|With reports surfacing that the President plans to de-fund the U.S. State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, more than 100 Holocaust institutions, scholars, and educators from around the world are calling on government officials not to cut, but to maintain and strengthen the office. These institutions and individuals cite the recent examples of hatred, xenophobia, and racism spreading across the nation and ask the public to call Congressional and Senate offices.
The Holocaust and Human Rights Education Center is among the 100 who have have signed the statement which follows:
The undersigned Holocaust remembrance organizations, educators, and historians asking you to speak out and take action against hatred.
We are alarmed by reports that the President plans to defund the US State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, an office that tracks and counteracts anti-Semitism abroad. Ira Forman, the most recent Special Envoy in charge of that office, was our voice to a world in the throes of xenophobia and racism. He recently wrote, “Anti-Semitism is not only a Jewish problem; Jew-hatred — like other forms of religious and ethnic prejudice — is a threat to the very foundations of liberal democracies.”
We urge the US government to maintain and strengthen the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism and to create a new office to address this urgent issue domestically. The need becomes clearer by the day as hatred, like a tidal wave, sweeps across the nation. Cemeteries, synagogues, churches and mosques are being desecrated. Jewish Community Centers and schools are targets of bomb threats and shootings. Swastikas and white supremacist threats appear on walls and on social media. Now is the time to increase vigilance, not roll it back.
ACT NOW. Call Your Representatives in Congress and the Senate.
Ask them to preserve the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism and to create such an office to fight domestic anti-Semitism as well.
Senate: goo.gl/u9SBbX Congress: goo.gl/paBNA
Additional Actions You Can Take
With growing recognition of the dangers at-grade railroad crossings, the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has increased the points assigned to motorists who violate the rules of the road at the nearly 2,700 railroad crossings around the state.
Now, two years after the deadly Metro-North train crash in Valhalla, New York, drivers will be on notice that every effort should be taken to ensure safety at roadway intersections with railroad tracks. For many years, motorists who disobeyed traffic laws at railroad crossings risked, other than their lives and those around them, a fine and a modest 3-point penalty on their license, the same value as for speeding 1 to 10 miles per hour above the speed limit.
The DMV has now increased the points for railroad crossing infractions to 5 points, to better reflect the seriousness of the risk people are taking when they do not behave lawfully while at these locations. News of the DMV’s action became clear at a legislative budget hearing yesterday when Assemblyman David Buchwald (D-Westchester) asked the Department’s Executive Deputy Commissioner, Theresa Egan, about the topic, and she reported that the change was put into place in August.
The Holocaust & Human Rights Education Center, in keeping with its mission of teaching the lessons of the Holocaust, is impelled to speak out about the issues underlying our nation’s response to the refugee crisis.
We can never forget the consequences to millions of Jews who were unable to escape from Nazism. Their fate was determined in part by the refusal of free nations, including the United States, to accept them. Underlying this refusal were anti-Semitism and xenophobia, as well as national security and economic fears. This helped to empower a movement that was catastrophic for the entire world.
Today there are many legitimate refugees fleeing from the criminal and genocidal acts of ISIS and Assad. We understand and agree with the importance of defending our vital national security interests; however, we believe that there is a moral imperative to protect legitimate refugees regardless of their national or religious origins.
The Holocaust & Human Rights Education Center is a not-for-profit organization serving Westchester County and surrounding areas. Our mission is to enhance the teaching and learning of the lessons of the Holocaust to support the right of people to be treated with dignity and respect.
Help us continue our important work
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out-
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out-
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out-
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me-
and there was no one left to speak for me.
-Pastor Martin Niemoller
County-Wide Organization Puts out Call-to-Action for Volunteers and Donors
(Westchester County, NY) – November 1, 2016 – The hustle and bustle of the holidays is around the corner. To get local residents into the spirit of giving, Lifting Up Westchester (LUW), a nonprofit agency which provides homeless and poverty services to individuals throughout Westchester County, is launching a Holiday Lift campaign which kicked off earlier this month. The campaign offers multiple opportunities for the community to spread holiday cheer and lift the spirits of Westchester’s men, women and children in need.
Holiday Lift activities will include distributing warm coats and winter clothing, providing 2,000 holiday meals from the LUW soup kitchen, filling and distributing 500 holiday food bags, and wrapping and delivering hundreds of holiday gifts. It will take an army of volunteers to get it done.
“Preparing and serving holiday meals at Grace’s Kitchen on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s is our most popular volunteer activity” said Paul Anderson-Winchell, executive director. “We get calls as early as August and all of those slots are now filled. But there are many other ways for people to help and it’s always heartwarming and humbling to see the community come together during the holiday season to make sure that everyone has something to eat, receives a small gift or has warm gloves for the cold winter ahead. This is when we see the best of humankind.”
Rhesa Browne, a Berkeley College employee, began volunteering at Lifting Up Westchester last holiday season. After organizing a successful holiday toy drive for college staff she said, “I was motivated to do more because there are many needy people in Westchester. I immediately decided to volunteer my time helping in any way that I can. Recently, I made a commitment to volunteer at Grace’s Kitchen every other week because I realize that individuals in need also need to be treated as people, and a smile and a warm meal can definitely make a difference in someone’s day.”
