• Adolescent Advocates: Making Change Happen

    The Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County (HMTC), supported by a grant from the Open Society Foundations, as part of the Communities Against Hate initiative, is pleased to announce Adolescent Advocates, a new and unique program to train and empower teens to combat the rise of hate crimes on Long Island.

    HMTC is looking for Adolescent Advocates in grades 7-11 who are committed to bringing change to their communities and adult mentors, such as educators or youth group leaders, who are currently working with young adults to learn how to conduct trainings and be ongoing advisors. After going through the Adolescent Advocate training session, students/youth/graduates will have the tools they need to be effective advocates for themselves and their peers. They will then be able to enact tolerance action plans in their communities, with support from their trained partner adult mentors.

    Training sessions for Adolescent Advocates will take place on Saturday, October 14, 2017 at the Boys and Girls Club, 471 Atlantic Avenue, Bellport NY; and on Sunday, October 22, 2017 at HMTC, Welwyn Preserve, 100 Crescent Beach Road, Glen Cove, NY. Mandatory Training for adult mentors will take place Thursday, August 17, 2017, at HMTC.

    Teens and adults interested in participating in Adolescent Advocates must fill out an online application, which can be found on HMTC’s website at hmtcli.org/advocates. Space is limited. Mentor applications are due by June 30, 2017. Student applications will be accepted through September 1, 2017.

    HMTC was prompted to create this program by the rise in racist, anti-immigrant and antisemitic incidents since Election Day, 2016. The Southern Poverty Law Center reports that 40% of all incidents occur in educational settings. HMTC is committed to empowering students with the tools they need to not only react to incidents of prejudice but to be proactive in preventing those incidents in their schools and communities.

    Communities Against Hate is a national initiative to collect data and respond to incidents of violence, threats, and property damage motivated by hate across the United States. The initiative leverages a reporting database (www.CommunitiesAgainstHate.org) that aggregates reports from both victims, witnesses and news accounts of hate incidents, as well as offers legal resources and social services to support people in need. Communities Against Hate aims to aggregate data on hate incidents, providing legal and social support, raising awareness, and educating the public on the prevalence of hate.

    The initiative is led by The Leadership Conference Education Fund, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and partner organizations representing diverse communities that reflect the fabric of America, including: Center for Community Change; Color of Change; Genders & Sexualities Alliance Network (GSA Network); Hollaback!; Muslim Advocates; National Council of La Raza; National Network for Arab American Communities (NNAAC); New York City Anti-Violence Project; Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism; The Sikh Coalition; National Disability Rights Network; South Asian Americans (SAALT) and the Transgender Law Center. The Southern Poverty Law Center is serving as a strategic advisor to the initiative.

    For more information about how to apply to be a part of the Adolescent Advocates program contact Helen Turner, Adolescent Advocates Program Manager, at (516) 571-8040 or helenturner@hmtcli.org, or visit hmtli.org.

     

  • Defining and Understanding “Tolerance”

     

     

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    by Tracy Garrison-Feinberg, Director, Claire Friedlander Education Institute at HMTC

    In 1790, our first president established one of many important precedents for our young nation.  Knowing that every move and step he took as president would influence the actions of those who followed him, George Washington was deliberate in his communication with religious communities who wrote in support of the Bill of Rights.  A conversation in letters between Washington and the Jewish community of Newport, Rhode Island included a passage that provided a foundation for religious liberty, and acceptance in general:

    It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support. [George Washington’s Letter to the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, Rhode Island, August 1790]

    Sarah Vowell referenced this letter in a recent New York Times op-ed. Of course Washington’s words didn’t eliminate bigotry and prejudice at the time, but it was a good first step on a path we continue to walk.

    Teaching Tolerance, a valuable resource for educators and a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, acknowledges the “imperfection” of the word tolerance, and offers a definition from UNESCO to explain their own philosophy:  “Tolerance is respect, acceptance and appreciation of the rich diversity of our world’s cultures, our forms of expression and ways of being human.  Tolerance is harmony in difference.”

    So what do we mean by “tolerance” here at HMTC?  It’s a question we ask young people at the start of their visit to our center, and the answers we get show the complexity of the concept.  We hear answers like “getting along with others”, “acceptance”, “putting up with people we don’t like”, and “ignoring difference”.  We often respond that for us, tolerance is not the end goal, but it can be a means to better understanding.  I think the UNESCO idea of “harmony in difference” relates well to our own philosophy, and we will encourage our young visitors to continue to expand their definitions of tolerance as well.

