Taking Action on Holocaust Remembrance Day


Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day.  Today also is Day 5 of the Week of Action.  After taking the time on this day to remember the millions of innocent men, women, and children who were murdered and the many more millions who lost their dearest relatives and friends, why not honor their memory in perhaps the best way possible: by taking action, even in some small way, to prevent the harm of other innocent humans in the future?

We would like to think we have come a long way since the Holocaust, yet sixty-nine years later, in most states there’s no law against standing by and watching a fellow human be harmed or even murdered.  Even in states that do require citizens to report a crime and call for help, the penalties for standing by and doing nothing are often minimal fines.

And so here is one way to honor those murdered during the Holocaust while their neighbors stood by.  All it takes is five minutes:

  •  Find the E-mail address of your state delegate.  If you’re not sure who your delegate is or how to contact him or her, simply search for “find your delegate,” and you’ll find the information easily.
  •  Send your delegate an E-mail urging him or her to submit legislation that would:

a) require anyone who sees another person being harmed to call 911 immediately and/or to come to the person(s) aid, and
b)  impose severe penalties on those who are found (e.g. by way of surveillance camera footage) to have stood by and done nothing when they could have done something.

If you want to save time, see the event page on the Week of Action website for an email template

Here are just a few reasons why I believe we need to action now:

  • On April 18, 2010, 31-year old Hugh Alfredo Tale-Yax heroically came to the rescue of a woman as she was being attacked on a sidewalk in Queens, NY.  The woman fled, and instead the attacker stabbed Mr. Tale-Yax multiple times.  A surveillance video shows how, as Mr. Tale-Yax lay bleeding on the ground, dozens of people passed by and did nothing but gawk.   Actually, the video shows that one passerby did do something; he pulled out his cell phone and took a picture.  Over an hour passed before emergency responders arrived.  Tragically, by then it was too late.
  • On May 30, 2008, a video caught a pedestrian hit and run, in which several cars and pedestrians passed by without coming to the aid of 78-year old Angel Arce Torres, after he was thrown into the air.  While some observers did apparently call 911 immediately, the video shows that many others simply drove around him or kept walking by.
  • On January 28, 2010, a video caught a 15-year old girl as she was attacked and beaten unconscious by several teenagers at a bus station, while three security guards stood by.  Video shows that other passers-by saw and also did nothing.  Even though the girl had gone to the guards to seek refuge, they called the police but did not even try to protect her, because such was the protocol they had been taught.
  • Lest we think the bystander problem is a recent phenomenon in our society, the most famous case of this moral crime occurred on March 13, 1964, when 28-year old Kitty Genovese was stabbed to death outside her apartment building.  As she cried and pleaded for help, a dozen or so people stood by and did not even call the police.  In fact, a half hour passed before anyone called the police.  That was 50 years ago!  Why haven’t we done anything about this?

Precisely because many of us have a natural tendency to become paralyzed and stand by and not help in such a situation, I believe we need to make the penalties severe enough to counter this tendency.  So please join me in taking out just a few minutes to send an E-mail to our local representatives in state government to implore them to introduce or strengthen the penalty for those who do not fulfill their duty to report an emergency.  By taking action on behalf of our innocent neighbors, perhaps in some very small way we will honor the memory of the victims of the Holocaust in the process.