bensouda, Chief Prosecutor, International Criminal Court and Don Ferencz who has followed in his father’s footsteps as an attorney and international justice educator.

    Ferencz’s relentless vision, and his message in PROSECUTING EVIL is that there is little sense in denouncing aggression, terrorism, and other crimes against humanity unless these offenses became part of an accepted international criminal code enforced by an international court that delivers a structure for peace. Ferencz believes that if law trumps war, you could change the world. His mantra remains “Law not war”

  • Press Release: HMTC Presents Trafficked in the Heartland

    The Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County Presents Trafficked in the Heartland: A Survivor’s Experience Sunday, September 22, 2019, 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.

    Glen Cove, NY… The Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County (HMTC) presents Trafficked in the Heartland: A Survivor’s Experience, a presentation by Christine C. McDonald on Sunday, September 22, 2019 at 1:00 at HMTC, Welwyn Preserve, 100 Crescent Beach Road, Glen Cove, NY 11542.

    Christine Clarity McDonald is an internationally recognized author, speaker, and consultant known for her unique ability to construct conversations and ignite change for under-served and marginalized population.  After experiencing two decades of homelessness, addiction, and human sex trafficking, Christine found a way out as she fought to find her place in life.  Christine uses her lived experience as a tool to break stigmas, construct conversations for change, and improve the way healthcare professionals work with the victims of human trafficking.

    Christine, who has received numerous honors and awards, is the author of Cry Purple: One Woman’s Journey through Homelessness, Crack Addiction and Prison to Blindness, Motherhood, and Happiness.  She has also been featured nationally on various media outlets and sits on multiple local, state-wide, and international boards and committees.

    Christine is presenting her story to HMTC in conjunction with “Lessons of the Holocaust: Ethics and Diversity for Nurses and Nursing Students,” an HMTC program that provides diversity training and teaches practical nursing ethics by looking at the lessons of the Holocaust and the role that healthcare providers played during that time period.

    $10 Suggested donation to attend.  Light refreshments will be served. Seats are limited; reservations are recommended.  RSVP to (516) 571-8040 or info@hmtcli.org

    ###

     

  • Press Release: HMTC Joins New York State Senator Todd Kaminsky and Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas at a Press Conference Announcing New Anti-Hate Legislation Tuesday, August 13, 2019

     

    The Holocaust Memorial & Tolerance Center of Nassau County Joins New York State Senator Todd Kaminsky and Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas at a Press Conference Announcing New Anti-Hate Legislation

    Tuesday, August 13, 2019

    (L to R) New York State Assemblywoman Judy Griffin; HMTC Director of Education Helen Turner; Nassau County Executive Laura Curran; HMTC Chairman Steven Markowitz; Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas; New York State Senator Todd Kaminsky; New York State Assemblyman Charles Lavine; Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen; and New York State Senator Kevin Thomas at the Press Conference on Tuesday, August 13, 2019

    Glen Cove, NY… Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County (HMTC) Chairman Steven Markowitz and Director of Education Helen Turner joined New York State Senator Todd Kaminsky, Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas, other state and local officials, and members of various social justice organizations at a press conference to announce a new bill mandating instruction regarding symbols of hate such as the swastika and the noose be incorporated into the curricula for grades six through twelve.  This bill comes in response to a rise in hate crimes in 2019 after a steady three-year decrease on Long Island.  D.A. Singas has worked with HMTC to help educate youth offenders who have committed antisemitic hate crimes on the history of the Holocaust and use of the swastika by Nazi Germany as well as how these hate crimes can quickly escalate; offending youth also have the opportunity to meet with a Holocaust Survivor and hear testimony from him or her on his or her experience during the Holocaust.

    HMTC was invited to join the press conference as one of the only providers of educational programs specifically on hate symbols. “We are looking forward to working with Senator Kaminsky, Senator Kaplan, Assemblyman Lavine and others and with the Department of Education so we can be part of the solution to this terrible problem” commented HMTC Chairman Steven Markowitz.  HMTC currently works with other tolerance institutions around the country to help them develop their curriculums in this area.