    We wish a happy new school year to students and teachers, and if you haven’t yet scheduled an education program for 2016-17, please visit our website to sign up.

  • 2015 Annual Middle School Conference

    2015 Annual Middle School Conference

    Wednesday, October 28, 2015,
    9:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. 

    Theme: Building Leadership Skills Through Advocacy 

    Maria Cruz Lee

    Guest Speaker: Maria Cruz Lee from Define American

    Location: Holocaust Memorial & Tolerance Center of Nassau County
    Welwyn Preserve, 100 Crescent Beach Road, Glen Cove, NY

    Due to the heavy volume of schools interested in attending the 2015 Middle School conference registration is now closed as we have reached maximum attendance capacity. However, if there are any schools who wanted to attend but didn’t get to register please contact Tracy Garrison-Feinberg at (516) 571-8040 about scheduling a separate program for your school at HMTC.

    For over a decade, HMTC has sponsored a conference for middle school students to encourage them to stand up to intolerance and to create a climate in their school that is welcoming and safe for everyone. The theme for this year’s conference is Building Leadership Skills Through Advocacy.

    The guest speaker will be Maria Cruz Lee, strategic operations director of Define American, a media and culture organization using the power of stories to transcend politics and shift the conversation around immigrants, identity and citizenship in a changing America. Maria is responsible for directing the implementation of Define American’s initiatives and developing new programs. She holds a B.A. in media from CUNY Hunter College and served as Special Assistant to former Commissioner Fatima Shama in the New York City Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs (MOIA) during the Bloomberg Administration.

    Middle school students from Nassau and Suffolk County are invited to attend the conference, which will take place at HMTC. Maximum attendance is 150 participants, so please register early! We recommend that teachers select 5-10 students involved in leadership programs and we encourage you to bring ideas for school and community action groups.

    There is no fee to attend. For questions and more information please call (516) 571-8040.

     

  • HMTC Receives $2,200 Donation From Queens, NY Synagogues

    LDov VDov Group

     

    Pictured (L to R): Rabbi Eli Schiffrin, Chabad of Little Neck; George Klein, L’Dor V’Dor; Rabbi Gordon Yaffe, L’Dor V’Dor; Ellen Charlop, L’Dor V’Dor; Sandy Lorber, Temple Torah; Judy Vladimir, Director of Development, HMTC and Beth Lilach, Senior Director of Education and Community Affairs, HMTC.

    The Holocaust Memorial & Tolerance Center of Nassau County recently received a generous donation from Congregation L’Dor V’Dor in Little Neck, NY, along with Temple Torah, also in Little Neck, and Marathon Jewish Center in Douglaston, NY, of over $2,200. The donation signifies a commitment to promote tolerance through the anti-bias and anti-bullying programs offered by HMTC.

    Rabbi Gordon Yaffe of Congregation L’Dor V’Dor organized the Holocaust Memorial Day project in partnership with the other two synagogues, Temple Torah and Marathon Jewish Center. Synagogue members delivered over 600 packages to the community. The packages included a yahrzeit (memorial) candle as well as a picture and biography of a victim of the Holocaust. Recipients were asked to make a donation in support of HMTC’s Holocaust based programming. The over $2,200 donation was collected as a result of this effort.

    The donation was presented to HMTC on Sunday, June 8, at a program for members of the synagogues on genocides presented by Beth Lilach, HMTC’s Senior Director of Education and Community Affairs. Participants also took a tour of the museum led by docents Sheila Rind, Renee Katz and Emily Berkowitz.

  • David and Jacqueline

    You cannot walk through our museum without being stopped by two voices resonating through the galleries from a small screen on the wall. David and Jacqueline. They are each a voicerepresenting what we do here at our Holocaust Center. Together they are the tragic symbol of the wide reach of the evil which permeates our world in the last century. But, at the same time, they are a tribute to the invincibility of the human spirit.

    “She – African, black, Christian, young; I, European, white, Jewish, not-so-young.  Yet we are like sister and brother. No one can understand us better than we understand each other,” David says on screen, before taking Jacqueline’s hand in his, drawing her to him and enfolding her in a fatherly embrace.

    Jacqueline and David’s story is also a segment of our personal biography – David’s and mine – for the past ten years. Jacqueline came into our lives in an ordinary way. A child writing a letter.

