By Judy Berger
On Tuesday, October 8, Erev Yom Kippur this year, the Westchester County Police discovered two flyers containing anti-Semitic messages and graphics outside of the Holocaust Garden of Remembrance on Martine Avenue in downtown White Plains.
The Holocaust Garden of Remembrance is situated adjacent to the county’s Michaelian Office Building, which houses the office of County Executive George Latimer. “This was a purposeful situation, not a prank. It was not done offhandedly,” Latimer stated. “The location of this incident is egregious. This is at an area specifically designated to commemorate those who died due to anti-Semitism.” He clarified that there is “no debate about this,” when asked if the incident was that of hatred and intent. Latimer added that more vandalism was discovered on the inside of the memorial, but it is not believed to be connected to the blatant anti-Semitic remarks found on the flyers.
In response to this event, on Thursday, October 10, an interfaith prayer vigil was organized by the Westchester County Executive’s office, and the Holocaust and Human Rights Education Center (HHREC), at the Garden of Remembrance. Over 300 attended.
In a statement issued by Congressman Eliot L Engel, the incident was described as “another sickening act of anti-Semitism, this time at the Garden of Remembrance Holocaust Memorial in Westchester, on Yom Kippur eve, one of our holiest days in the Jewish faith. This follows three successive incidents of anti-Semitism in Scarsdale, New Rochelle and Pelham. These despicable acts must be condemned in the strongest possible terms and brought to an immediate halt. All of us have a moral responsibility to make sure our words and actions are combatting this hate, not fueling the fire. Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, xenophobia, racism—none of it can be allowed to proliferate here in our community.”
Engel added, “As a member of Congress and a chair of the Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Anti-Semitism, I will continue to fight the scourge of anti-Semitism, and any form of hatred, that is rising in this country. Ignorance breeds intolerance, and the best way to counter ignorance is with education. Congress should move quickly to pass the Never Again Education Act, a bill I am proud to cosponsor, which would increase funding for educational programs about the Holocaust.”
Rabbi Chaim Marder of the Hebrew Institute of White Plains remarked, “We were all alarmed by the act of anti-Semitic vandalism at our county Holocaust memorial here in White Plains, an act which was especially painful as it was perpetrated on Yom Kippur. At the same time, we were heartened by the gathering of people of all faiths, civic leaders, religious leaders and citizenry the day after, speaking with one voice in support of our community, and against hate. I was deeply moved by the spirit that carried that event.”
Young Israel of White Plains’ Rabbi Shmuel Greenberg noted, “This was terrible. However, this is really not indicative of the City of White Plains. White Plains is a very safe city, and has nearly no crime. We are grateful that we have a wonderful relationship with our mayor, our city council and our police department.”
Justin Brasch, a White Plains city councilmember, a Westchester Day School parent and a member of both HIWP and YIWP, added, “We were devastated to learn of the anti-Semitic vandalism at the Garden of Remembrance (our Holocaust Memorial). . . We all must condemn this type of hateful behavior and rededicate ourselves to fighting intolerance in all forms. We had great turnout at our interfaith prayer vigil condemning hate, anti-Semitism and intolerance in Westchester. My sincerest thanks to the over 300 people that turned out on such short notice. People working together is the answer!”
By Judy Berger