- New York City 04/16/2015 by Linda Perry Barr (WBAI News)

On Thursday, Holocaust Remembrance day, in Hebrew Yom Hashoah, Holocaust survivors went to City Hall to speak about their experiences and to ask for help.

“He opened up the barn door and he said, ‘I’m Tajik. I will be here. We’ll make a better hiding place.’ We went three levels higher in the attic. There we stayed for two years and that kid watched that barn.”

Toby Levy is a holocaust survivor who lives in Manhattan Beach, Brooklyn. She  was 7 years old when the Nazis first marched down her town’s main streets in Poland.

“And nine of us made it. We were liberated by the Russians in ’44. No one could walk, we were skeletons, we had no food. And again we found someone to bring us back to health, then we looked to survive.” 

Council Member Mark Traeger says the stories of the survivors is nothing short of inspirational for us today.

“As a former teacher, I used to invite survivors into my classroom because they are living, walking, breathing memorials. Their stories have more of an impact than any textbook can have. And to hear that they are hungry, to hear that they are living below the poverty line. They’ve been robbed of their childhood. They have images of their parents being murdered in cold blood that will be with them for the rest of their lives. Let us do our part to get justice and fairness and do the right thing to make sure they live the golden years of their lives the right and moral way.”

Council members, survivors and supporters gathered at City Hall to show support for the Survivor Initiative.

“You know, for me the Survivor Initiative is a defining moment for our city.”

Bronx Council Member Ritchie Torres.

“How we treat those 30,000 survivors will speak volumes about our character as a city, about our decency as a society, and I’m hopeful that the Council will rise up to the challenge and lead the city in doing the right thing. Those survivors, each and every one of them, have done right by us, through their moral leadership and courage and the time has come for us to do right by them.”

The Survivor Initiative is a drive to help support 30,000 holocaust survivors living at or below the Federal poverty line. Their average age is 83 years old. They struggle to get by and are having a hard time covering the cost of food heat, rent, doctor’s visits and medication.

“I take this Holocaust Survivor’s Initiative very personal.”

Brooklyn Council Member Chaim Deutsch says both his parents were holocaust survivors.

“The Survivors suffered 70 years ago, tremendously, and now 70 years later, they are suffering in another way, in a different way, so we must support it.”

The New York City Council’s Survivor Initiative would invest $1.5million in services to help NYC holocaust survivors. For more information go to survivorinitiative.org 


And there’s still time to cast your vote in the participatory budgeting process. It goes on from today through the weekend.  That’s where residents are invited to vote on how to spend some public money. NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said it is such an empowering process.

“We have such an energy going in this council with 24 members participating that there’s a little bit of competition, which makes it more fun, because we’re really getting out there to our communities."

The Speaker says community members are taking ownership for the process in which they are able to identify projects in their districts and vote on them. Those projects with the highest number of votes will get funded by the council members. 

"There really is an incredible energy. You can follow twitter. You can see the photos and real ownership at the community level. Volunteers are emerging, getting the word out to their neighbors. I check in with my office at the District level and they say they have really been amazed. I think that’s why I was so committed to providing support, centrally from the Council, to allow for that to take root and take hold and we’re just seeing the fruits of that.”

In his district, Council Member Brad Lander says participatory budgeting is a big success.

“I really think it’s grassroots democracy at its best and I hope everyone will come out. If you’re in a district where it’s taking place, cast your ballot. Talk to your neighbors about it. To me, democracy doesn’t get much better than this.”

For more information on Participatory Budgeting, go to NYCCouncil.org.