New York City Mayor Eric Adams and Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell held a special screening of the documentary Devorah’s Hope last Thursday in honor of International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Approximately 250 community leaders, government officials, and police officers attended the invitation-only event inside One Police Plaza.
The documentary recounts the true story of the Mostovics family’s plight to survive the Holocaust. Tragically, only one brother and sister survived the war. The sister, Devorah, is the mother of Ruth Lichtenstein, the film’s director and founder of Project Witness. (Lichtenstein is also publisher of the Hamodia newspaper.)
“The story in Devorah’s Hope is one of resilience and strength in the face of inhumanity echo through generations,” Adams wrote in an email to The Jewish Press after the event. “And it instills in us the determination to educate future generations on the horrors of the past, to pass on the ideals of freedom from fear and freedom from want, and to act when we see injustices taking place.”
International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which occurs annually on January 27,, honors the memory of the six million Jews and five million other victims who perished.
“As we recognized International Holocaust Remembrance Day last week, we are reminded that we must remain vigilant and courageous and call out acts of antisemitism and hate,” Adams wrote in the email. “I am proud to be mayor of the city with the largest Jewish population in the nation, and New York City is blessed to be home of the largest number of Holocaust survivors in the world outside of Israel. And as mayor, I take that responsibility very seriously.”
Among the Jewish community leaders in the audience were Israel Nitzan, Israel’s Deputy Consul General; Assemblyman Alex Bores; Assemblyman Daniel Rosenthal; NYC Council Member Inna Vernikov; Menashe Shapiro, the Mayor’s Deputy Chief of Staff; Joel Eisdorfer, the Mayor’s Senior Advisor; NYPD Inspector Richie Taylor, Met Council CEO David Greenfield; and Michael D. Cohen, Regional Director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
“The film was exceptionally moving from the beginning and taking you through the war. It viscerally made you feel the experience the family went through,” Assemblyman Bores said in an interview after the event.
When asked about what Albany can do to stem rising antisemitism, Bores said the situation was serious and required more than one approach. “Funding for hate crime units as well as doing things to celebrate cultures and build them up are also important. You need to take it from both sides,” he said.
Devorah’s Hope, which premiered in July 2022, is currently being show in Jewish communities around the world, says producer Gi Orman. A wider distribution is planned and a teacher’s guide is in progress.
“Mrs. Lichtenstein of Project Witness said we must bring my mother’s story to life. And I said, ‘Okay, let’s do it,” Orman recalled when asked about how the documentary project began. “The point is to educate the next Jewish generation about hate and how it’s a disease.”
The film intertwines interviews with dramatization involving actors with scripted dialogue. Those scenes were shot on location in Poland with Jewish actors.
The mayor’s event also featured Toby Levy, a Holocaust survivor who hid with her family in a tiny barn in Ukraine for two years. She said one of the most important lessons from her father was not to let the experience instill hatred in her heart. “Hatred of your fellow man only comes back to you,” she said.
“We will push back against this rise in antisemitism and hate, and together we say never again,” Adams concluded in his email.