    In August of 2017, HMTC’s Director of Education Helen Turner developed a unique program titled “Deconstructing Symbols of Hate” in direct response to an increasing number of requests from schools to deal with swastikas, nooses, and other symbols of hate.  “Deconstructing Symbols of Hate” has several components: students are taught the history behind these symbols of hate, the impact that these symbols have on Holocaust Survivors and other victims of hate crimes and anti-bias incidents, and, finally, how to stand up when they see acts of intolerance.  The program has been utilized across Long Island as both a response to bias and hate incidents and as a preventative measure by a wide variety of schools.  HMTC has served over 4,000 students with this program and anticipates that number to increase this school year.

    If any member of the press would like to observe this program please contact Samantha Shuart at (516)571-8040 x119 or sshuart@hmtcli.org.  Deconstructing Symbols of Hate is offered for students in grades 8 through 12.  Schools interested in booking a program should contact Breanne Brooks at (516)571-8040 x 103 or bbrooks@hmtcli.org.

    ###

  • A Volunteer’s Experience

    I became involved with HMTC about 4 years ago. I’m a retired teacher and I’ve always loved working with children. I am also the daughter of Holocaust survivors from Vienna, Austria, and I’ve always had an ongoing interest in books and films about the Holocaust, increasing my knowledge about this history over many decades.  Volunteering as a docent at HMTC was the perfect opportunity to combine those two aspects of my life. As my time here has evolved, I have become a docent as well as an educator in the Nursing and Law Enforcement programs. My work here has been extremely satisfying. I love working with both children and adults. It has been my experience that many of the people who come to our Center for programs or tours have limited knowledge about the Holocaust, and the opportunity to expand their knowledge base and to help them understand how the lessons of the Holocaust apply to situations that are occurring in our lives today has given me more joy and satisfaction than I could have anticipated. Our school programs are very intense and the highlight of these programs, without a doubt, is the testimony presented by a Holocaust survivor or a Second Gen (the daughter or son of a Holocaust survivor.) The response of the students at the conclusion of the testimony attests to the power of these personal and tragic eyewitness accounts.  I feel truly blessed to have found this important and meaningful volunteer position, working with other wonderful volunteers and the talented, knowledgeable, and compassionate staff at the Center.

    -HMTC Docent

    To learn more about becoming a volunteers please call (516)571-8040.

     

  • A Muslim Woman Speaks Out for Holocaust Acceptance and Tolerance

    The views expressed in this article do not represent the opinions of HMTC.

    “…through others’ sufferings … we can often hear the voice of empathy and compassion.” – Mehnaz Afridi

    Appalled by the Islamophobia after 9/11, I hungered after books, workshops, and seminars to learn about Muslims and their religion. At one seminar, I met Rabbi Reuven Firestone, an authority on Islam.  He encouraged me to meet his good Muslim friend, Mehnaz Afridi, soon to head-up the Holocaust, Genocide and Interfaith Education Center at the Catholic Manhattan College. Weeks later, Mehnaz and I met, spent several hours in intense conversation, and, among other things, talked of her desire to write a book about Muslim Shoah denial.

    Somehow our paths diverged after that and years passed until I listened, once again,  to her passionate words last Spring as keynote speaker at our Center’s Yom Ha’Shoah commemoration. After her presentation, I re-met her and bought her book which fulfilled her long-standing dream, ”Shoah Through Muslim Eyes.”  Upon purchase, I vowed to study it and write an article to support her sorely-needed struggle.

    Mehnaz introduces the volume by describing her unusual and varied background which prepared the ground for her life’s work.  Born in Pakistan to Indian refugee parents, she lived in Europe from age four, later moved to Dubai, and eventually came to the US in 1984.  During these years she met people of all faiths, and her parents helped her develop a passion for Islam as a religion of peace, justice, and tolerance.  Both elements of her background fueled a deep desire to understand “the other.’

    With her multi-cultural perspective and compassionate values, Mehnaz recoiled in disgust when she learned of the extreme contrast between the horrors of the Shoah and the silence and relativism of the Muslim community’s response.  This contrast “screamed out” at her and implored her to take action, notwithstanding the personal suffering caused by isolation and condemnation from many Muslims.

    The exploration of this widespread Muslim Shoah denial and trivialization Mehnaz initiates by highlighting a revealing incident.  Moments before speaking at an interfaith panel, an intelligent Muslim woman from McGill University, acquainted with Mehnaz’ work, accosted her, asking, “… isn’t it accurate that only two thousand Jews died in the Holocaust?”  This incident etched into  Mehnaz’ memory  because it epitomized the blunted sensibilities of many Muslims to Jewish deaths and adamant refusal to accept the established figure of six million.

