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November 7, 2023 10:17 am

Hundreds of Holocaust Survivors Gather in New York to Honor Hostages Taken by Hamas, Pose With Their Photos


avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

Auschwitz Jewish Center Foundation Director General Jack Simony, center, with some of the 240 Holocaust survivors who gathered for the “Image of Hope for the Hostages” photo project. Photo: Provided

Hundreds of Holocaust survivors gathered at New York City’s Museum of Jewish Heritage last week to honor the hostages kidnapped from Israel by Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7 and to pose for a group portrait while holding posters of those being held captive in Gaza.

The photo project on Nov. 1, called “Image of Hope for the Hostages,” was organized to show solidarity with the hostages and to call for their immediate safe return. The gathering at the Lower Manhattan museum was also meant to show appreciation to the US government and its armed services for protecting Jewish victims of mass atrocities, according to the Auschwitz Jewish Center Foundation (AJCF), which organized the event in collaboration with other Jewish organizations.

The Holocaust survivors — numbering 240 in total, one for each hostage in Gaza — were photographed with each one holding a photo to honor an individual taken by Hamas during its Oct. 7 massacre in Israel that left 1,400 people dead. The pictures will be assembled into one composite image that could possibly be displayed in Holocaust museums and even as part of a public installation.

“Holocaust survivors are the living embodiment of fortitude, courage and hope. Who better to send a powerful message of resilience to the world than Holocaust survivors?” AJCF Director General Jack Simony told The Algemeiner. “Our goal is that the ‘Image of Hope’ will be an enduring image of resilience of the Jewish people for generations to come, and stand as a permanent symbol against antisemitism, hatred and dehumanization.”

The survivors were shot by famed photographer Gillian Laub, who has photographed countless celebrities and other influential figures, such as former US President Barack Obama and his wife. The event was attended by leaders from the Jewish community and New York politicians, including Acting Consul General of Israel in New York Aviv Ezra.

Simony, who is the grandchild of Holocaust survivors, came up with the concept for the “Image of Hope” in the days following the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks in Israel, he told The Algemeiner.

“I was shocked and dismayed by the horrific atrocities of October 7, aggravated by the subsequent actions of people around the world tearing down the posters of hostages, desensitized to the babies, grandparents, mothers, fathers, daughters and sons still being held by Hamas,” he explained. “At the Auschwitz Jewish Center Foundation we utilize lessons from the Holocaust to fight hatred and bigotry in all forms, we know that dehumanization leads to mass atrocity and genocide. When posters of hostages are torn down, it’s the beginning of that dehumanization.

“As I considered a response to such startling events, the basic premise within Judaism to look backward to find a way forward kept arising in my mind. Unfortunately, I didn’t have to look far into the past for an answer.”

In his opening remarks at the event last week, Simony said, “To find a path forward, we must first look back.”

Carsten Rüpke, the deputy German consul general in New York, added: “It is not easy to put into words what it means to me that so many Holocaust survivors are present here today in a show of solidarity for the hostages. You all have my deepest respect and admiration. ‘Never again’ to me as a German, it is hard to describe what it feels like knowing that the grandchildren of Holocaust survivors are currently being held hostage by terrorists in Gaza.”

AJCF organized the event in collaboration with the Jewish Community Council of Greater Coney Island, Nachas Health and Family Network, Selfhelp, Guardians of the Sick / Boro Park Bikur Cholim, and the Conference of Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference).

FBI Director Christopher Wray said last week that antisemitism has reached “historic levels” in the United States amid Israel’s war with Hamas.

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