Members of the NYU community gathered in Washington Square Park Wednesday evening to commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day, a day designated by the United Nations to honor and remember the victims of one of the most notorious human crises in global history.
“I Am Your Protector,” an international community of individuals who have united under a vow to fight narratives of fear and bigotry, has taken the day of remembrance even further by shedding light on the untold stories of those who acted as protectors of victims.
Gallatin senior Madeline Dolgin and Stern freshman Essma Bengabsia co-hosted the ceremony which honored the multitude of unknown stories of individuals that protected Jews during the Holocaust. The ceremony was accompanied by a theatre performance that reenacted several testimonies of these active bystanders. Dolgin, an active member of Jewish student life at NYU, shared how her involvement with multi-faith organizations motivated her take a stand for others.
“I got involved with the project because I believe that these stories can start to breakdown hateful narratives that cause us to fear and attack each other,” Dolgin said. “While many of us may feel angered by it, we just sit by and watch. It’s our goal to encourage the moderate voices of peace to speak out.”
Chaplain for NYU’s Islamic Center Imam Latif took time to discuss how existing power structures make bystander intervention so crucial.
“Every day you turn on the television you hear stories and narratives of minorities being mistreated simply for the fact that the power dynamic is not in their favor to really do anything about it,” Latif said. “I think it’s imperative for us, when we come together in memory and vigilance, to really reflect upon where we stand today as humans.”
Bengabsia said International Holocaust Remembrance Day’s mission of preventing such injustices in the future was what turned her initial pessimism around.
“I met people from all walks of life uniting over one cause: to be each other’s’ protectors from hate and oppression,” Bengabsia said. “I was mesmerized by the unbreakable bond we all had; that given who you are, regardless of what that may be, I’m going to accept and respect you, and I’m going to stand by you and protect you if anyone tries to infringe upon your rights.”
The event ended in a candle-lit, inter-faith prayer. Chaplain Latif described the candle as a symbol of the ceremony’s message.
“When you see those candles being lit, I would urge you to really reflect upon the lesson you can draw from it,” Latif said. “Its light does not go only to one being or one person, but to anyone and everyone around it with all of itself. That’s the kind of giving we need to posses.”
Email Jami Tanner at [email protected]