Despite torrential rain, hundreds of New Yorkers turned out for a Yom Hashoah vigil at the Iranian UN Mission on Sunday, April 22, to express their concerns over Iran’s nuclear weapons program and its sponsorship of global terror. They were joined by three members of the U.S. House of Representatives and three members of the New York State Assembly, along with some local community leaders.
Some members of the New York Association of Holocaust Survivors wore yellow Stars of David to commemorate the stars they were forced to wear under Nazi occupation. Association leader Fira Stuckelman recalled the horrors that occurred during the Nazi Holocaust. She stated that she is one of the few survivors from a large family and declared that “we must not remain silent, never again.”
According to Pastor James David Manning of the ATLAH World Missionary Church in Harlem there is a growing anti-Semitism not just from Iran, but among peoples of all colors and races. That must be met with a response. Manning warned that “Nations and peoples are turning their backs on you.” He then pledged, “I will lift up my voice.”
“Seventy years ago, when Hitler said he would wipe the Jews off the face of the earth, the threat was tragically dismiss
ed as empty rhetoric,” Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Queens) said. “Today, when we hear Ahmedinejad echoing Hitler’s call for the destruction of Jews, we know that the threat is real, and we must be prepared to use our military power to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear capability and fulfilling their malicious and malevolent dream of a world that is Judenfrei.”
While some of the speakers differed on the position of the Obama administration vis-à-vis preventing a nuclear Iran, they all agreed that Iran must not be allowed to posses nuclear weapons and that the threats leveled by the Iranian regime must be taken seriously.
New York State Assemblyman, Dov Hikind (D-Brooklyn) challenged the posture of the Obama administration, accusing it of changing positions on issues. This was a reference to Obama’s immediate backtracking on his first address before the AIPAC Convention in 2008, in which he stated that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. Hikind expressed skepticism that Obama is really in Israel’s corner and is determined to prevent a nuclear Iran. Referring to the threat, Hikind said “This is real.”
Congressman Bob Turner, (R-NY) described what is currently a “difficult timeline” regarding the Iranian nuclear program, criticizing the administration’s decision to allow Iran five weeks to continue to develop its nuclear arsenal during the latest round of negotiations as an “awful mistake that hopefully we can recover from.”
Regarding Iranian threats against Israel, U.S. Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) stated, “If we have learned anything from the history of the last century, when someone says ‘I intend to kill,’ he must be taken seriously.” Nadler added, “War must be a last resort.” He called for continuing sanctions to “squeeze” Iran economically, but warned of the possibility of military action.
According to U.S. Representative Carolyn Maloney, (D-NY) a nuclear Iran “could blackmail the world. … It could have the ability to do in minutes what took the Nazis six years.” Maloney stated emphatically, “We must make sure that Iran does not develop nuclear weapons – period,” and emphasized that”Israel has the right and sole discretion to take whatever steps necessary to defend its own people.” She added that a “nuclear Iran is a threat not only to Israel, but to the entire world.”
Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Queens) expressed regret at the audience Iranian dictator Mahmoud Ahmedinejad had received at the United Nations over the past few years and made reference to Ahmedinejad’s denials of the Holocaust that “The more someone speaks the language of Holocaust denial, the more credibility it will have.” Weprin exhorted the audience to continue to speak out. He ended with the words, “Am Yisrael Chai!” (The Nation of Israel Lives)
At the conclusion, Rabbi Yaacov Lerner of the Young Israel of Great Neck recited Psalms and Rabbi Dale Polakoff of the Great Neck Synagogue recited prayers for the State of Israel and for the government of the United States.
Cantor Eric Stern of the Manhattan Jewish Experience led the introductory American Anthem and the concluding Hatikvah.