On Yom Ha’Shoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, the talmidim of Rambam Mesivta High School in Lawrence demonstrated that they remember — and they did so in an way meant to make it harder for others to forget.
As he has done repeatedly over the years, Rambam’s dean, Rabbi Zev Meir Friedman (pictured), accompanied his students to a protest in support of am Yisroel — this time outside the Jackson Heights home of 92-year-old Jakiw Palij, believed to be the last remaining Nazi death camp guard living in the U.S.
The Rambam rally attracted attention, and put Palij — and the students’ demand that he be deported — on the cover of Tuesday’s Daily News.
Palij, described as one of thousands of volunteer “Trawniki men” who helped liquidate the Warsaw Ghetto, lives on a quiet Queens street and collects Social Security. A federal judge ordered his deportation in 2004, but the three countries to which he could be sent — Poland, Ukraine and Germany — refused to accept him.
The Daily News quoting neighbors as describing Palij as a nice old man, to which Rabbi Friedman responded:
“People will ask me, why not leave him alone? He was 20 years old when these crimes took place. I view him as a 20-year-old murderer that got away with crimes for 72 years, not a 92-year-old nice old man.”
Rabbi Friedman added: “If Osama Bin Laden moved into the neighborhood, we wouldn’t say, ‘Oh, he’s an old man, leave him alone.’ He’s a murderer!”
“Lady Liberty says ‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free’,” Hillel Goldman, Rambam’s assistant principal, told the rally: “She does not say, ‘Give us your killers! Give us your murderers! Your Concentration Camp Guards! Your Nazis!”
Students reponded by chanting, “Justice now!” and “Kick him out!”
Rambam’s principal, Rabbi Yotav Eliach, and Rabbi Friedman spoke about the horrific events of the Shoah and recalled the Torah mandate of zachor, to remember and never forget.
In addition to the Daily News and local media, the rally was covered by Reuters, ABC, NBC and NY1.