    Two misplaced beliefs of many Muslims, explains Mehnaz, formed the genesis of this denial. After World War II, western powers, such as Britain and the US, gave Jews an illegally created homeland in Palestine as a present because of their suffering in the Shoah and to assuage western guilt.  Jews have compounded this injustice by exaggerating the Shoah death toll to gain western sympathy for the existence and expansion of Israel.  These widely circulated myths, amplified by Muslim politics and coupled with long-standing negative Jewish stereotypes, have distorted Muslim reality of the Shoah.

    Troubled by this toxic condition, Mehnaz embarked on several efforts toward reconciliation.    Misinformation and forgotten history, one source of the problem, she addresses by educating that Mohammed was friendly toward Jews, conversed with them about religion, appreciated their belief in one God, and commanded Muslims to accept Jews as People of the Book.    She continues this positive focus by illuminating the lost history of the once flourishing Jewish-Muslim partnership, where they lived, worked, and learned from each other, sharing food, language, music, and religious ceremonies.

    To help understand “the other,” she interviewed Shoah survivors.  The Quranic verse, “Do not withhold any testimony or be concealing what you had witnessed,” (2:238) inspired her to   bear witness to the pain and suffering through personal encounters with the victims.  “Witnessing the story of the survivors had impacted me deeply” ,reflected Mehnaz after the interviews. There were nights I lay on my bed thinking of the humanity in their stories and dehumanization of men, women, and children.  I have been a witness.”  As a stranger and a Muslim woman, she felt particularly honored to hear their horrific experiences, and listen, laugh, cry, and connect deeply with them.

    On another front, Mehnaz wanted to build bridges by changing Arab-Muslim understanding about their involvement in the Shoah.  Most Muslims, she decries, hear only the Arab narrative about the Shoah which largely ignores any Arab role.  To ameliorate this inaccurate and damaging view, she presents the complete Arab-Muslim Shoah story.  This includes the many Muslims in Turkey, the Balkans, and especially Albania who rescued Jews as well as the collaborators, bystanders, rescuers and victims in Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, and Libya under German and collaborationist Vichy government. Muslims need to realize, asserts Mehnaz, that they, too, were part of the story of the Shoah, not simply observers.

    Despite her strenuous efforts and those of others to heal the wounds, Mehnaz warns the hatred between the two groups is higher than ever. In addition to her previously mentioned undertakings, she urges a deeper, twin-path out of this worsening cycle of intolerance. This would entail helping Muslims accept historical Jewish suffering and the Shoah and dismantling mutual negative stereotypes. If achieved, it would open the door for increased connection and respect.

    Although it may be necessary to reverse the negative downward spiral, striving for Shoah truth and improved understanding of “the other” can be risky, as Mehnaz shows in the example of Mohammed Dajani.  A Palestinian Professor, removed from Al-Quds University, Dajani received death threats and his car set on fire after taking his students to Auschwitz in an effort to teach empathy and tolerance.  As Dajani says, “You need to understand the other because reconciliation is the only option we have…empathizing with our enemy does not mean you sanction what your enemy is doing to you.” Dajani as well other upstanders cited in the book compel us, despite the risks, to take constructive action.

    As part of this constructive action, with bravery and wisdom, our Center chose to honor Mehnaz Afridi.  By struggling at great personal cost to preserve the truth of Shoah history, fighting against strong headwinds to educate about its vital lessons, and promulgating harmony in place of enmity, she more than deserved this prominence and the opportunity to propagate her message.  From the vantage point of our Center, Mehnaz increased our grasp of Muslim Shoah denial and motivated us to find solutions for a way forward.

    I hope many more Muslims, Jews, and others recognize Mehnaz’ work, reflect on her ideas, and most importantly, use this as a spur for healing action, which would be the greatest tribute we could pay her.

    By Frank Miller-Small

     

  • Learn About Our Actor!

    Learn all about Bob Spiotto, creative/artistic/management professional, who will be performing his one-man performance of But When We Started Singing..., based on the life and works of Holocaust Survivor Primo Levi, at HMTC on Sunday, June 9, 2:00 PM.

    ROBERT “Bob” SPIOTTO is a creative/artistic/management professional – (Arts Administrator, Artistic/Executive, Producer, Director, Creative/Special Event Director, Community/Cultural/Engagement Director, Arts Consultant, Coach, Actor, Educator, Writer, and Public Speaker, who has worked in arts and entertainment for more than 30 years. Mr. Spiotto holds a B.F.A. in Theater Performance from Hofstra University and a M.F.A. in Directing from The Catholic University of America.

