The annual event that attracts hundreds of people throughout the tri-state area was organized by Lynne Bursky-Tammam and Nessim Tammam of the Yom HaShoah Mobilization Committee. Speaking privately to reporters, Lynne Bursky Tammam said, “Unfortunately, once again we had to organize a Holocaust Remembrance event in front of the Iranian Mission. Fortunately, we were blessed to have the assistance of people who understand the immediate threat that exists at this time. The real credit goes to the individuals who helped to publicize this event, the speakers who came and spoke informatively and passionately, and to the people who came from near and far. It is critical that we publicly remember the millions who perished in front of the ultimate symbol of Holocaust denial and make sure that their legacy is not forgotten.”
Serving as master of ceremonies of the Yom HaShoah gathering was Jeffrey S. Wiesenfeld, a CUNY trustee and quintessential figure on the Jewish activist scene. As the participants stood in the cold on this very windy Spring day, Mr. Wiesenfeld introduced Mr. Wiesenfeld introduced Cantor Meir Popowitz who sang a moving rendition of the Star Spangled Banner which was followed by the lighting of six memorial torches which burned despite the tremendous wind. Cantor Popowitz , who gave expression to the Kel Maleh Rachamim prayer along with Ani Maamin in classic operatic style that reverberated with palpable emotion.
Stepping up to the podium to light the symbolic yahrzeit candles that commemorate the lives and legacies of those who were heinously murdered by the Nazi death machine during World War II were Michael Sirota and Jane Zaturansky, the first and second vice presidents, respectively, of the New York Association of Holocaust Survivors.
Among the litany of renowned speakers were such celebrated dignitaries and religious leaders as Pastor James David Manning of the ATLAH Christian Church in Harlem, Rabbi Avi Weiss of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, Rep. Eliot Engel (D) of New York, New York State Assemblyman David Weprin (D) of Queens, Morton Klein, President of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), Ari Kagan, Candidate for the NYC Council in the 48th Community District, Rabbi Shlomo Nisanov, Rabbi of Tehilat Sephardim in Queens and a leader of the Bukharian Community in Kew Gardens Hills, New York City Public Advocate Bill DeBlasio, and mayoral candidate Eric Selgado.
As each speaker drew cogent parallels between the stark realities of the global events that presaged the Holocaust and the insidious confluence of contemporary geo-political happenings that have manifested itself in the burgeoning Iranian nuclear program, Mr. Wiesenfeld hearkened back to the prescient legacy of Jewish Defense League founder, Rabbi Meir Kahane, ZTK”L and to a time when the Jewish community of New York had leaders to guide them in the authentic Jewish idea. “If you watch videos of Rabbi Kahane’s speeches, you will clearly see the mark of a man who was a visionary in every sense of the word. He spoke of Jewish defense at a time when these words were a pariah to the Jewish establishment. He spoke of standing up courageously and with strength and valor against our sworn enemies. He spoke of true, unabashed and unwavering faith and trust in G-d. Every word that came forth from his lips eventually came true and I mean 100% true.”
Turning the focus to the intractable Iranian nuclear program, Mr. Wiesenfeld declared, “Iran has no intention of abrogating their desire to build a nuclear bomb. We, the Jewish people, will not go silently into the night. Israel will do what must be done and defend herself, no matter what.”
“Among the timeless and eternal lessons of the Holocaust is that words can lead to deeds and this has to be taken very seriously,” said Rabbi Avraham Weiss of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale. “Today, Iran threatens to destroy Israel and the Jewish people and these are not just rantings of a mad man. During World War II we had no means in which to defend ourselves. Now, with the help of G-d, we do have a militarily strong and vibrant Jewish state but if we’re denied the right to defend ourselves, then we are where we first started.”
“Back in 1994, terrorist forces directly connected to the Iranian regime bombed the Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires, Argentina that took the lives of countless people. Today, I say shame on the foreign minister and president of Argentina who have formed “truth squads” who are working in tandem with the Iranians to try and find out who committed this heinous atrocity,” said Rabbi Weiss. “I think this is an outrage and we should all speak out against this nefarious partnership,” he continued.
