Readers Write: Holocaust Center engaging in politics under Markowitz


In the last week’s Great Neck News there was a  character reference letter written by ”Rabbi Sarah Cohen” in support of Steven Markowitz insisting that Markowitz should remain the chairman of HMTC (Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center).

In addition to the position as the chairman of a Holocaust Center, Mr. Markowitz holds two positions with the Democratic Party, the president of the Great Neck Democratic Club and a vice chairman of the Nassau County Democratic Committee.

The Holocaust Memorial & Tolerance Center of Nassau County is a non-political and a non-profit organization.  Unlike political organizations donations to HMTC are tax-deductible.  HMTC is also partially funded by the government.  To maintain its tax-free status and continue being eligible for receiving government funds, the organization has to stay clear of political agendas but it seems that this has not been to the case.

For instance, on June 22, 2019, Mr. Markowitz made an official statement on HMTC’s website about Alexandria Ocasio Cortez’s comments about the southern border – she referred to the detention centers at the southern borders as “concentration camps.”  

The following  statements appeared on HMTC’s website which seems to convey a politically-motivated message promoting the current position of Democratic Party: Letter-Giltner

While the purported “horrible conditions and treatment of immigrants” has been the subject of debate between Democrats and Republicans, Mr. Markowitz asserted “we share her concern over the horrible conditions and treatment of immigrants at our southern border …”.  Whether valid or not, and whether the Democrats could have prevented the “horrible conditions” by voting in favor of the measures to counter was subject for the media debates, Mr. Markowitz endorsed the political standing of “horrible conditions.”  

This is despite Republicans belief that the process of detention of those illegally crossing the border has been the same throughout the past decades. 

Remarkably, Mr. Markowitz only made a comment against Ocasio-Cortez when he could “share her concerns” with her. 

However, when Ms. Cortez signed on as a co-sponsor of Ilhan Omar’s resolution defending boycotts Mr. Markowitz was silent and did not post on the HMTC’s website against the resolution.  The resolution is a specific show of support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against Israel and widely understood as being anti-Semitic.

Republicans hold the position that the Democrats, including Ocasio Cortez, have refused to vote in favor of bills that would have helped the condition of the detainees as they were motivated to create a crisis at the border for their own political gain. 

It appears that Mr. Markowitz did not stay neutral and only took the Democratic side and promoted the Democratic side using HMTC’s resources.  He even did not mention the other side of the story in his message.

It appears that by making the one-sided statement, Mr. Markowitz has put the Holocaust Center in the crossfire between the Republicans and the Democrats. 

Mr. Markowitz asserted the Democratic Party’s agendas as the opinion of HMTC, a non-profit and non-political organization.

Are Mr. Markowitz’s two positions as Democratic executive the motivation for his pro-Democratic message?  Is there a conflict of interest when a high-ranking Democratic operative also operates a non-profit organization?  Is the issue of Holocaust compromised by political motives?

As the message title states, it came from “Steven Markowitz” (not the board of directors or any committees affiliated with the museum) he used the plural pronoun “we” as the author.

It is unclear who does really “we” refer to in the statement?  Is it Steven Markowitz alone, the Great Neck Democratic Club, Nassau County Democratic Committee, HMTC, Holocaust survivors who are represented by HMTC or a combination of these entities?

Did Mr. Markowitz use any of the HMTC’s resources to come to the conclusion of: “HORRIBLE CONDITIONS AND TREATMENT OF IMMIGRANTS at our southern border” or he is making the bold statement merely based on the hearsays?

Yet, an essential question is whether his job description as the chairman of HMTC authorizes him to make politically motivated for promoting his own party interests?  If he is not authorized, is he abusing his position as the head of a non-profit and non-political organization for personal political gain?  Should he be stopped?

What if Mr. Markowitz had sent the same exact message on behalf of the Democratic Club of Great Neck or on behalf of the Nassau County Democratic Committee?  It would have been fine if he had no affiliation with the HMTC.  There seems to be a conflict of interests between his various positions.

As Mr. Markowitz seems to have a conflict of interest serving concurrently as an officer of the Democratic Party at two different positions and as the chairman of HMTC, a non-political non-profit and tax-deductible organization, the continuation of his affiliation with HMTC could potentially put HMTC’s status at risk as a tax-deductible organizations and a non-political organization.

The center needs to stay clear of the personal political interests of its chairman.  Especially, with the news about Mr. Markowitz’s anti-Orthodox email which is at odds with HMTC’s mission of promoting “tolerance.” 

The email was sent while he functioned as HMTC’s chairman which recently appeared in the Great Neck local papers. It is better for Mr. Markowitz, HMTC and the Democratic Party to halt his affiliation with the HMTC, sooner than later.

Rabbi Sarah Cohen made a reference to the destruction of the ancient Temples in Jerusalem, which were attributed to sin’at hinam, senseless hatred, within the Jewish community.  She may wish to rethink about her comment and advise Mr. Markowitz that his 2015 email with hate language falls in such category.

In 2015, Mr. Markowitz sent an email which included scare tactics and hate language towards the Orthodox Jews for the sake of defeating the challengers of the former mayor and two trustees of Village of Great Neck.  This email was sent while he was the chairman of the Holocaust Memorial and “Tolerance” Center. 

HMTC should be above this level.   

Gary Giltner

Great Neck


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