    Mr. Spiotto is currently the Director of Programs/Special Events at New York’s famous Friars Club.  Previously, he served as the first Executive/Artistic Director of the historic Suffolk Theater (theater/restaurant/bar), prior to which he worked at Hofstra University (1990-2012) as Executive Producer/Artistic Director for Hofstra Entertainment; Artistic Director of Community Arts Programs for the Hofstra Cultural Center (music, theater, cultural, original programming), and Director/Producer of Special Events (festivals, conferences, public programs).  He served on the faculty of Hofstra’s School of Continuing Education, taught classes for Hofstra’s Summer Camps, and was an adjunct professor in their School of Communication as well as Hofstra’s New College. Mr. Spiotto has received awards from Hofstra University for his distinguished service and teaching accomplishments.

    As Director of the International Concert Series and the Theater Series for the Hofstra University Cultural Center, in addition to 18 years as Entertainment Producer for Hofstra’s International Festivals, Mr. Spiotto possess a great deal of experience producing unique and very diverse performances.  Additionally, he also has experience working with Theater For Young Audiences, as well as working directly with young performers.  He has also created and/or produced many unique and original shows, as well as webinars, and has consulted for various groups and organizations including the National Museum of Women in the Arts (D.C.), The Coalition on Child Abuse and Neglect, The Nassau County Bar Association, The Order/Sons of Italy in America, The Long Island Arts Alliance, and the March of Dimes, to name a few.

    Mr. Spiotto has worked extensively as an arts administrator, producer, director, and consultant, as well as an actor and teacher in the New York, Long Island and Washington, D.C., metropolitan areas.  An adjunct professor in the Suffolk Community College Theater Department, Mr. Spiotto has also served locally as an artistic consultant for the Stamford Center for the Arts (CT), the Long Island Arts Alliance, the Sayville School District and the Freeport School District, among others.

    In addition to his many accomplishments, he has directed hundreds of theater productions at various regional and professional theaters, schools and universities, as well as for various organizations and companies.

    Regional acting credits include M.C. (Cabaret), John Adams (1776), Guido (Nine,), Tateh (Ragtime), The Cat in the Hat (Seussical), Fagin (Oliver), Ganesha (A Perfect Ganesh), and Bill (Me and My Girl), to name a few.  He toured the tri-state area and created the character of “The King of Pizza,” based on the popular children’s book.  Additionally, he has created and appeared in numerous one-man shows exploring the lives of P.T. Barnum, Giuseppe Garibaldi, Primo Levi, Michelangelo, Sholom Aleichem, and others. A trio of his critically acclaimed one-man musical tributes include That’s Amore:  A Tribute to Mr. Hollywood Musical – Harry Warren, Shades of Grey: A Musical Tribute to Joel Grey, and Courting the Jester: A Salute to Danny Kaye, which was re-worked and presented at Lincoln Center.  He also created and performed in original musical reviews for President George Bush, as well as for Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.  In 2011, he received outstanding reviews for his direction of the off-Broadway production of Harry and Eddie: The Birth of Israel.

    Mr. Spiotto was appointed by New York Governor George Pataki to serve on the Board of the New York State Theater Institute, and has also served on the Boards of the Long Island Arts Council, the National Organization for Women’s Safety Awareness and the Hannah Kroner Legacy Foundation.

    Among his many awards and honors, Mr. Spiotto was a recipient of the Dante Award (American Association of Teachers of Italian), awarded to him for his unique contributions to Italian-American culture; was honored by the NYS Commission for Social Justice; received the Estabrook Distinguished Service Award (Hofstra University); received the highest honor awarded by the Long Island Arts Council (ARTY Award); was honored by the Long Island Chapter of the March of Dimes as an Educator of the Year; and was named as an Advocate for the Arts by the Long Island Arts Council.

    Bob Spiotto’s limitless energy, creativity, knowledge, passion, dedication and experience, combined with his outstanding record of achieved success, as well as his reputation, professional history, resources, talent, integrity and humor, make him an incredible asset to any organization. The unmistakable quality of his work, in addition to his stellar administrative, artistic and management skills, have secured him a well respected place in the field.