Mort Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), also recalled eerily frightening analogies between the timorous behavior of allegedly civilized governments prior to the Holocaust and the diffident behavior that is being currently being displayed toward the rogue Iranian regime and their recalcitrance towards ceasing their nuclear enrichment program. “We urged diplomacy and negotiation with Germany and we do that today with Iran,” declared Mr. Klein. “Iran has flounted every norm. They support Bashar Al-Assad’s brutal slaughter of his people. Iran has been the home and training ground for hundreds of terrorist suicide bombers. Negotiations with Iran have proven totally fruitless and Iran must be stopped militarily. It would be way more reckless and far more dangerous for Iran to possess a nuclear weapon, than for us to stop them in their tracks. By allowing the Iranians to enrich their uranium and build their deadly weapon, we are allowing them to give terrorists a nuclear umbrella,” he imparted.
As a staunch and loyal Christian supporter of Israel and Jewish causes, Pastor James David Manning of the ATLAH Christian Church in Harlem referenced G-d’s role in shaping Jewish destiny. “I am here today to show my unmitigating support for this Holocaust memorial. I hope that the day will arrive when there will be no opposition to G-d’s vision and blessings for the Jewish people,” he said in a voice resonating with conviction. Opining on President Obama’s often amorphous position on Iran and its nuclear endeavors, Pastor Manning said, “I am confident that President Obama does not take the Iranian threat with the seriousness that he should. I have both seen and felt his passion about issues that mean a great deal to him such as gun control and Obamacare, but that passion is sorely lacking when it pertains to the Iranian nuclear issue. I am also confident that G-d is passionate that Iran should not have a nuclear weapon and we must remember the words that G-d Himself spoke to Abraham. Whoever blesses the Jewish people shall be blessed and whoever curses the Jewish people shall be cursed.”
David Ibsen, executive director of United Against Nuclear Iran, told the audience that, “We are here today to say that just as Hitler’s regime was totalitarian in nature, today there is yet another totalitarian state (Iran) that rises up and tries to erase our history and we should remember that Iran is totally committed to our destruction.”
“We, the Jewish people are here despite everything that has befallen us,” said Helen Freedman, executive director of Americans For a Safe Israel (AFSI); one of the most vocal advocates for the pro-settlement movement in Israel. “We are still standing. Persecution after persecution…. exile after exile, we still prevail and fulfill the promise of our people to our G-d, “ she said. “Today, our message is one of continuity. We must tell over the painful narratives of the Holocaust. The stories of our relatives whose lives were snuffed out by Hitler and his monstrous acolytes must be told and retold. From Dor V’Dor (generation to generation) this must be told and its lessons must be absorbed. Let’s talk to our young people, encourage them to attend rallies such as this one, or bring a child with you and let them learn and understand what happened to their people. The wisdom must be passed down.”
As one who accompanied President Obama on his recent trip to Israel; Congressman Eliot Engel (D) of New York who represents the Bronx and Westchester reassured the audience of the great support that Israel enjoys in Congress. “Support for Israel in Washington is strong and bi-partisan as it should be,” said Rep Engel. As a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and with hopes of becoming its chairman, Rep, Engel said, “I’ve always been quite candid with the President when it comes to Israel and I tell him directly when I disagree with him,” he said. “I told President Obama that for peace to be established between Israel and her neighbors, the Palestinians must understand that they won’t get their state on the back of continued terror strikes or by their refusal to acknowledge Israel as the one and only Jewish state.”
The event concluded with the recitation of heartfelt prayers for the Israel Defense Forces and the American Military Forces that were delivered by Rabbi Shlomo Nisanov, a leader of the Bukharian Jewish community in Queens and the singing of “Hatikvah”, the Israeli national anthem.
“I, for one, am glad that I braved the cold weather and attended this memorial for those brave Jews who were slaughtered during the Holocaust. I am here today to pay honor to the memories of my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins who were ripped from their home in Hungary and deported to Auschwitz; never to be seen again. I am here today for all the parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews, wives and husbands of those who perished in the most nightmarish chapter of Jewish history. I am here today to speak out against another potential Holocaust against the Jewish people but this time perpetrated by Iran. I am here today to raise my voice in anger and outrage over the silence of the free world and I hope that all of our voices be heard and concrete actions will be taken to stop a genocide, the likes of which we have never witnessed, G-d forbid,” said Chaim Rubinsky, of Manhattan and Pembroke Pines, Florida.