This holiday season Browne has organized a staff drive to collect $25 gift certificates from Target, Walmart, McDonald’s and Dunkin Donuts to distribute to teens in LUW’s Brighter Futures After-School Mentoring Program. Nancy Inzinna, LUW Volunteer & Community Outreach Manager said, “We get lots of donations of toys and games for young children at Christmas, but teens are often forgotten and they love to receive gift cards so they can shop for themselves.”
A winter clothing giveaway will launch LUW Holiday Lift activities on Saturday, November 5th. Students from the White Plains High School Key Club will be on hand at Grace Episcopal Church in White Plains to sort and distribute coats, hats, gloves, scarves, sweaters and other donated clothing.
The clothing giveaway will be followed by Pie Day on Saturday, November 19th. Inzinna said, “We never seem to get enough donations of holiday desserts, especially pies. The kids in our youth programs love pie, so we’re trying to make it easy for people to bring in donations of their favorite pies to make Thanksgiving a little more delicious.” On Pie Day, home baked or store bought pies can be dropped off from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at the agency’s head office at 35 Orchard St. in White Plains (just off Hwy 287 Exit 6). Donations of brownie and cake mixes are also welcome.
LUW is also hoping to receive donations of home baked Christmas cookies. “The guests at our soup kitchen seldom get a taste of home-baking items and nothing says Christmas like a plate of Christmas cookies,” said Inzinna. She added that getting children involved in baking and donating holiday treats is a great way to introduce them to the spirit of giving.
Below are some other ways that the community can help LUW provide 2,000 holiday meals, fill 500 holiday food bags and gifts for hundreds of individuals and families in need:
Organize a food drive and involve your neighborhood, school, religious organization or community group. Foods needed most are turkeys, hams, instant mashed potatoes, gravy mix, stuffing, canned vegetables, canned cranberries, cake and brownie mixes.
Donate the free turkeys that many grocery stores give away at Thanksgiving or Christmas.
Donate $25 grocery store gift cards for food bags given to vegetarians and families who traditionally eat something other than turkey and ham for their holiday meals
Donate NEW gloves, hats and scarves for residents of the Open Arms Men’s Shelter and Samaritan House Women’s Shelter
Donate sports balls, board games and multi-cultural dolls for the children and teenagers in the Brighter Futures Youth Programs.
Donate cash online at www.liftingupwestchester.org to help fill any gaps or last minute needs.
For specific date and timing information on Holiday Lift activities, please contact Nancy Inzinna at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (914) 949-3098 ext. 9735.
About Lifting Up Westchester
Lifting Up Westchester (www.liftingupwestchester.org) is a 501 (c )(3) organization whose mission is to restore hope to Westchester County’s men, women and children in need by providing them with food, shelter and support- lifting them to greater self-sufficiency with dignity and respect. It is one of the largest social services agencies in Westchester County and has been fulfilling its mission since 1979 through the operation of eight community-based programs. The agency serves 4500 men, women and children each year providing 140,000 meals to the hungry and 28,000 nights of shelter to the homeless. For more information, visit www.liftingupwestcehster.org or contact Chris Schwartz at email@example.com.
The Youth Mental Health Project (YMHP) is a newly formed 501(C)(3) mental health organization focusing on children and young adults. Its founders, Wendy Ward and Randi Silverman, are passionate about getting the conversation started in our communities. “We don’t think of mental illness as a childhood illness,” says Silverman. “Yet, one in five have a diagnosable mental health condition, and suicide is the second leading cause of death in young adults,” Silverman adds. This is, no doubt, a difficult topic to broach, but YMHP plans on bringing that message to the forefront through a multi-pronged approach.
The organization stemmed, in part, from the personal family struggle of Randi Silverman when her son, Eli Silverman,* began exhibiting symptoms of a mental health disorder at a young age. “It took seven years for a diagnosis,” says Silverman. The family’s story is bravely illustrated in a film, No Letting Go, which won 20 international awards, including the Reading Film Festival 2015 People’s Choice Award and the Southampton International Film Festival 2015 Feature Screenplay Award.
YMHP is focused on changing the narrative to ignite a grassroots dialogue. Through various mediums, they seek to inform and educate community stakeholders, parents, and others about the importance of children’s mental health nationwide. Promoting mental health literacy programs is one avenue. YMHP believes early intervention and prevention is key in lowering the incidence and severity of mental illness.
Dismantling the stigma surrounding mental illness is also important. Silverman is a breast cancer survivor. “Remember when the ‘C’ word was a taboo topic? No one talked about it,” says Silverman. Today, over the years, strides have been made and people came forward, raised money and, now, cancer is no longer a shameful diagnosis. “I would like to see the same happen for mental health issues,” says Silverman.
To find out more about YMHP and their important mission, please visit the various links below.
By Janine Crowley Haynes, Chappaqua resident and author of My Kind of Crazy: Living in a Bipolar World
Eli Silverman Photography: www.espicture.com