A yellow glow cast across various New York State landmarks on the evening of January 27 in remembrance of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, enacted by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in 2005 to commemorate the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1945. The Assembly heard two hours of testimony related to the Holocaust on that day. This year, like last, the program was conducted virtually.
In an effort dubbed “New York Goes Yellow,” a coalition of organizations and public officials rallied to have landmarks lit up in yellow to solemnly memorialize the murder of six million Jews. The trademark icons included Madison Square Garden, One World Trade Center, Niagara Falls, Gov. Mario Cuomo Bridge, Kosciuszko Bridge, FDR Mid-Hudson Bridge, Grand Central Terminal, Albany Int’l Airport Gateway, NYS Fairgrounds, Empire State Plaza, City Hall, The David N. Dinkins Manhattan Municipal Building, Nassau County’s Executive & Legislative Building, Suffolk County’s Dennison Building, Westchester County Center, Queens Borough Hall, Bronx Borough Hall, Staten Island Borough Hall, State Education Building, MTA-LIRR Gateway at Penn Station, and others.
Public officials also made similar statements on the day. Chief Rabbi Meir Lau, who was one of the youngest survivors of the Nazi concentration camp, focused on one word: “Why”? He asked it as a starving five-year-old, and he has been haunted by that one word throughout his life.
Assembly Member Daniel Rosenthal said, “We remember entire communities that were eradicated by evil. We remember those who escaped with their lives, but little else. We are now over 75 years past the liberation of Auschwitz. But unfortunately, recent history has shown us that the past is closer than we realize.” The Assembly Member added, “The Holocaust did not happen overnight. It started with words that fell on deaf ears, and then it became actions that people chose not to see. It grew in the vacuum of silence from voices that did not speak out. In 2021, anti-Semitic hate crimes in New York City were up over 50% from the record high numbers that 2020 had already set. Just last week, congregants at a synagogue in Texas were held hostage while attending Shabbos morning prayers. Even closer to home in Brooklyn, a woman recently stormed up to children to yell ‘Hitler should have killed you all,’ and then spat on them. Earlier this week, once again, a Jewish man was randomly assaulted on the streets of New York City. We are reminded all too often that anti-Semitism is real and is closer to us than we like to think. To turn a blind eye to these stories is spitting on the memories of those we lost in the Holocaust. It allows for hate to be the new normal. This is an unimaginable reality the Jewish community is facing. We must all remain vigilant to make sure that ‘never again’ really means ‘never again.’”
Former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, “There are too many leaders around the world, even in Europe, who are more than happy to honor the memory of dead Jews without working diligently to protect, respect, and honor those Jews who are alive today.”
The Consulate General of Israel in New York partnered with World Jewish Congress (WJC) North America to raise awareness about the recent shocking rise of anti-Semitic incidents in New York City and combat the lack of knowledge about the Holocaust era using the hashtag #WeRemember on 66 LinkNYC kiosks throughout New York City to display statistics on anti-Semitism.
“The rise of anti-Semitic crimes, especially in New York City, is happening on the streets,” Consul General of Israel in New York Asaf Zamir said. “This initiative puts the Holocaust front and center, in front of thousands of New Yorkers on a busy workday. Not only will seeing the horrific images from just 77 years ago make people stop, but it will also make them think and, hopefully, to act.”
Assemblywoman Nily Rozic, with the backing of Council Member Eric Dinowitz and Council Member Marjorie Velázquez, is pushing a bill that would direct the Commissioner of State Education to audit Holocaust education in New York. New York is among the states with the lowest Holocaust knowledge scores, with 58 percent of Millennials and Gen Z being unable to name a single concentration camp. The study also found that 60 percent of young people did not know that six million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust.
Congress Member Lee Zeldin, Co-Chair of the House Republican Israel Caucus and one of only two Jewish Republican Members of Congress, as well as the presumptive nominee for Governor of New York by both the New York Republican and Conservative Parties, offered, “We will never forget the millions of innocent lives lost and the heroism of the brave service members who gave everything to save millions more. The men and women of our nation’s Greatest Generation fought exceptionally in the ultimate battle of good versus evil, ended the Nazi regime, and saved the world, and for their incredible sacrifice we will always be grateful.”