    After speaking to a class at VanBuren high school in Queens, David received a manila envelope from a teacher – a package of thank you notes from the students addressed to the speaker and sent to our Holocaust Center. On our way home from a meeting I picked up the letters and while David was driving, read them to him one by one. Among them was a letter that stood out from the stack. It was puzzling. The writer seemed to be a child with the wisdom and introspection of an old woman. In a calm, detached mode it spoke of horrors, drawing philosophical conclusions from personal catastrophes. The writer identified herself as a Rwandan, genocide survivor. She had lost her parents, her loving grandmother, all six of her siblings and her large extended family. She was wondering in what way she could help to prevent other such disasters in the future. She found her identity in the story of a Holocaust survivors and the motto Never Again! Could she too try and help to prevent future genocides? She wanted her life to matter.

    How could one answer this type of a letter?

    We decided to meet her personally and drove up to Queens where she was living with her uncle, who had retrieved her from an orphanage and brought her to the U.S. Waiting for us on top of an outside staircase of a Queens garden apartment stood a long-legged female figure in a black pants-suit. From the seat of our car she appeared to be six feet tall. After we parked our car and approached her we found ourselves looking into a face of a child. Jacqueline Murekatete was sixteen years old.

    She invited us inside, offered us a cup of tea and seating herself on the sofa between us calmly told us her story: A nine year old girl visiting grandma in a neighboring village…  radio blaring propaganda calling the Tutsis  snakes and roaches…. Barricades set up in the street to identify Tutsies. Neighbors, former friends following orders to hack one to death with machetes. Grandmother and child wildly running from hiding place to hiding place: A separation… an orphanage… children missing limbs… crying for their mothers…. Fear, cold, brutal fear!  And then survival. Survival?  The first moment of awareness… alone…  all alone in the world…What now?…Lucky an uncle who had escaped a previous Tutsi genocide eventually found and picked her up. She arrived in Texas. Knowing not a word of English.

    All through her bone-chilling narrative she sat between us poised, stone-faced, and dry-eyed, as if the people in her story were characters in a movie. I wished she would cry. Then at least I could wrap an arm around her, draw her head onto my shoulder and comfort her. But she was stronger than we and put both me and David to shame by handing us tissue for our tears. She ended with: “And no one did anything about it” –  a sentence that resonated in our ears for days and one she was to later repeat on the floor of the United Nations.

    “Take her along on one of your talks David,” I said one morning as we were talking about Jacqueline.

    “What will I do with her?” he responded.

    “Let her carry your briefcase if needed,” I said facetiously, “at least she will feel she is doing something.”

    David and Jacqueline gave their first talk together at Jacqueline’s high school – VanBuren. Neither her teacher nor her class had previously known anything about her other than she was from Africa.

    And so the Rwandan genocide was put on David’s agenda and consequently “on the map” – since there were very few people who had even heard the name of that unfortunate country and the destiny of the Tutsy minority murdered by their neighbors, the Hutus. Jacqueline soon carried her own briefcase. She and David became a team that traveled the route of schools, universities, community centers, churches, synagogues, and other public meeting places all over the US, and at times even oversees. Our shy child, Jacqueline, developed into a fine and confident speaker. The rest is on Google!

    Our personal relationship with Jacqueline defies conventional boundaries.  Newspaper reporters and other media personnel, looking for a newsworthy morsel have frequently tried to goad us into definition: “a daughter? A friend?  A colleague?  A relative?”

    “Yes! Nothing of the kind…  And all of the above…”  I would answer. Out of respect for her uncle, the blood relative who rescued and adopted her legally, we do not call her a daughter, though our special closeness strongly parallels a child/parent relationship. We love, respect, and are deeply concerned about one another. We feel we understand each other the way no one else can. We need very few words to communicate. We share each other’s joys and sorrows. There is between us – with apologies to reason- a type of ESP. David could always claim to sense when she would needed him; Jacqueline and I will shamelessly claim that she and I can identify each other’s telephone call by the tone of its ring. After her marriage, the addition of her husband Jean-Baptiste has further enriched our relationship and has brought us much happiness. We joyfully stood with them at their wedding; they stood with me at David’s death-bed. One day, when a baby comes, I will be outside the delivery room waiting to hold it. Mine and David’s grandchild.

    – Lillian Gewirtzman, Holocaust Survivor and HMTC Volunteer

    View Survivor Soulmates

     

  • My Greatest Achievement

    Being nominated for the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County’s Friedlander Upstander Award was in itself the greatest honor I have ever received. In the beginning I was told that my chances of actually winning were slim because candidates would span all of Nassau County. I was beyond thrilled that I had been chosen by the Wheatley faculty to represent our school. I knew it was a great opportunity to put my story to writing, and even if I didn’t win, I would still be able to let people read my essay and understand how I have been affected by intolerance.

