The Gold Coast Arts Center in Great Neck is partnering with the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County, along with numerous local synagogues to promote the “Community Focus on Antisemitism” initiative.
As part of the initiative, the arts center is featuring an interview on its website with Andrew Goldberg, director of the new documentary “Viral: Antisemitism in Four Mutations.” The documentary, which aired on PBS on May 26 and on WLIW21 on May 27, examined anti-Semitism across Europe and the U.S. from the perspective of “victims, eyewitnesses and anti-Semites,” according to PBS.
Caroline Sorokoff, associate director of the Gold Coast Arts Center, said the center partnered with other synagogues, Jewish centers and the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center to help spread the word about the documentary and subject of anti-Semitism.
“It’s always important for people of all backgrounds and all faiths to be vigilant about educating themselves and being aware of anti-Semitism and other hate that is going on around the world,” Sorokoff said.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, in New York state alone, there was a 26 percent rise in anti-Semitic incidents between 2018 to 2019 and on Long Island, officials took the step of creating an island-wide “Anti-Hate Task Force” in December. The task force, which is also a partner in promoting the documentary, was created in response to several instances of anti-Semitic vandalism in Nassau County.
The most prominent of those recent incidents occurred at the HMTC in November, where graffiti, including two swastikas, were spray-painted around the property. Steven Markowitz, chairman of the HMTC, said the documentary is a necessary watch because people need to “be made aware that this is going on.”
“This is not just some figment of people's imagination, this is a very real thing,” Markowitz said. “Anti-Semitism is real. There are victims, institutions as well as individuals, and unless it is understood and then met and resisted, it will only get worse.”
Markowitz said anti-Semitic claims made during the coronavirus pandemic across the globe have only increased the documentary’s salience as well.
“We're seeing evidence that the Jewish community is being blamed for it in different parts of the world, that Jews are somehow responsible because the Israelis or Jews will come up with a vaccine and make money off it, and this is all plot to make money,” Markowitz said. “Just outrageous statements like that show that this is a real threat and we need to speak out.”
The documentary, which likens anti-Semitism to “a virus” that “mutates and evolves across cultures, borders and ideologies,” specifically focuses on its prevalence in the U.S., England, France and Hungary, according to PBS. In the U.S., the documentary highlights the shooting that occurred at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in late 2018, along with the prevalence of anti-Semitism on the far-right.
Sorokoff, the art center’s associate director, said viewers should watch the question and answer session between Goldberg and Michael Glickman, a board member of the center, after watching the documentary by visiting the center’s website goldcoastarts.org. While the documentary will have a limited initial run, Sorokoff added that she hopes it will continue to be streamed moving forward.
Waiting to watch the documentary, Markowitz added that “anything that creates more knowledge and more understanding has got to be helpful,” and said that he is looking forward to potentially featuring it at the HTMC in the future.
“I'm sure based on what I've read about it, it will have an impact,” Markowitz said. “And I'm hoping it's something that we can show at the center as well as show in schools and have it become a major teaching device.”