One Sabbath morning in November 1938, in the city of Kovno Lithuania, a guest speaker ascended the pulpit at the Choral Synagogue to address the congregation in order to deliver the morning's sermon. The speaker was Vladimir Jabotinsky, a well-known leader in the creation of Israel. As he faced the congregation, he pounded his fist on the lectern and shouted, "He is coming! He is coming! Abandon your city!
Whenever one in a synagogue declares "He is coming!" it usually refers to the long awaited Messiah. Yet it was not the Messiah Jabotinsky was referring to, it was the leader of Nazi Germany, Adolph Hitler, and the Angel of Death. And because no one believed what Jabotinsky was alerting them to, Kovno in 2010 no longer has 37 synagogues
but only one. And what was a thriving Jewish community no longer exists.
In cooperation with the Hate Crimes Unit of the New York Police Department, the Queens Borough President and District Attorney, the New York State Division on Human Rights and the Queens Gay Pride Committee, the Kupferberg Holocaust Center has taken the lead in developing a program that trains our students as well as those from surrounding communities the skills necessary to identify a hate crime and how to react to it. Far too many of our students and those within the schools affiliated with the Kupferberg Center are unaware of what constitutes a hate crime and readily accepts some of the difficult life situations they encounter as either a maturational experience or just another unfortunate life occurrence. They shrug their shoulders and sadly say, "Well that's what happens to you when you are Black, Gay, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh or handicapped. That's life."
Well it isn't! And it has become the mission of the Kupferberg Holocaust Center to train these groups to realize that being a victim is not the normal part of life's experiences. If you know you've become the victim of a hate crime, then you can do something about it.
Arthur Flug, Ed.D.