    After reading my essay, my mother’s eyes filled with tears as it had to do with one of the biggest ways tolerance plays a role in my life — my family. My older brother has Autism, and throughout my whole life I have watched as people thought less of him, told him he couldn’t do something, or just treated him differently from everyone else. He is of course different, but he is just as much a person as anyone else; that is what I try relay to people. He has given me such a gift because I am forced to look at the world in another way— I have been on the other side of intolerance.

    The least I can do is spread the knowledge I have obtained from knowing someone as amazing as my brother. It’s definitely not always easy growing up with him. It makes full family vacations near impossible. Even being all in one car together can be a definite struggle, but my whole family is so proud of where he is today. He holds 3 jobs and is a functional member of society; something many people told him he couldn’t be. Because of him, I always feel the need to step in and give the underdog a fighting chance whenever I can. People shouldn’t be treated any differently or with any less respect simply because they are different.

    Winning this award was such a personal accomplishment. It truly is the best kind of award to receive because it was based on who I am as a person. The award ceremony was one of the best nights of my life— listening to so many inspirational people tell their own stories having to do with intolerance. Reading the plaque I was later given nearly brought me to tears. It listed leadership, courage, and the ability to inspire others as three of the qualities of this award. I felt so honored and met so many amazing people. It is definitely a night I will never forget.

    This fall as part of the award I will also be a part of the HMTC’s Annual Middle School Tolerance Conferences, which I know will be another incredible experience. I am beyond excited to be able to work with these students and pass along lessons I have learned. I would like to thank the HMTC and Claire Friedlander Family Foundation for giving me and opportunity to be a part of such an amazing program.

    – Caitlin Calio
    2013 Friedlander Upstander Award Recipient

  • For Long Island Schools, There’s HMTC

    As another school year comes to an end, this is the time for reflection.  Teachers are always honing their skills and asking, “Did I do the best job for my students this year?”

    One way to answer that question is to ask, “Did I avail myself of all the wonderful resources that the Island has to offer?”  We get caught up in text book work, handouts and common core standards.  Without the big picture that there are sources in our community to aid us, we are missing out on valuable tools of the trade.

    Nestled off the beaten track, but a GEM on the North Shore of Nassau County is the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County (HMTC). As a member of the educational advisory board for over 10 years, I am here to say that ANY educator who has not been there should be ashamed of him/herself.

    I know what you are going to say, “There is no money in the school budgets for trips; I don’t have time to investigate HMTC with everything I have to do for APPR and SLO, and I am drowning with all the new regulations.”

    I UNDERSTAND and sympathize, BUT we can help you.  We have the most extensive Holocaust library on Long Island for resources; we can do videoconferencing with Holocaust Survivors who speak through the marvels of Smart board technology to your classes; you can enter your students in our annual arts and literary competitions, or our Friedlander Upstander Award that appears on our website, and we can send Holocaust speakers to your schools for Tolerance programs, as well as, Holocaust education.

    The Friedlander Upstander Award is given annually to one student from Nassau County and one student from Suffolk County, who have shown her/himself to be an Upstander against intolerance of any form. It is presented in cooperation with the Police Departments of Nassau and Suffolk Counties and accompanied by a $2,500 educational scholarship generously made possible by the Claire Friedlander Family Foundation. The 2013 winners of the Friedlander Upstander Award are Caitlin Calio andKatelyn Maher. Curious as to how they rose up against intolerance? Visit www.holocaust-nassau.org for their stories.

    We additionally have a wonderful program that is a one day seminar called “Echoes and Reflections” sponsored through Yad Vashem in Israel.  I personally took the course and was floored at how much new information I learned after having taught Holocaust studies for 25 years.  This one day seminar will be given at HMTC on August 30th. For more information on “Echoes and Reflections” please visit www.holocaust-nassau.org

    This museum rejuvenates the soul and provides the visitor with an opportunity to reflect on our past and prepare for our future.  As a shaper of young minds, we need to EMBRACE that we are the future of our country because we provide guidance and support for our students. Come to HMTC and feel the passion. Visit us this summer; follow us on Twitter and “like” us on Facebook.

    Paula Jasser a COMMITTED volunteer of the Center and retired English teacher in the Plainview-Old Bethpage School District.