TONIGHT ON METROFOCUS

Today is day 35 of the government shutdown. As the search for a compromise remains elusive, our neighbors are feeling its effects. We take a look at the growing hardship the shutdown has caused on Long Island. The number of homeless New Yorkers seem to be growing – but by how much? The city is asking for your help to aid those who live on the streets. We’ll tell you how. As International Holocaust Remembrance Day approaches, acclaimed actors Ed Asner and Tovah Feldshuh take us on a search for answers during mankind’s darkest hour in the play, “The Soap Myth.”

Aired on January 25, 2019.

TRANSCRIPT

> TONIGHT ON 'METROFOCUS' -- A LOOK AT THE GROWING HARDSHIP THAT THE SHUTDOWN IS CAUSE ON LONG ISLAND IN DOLLARS AND STRESS.

> THE HOMELESS OF NEW YORK -- THE NUMBERS SEEM TO BE GROWING BY BY HOW MUCH?

THE CITY NEEDS YOUR HELP TO HELP THE NEW YORKERS LIVING ON THE STREETS.

WE'LL TELL YOU WHAT YOU DO.

> AS INTERNATIONAL HOLOCAUST REMEMBRANCE DAY APPROACHES, SEPARATING FACT FROM FICTION.

WHAT REALLY HAPPENED AND WHO HAS THE RIGHT AND THE RESPONSIBILITY TO TELL US?

THOSE ARE THE QUESTIONS POSED IN THE PLAY AND THE STARS OF THIS MOVING AND DISTURBING WORK, LEGENDARY WORKERS ED ASNER IS HERE WITH ANSWERS.

THOSE STORIES AND MORE AS 'METROFOCUS' STARTS RIGHT NOW.

THIS IS 'METROFOCUS' WITH RAFAEL PI ROMAN, JACK FORD AND JENNA FLANAGAN.

'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY -- JAMES AND MERRYL TISCH SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III SYLVIA A. AND SIMON B. POYTA PROGRAMMING ENDOWMENT TO FIGHT ANTI-SEMITISM BERNARD AND IRENE SCHWARTZ ROSALIND P. WALTER BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG AND BY -- CORPORATE FUNDING WAS PROVIDED BY MUTUAL OF AMERICA, YOUR RETIREMENT COMPANY.

AND BY PSE&G, SERVING CUSTOMERS, STRENGTHENING THE BUSINESS COMMUNITY AND INVESTING IN THE FUTURE.

FUNDING FOR THIS PROGRAM IS ALSO PROVIDED BY THE JPB FOUNDATION AND THE FORD FOUNDATION.

GOOD EVENING.

WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS.'

I'M JACK FORD.

IT'S ANOTHER WEEK WHERE THE CHIEF IS NOT IN THE MAIL.

FEDERAL WORKERS AROUND THE COUNTRY WILL MISS ANOTHER PAY CYCLE AS THE GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN HAS SURPASSED THE ONE MONTH MARK.

DESPERATE TO MAKE ENDS MEET SOME FURLOUGHED WORKERS NEVER ONCE THOUGHT THEY WOULD NEED TO RELY ON ASSISTANCE ARE NOW REACHING OUT FOR HELP JUST TO FEED THEIR FAMILIES.

LONG ISLAND ALONE MAY SEE A SIGNIFICANT LOSS IN UNPAID FEDERAL SALARIES AND THE ECONOMY WILL SUFFER.

HERE WITH MORE ON HOW THE SHUTDOWN IS AFFECTING BOTH NASSAU AND SUFFOLK COUNTIES IS JAMES P.MADOR.

LET ME START OFF WITH THE LONG ISLAND SUFFERING.

PEOPLE THINK OF WASHINGTON, D.C.

WITH ALL THE FEDERAL AGENCIES AND OFFICES THERE, THE EXTRAORDINARY NUMBER OF FEDERAL EMPLOYEES WHO WORK IN THE D.C.

AREA, BUT SOME FOLKS MIGHT LOOK AT LONG ISLAND AND SAY WHY IS THAT SO IMPACTED?

TELL US ABOUT THE FEDERAL FOOTPRINT, IF YOU WILL, ON LONG ISLAND.

26,000 LONG ISLANDERS WORK FOR UNCLE SAM, FROM THE FAA, AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLERS AND ALSO SECURITY SCREENERS AT AIRPORTS TO THE LARGE IRS PROCESSING FACILITY IN SUFFOLK COUNTY.

REALLY, THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT HAS A BIG FOOTPRINT HERE ON LONG ISLAND AND WHEN IT'S SHUT DOWN IT HAS AN I WANT -- IMPACT ON THE ECONOMY.

DO WE HAVE ANY PERCENTAGE ON THE FOLKS WHO ARE BEING FURLOUGHED OR TOLD TO STAY HOME?

WE DON'T KNOW HOW MANY OF THE 26,000 HAVE BEEN AFFECTED.

HOWEVER, WE DO KNOW THAT IF ALL OF THEM WORKING AND RECEIVING THEIR PAYCHECKS THEY RECEIVE APPROXIMATELY $28 MILLION A WEEK.

SO SOME PERCENTAGE OF THAT MONEY IS NOT BEING PAID AND THEREFORE IS NOT BEING SPENT IN THE LOCAL ECONOMY.

WE CAN UNDERSTAND THE LOSSES TO THESE INDIVIDUALS.

AND IT'S TERRIBLY PAINFUL AND WE UNDERSTAND AND CERTAINLY WE SYMPATHIZE WITH THEM.

WHAT ABOUT THE NOTION OF OTHER BUSINESSES?

OTHER IMPACTS ON THE ECONOMY?

I SPOKE WITH THE LONG ISLAND ASSOCIATION WHICH IS THE LARGEST BUSINESS GROUP AND THEY SAY THE SMALL BUSINESSES ARE BEING AFFECTED.

THE MOM AND POP STORES ON MAIN STREET.

DELIS, RESTAURANTS.

LAUNDROMATS.

THESE ARE PEOPLE WHO ARE NOT SEEING CUSTOMERS COME IN.

AND THEREFORE, THEY'RE NOT RECEIVING THE REVENUE THEY NEED TO KEEP THEIR DOORS OPEN.

WE HAVE SEEN A NUMBER OF VIDEOS OF THE WASHINGTON, D.C., AREA.

AS YOU MENTIONED CAFES AND SMALL RESTAURANTS AND FOOD TRUCKS AND THERE'S LITERALLY NOBODY THERE.

ARE SOME OF THESE BUSINESSES WE'RE TALKING ABOUT SIMILARLY SITUATED WHERE THEY RELY IF NOT ENTIRELY SIGNIFICANTLY ON THE BUSINESS THAT'S PROVIDED BY FEDERAL WORKERS?

WE SPOKE WITH SOME PEOPLE WHO HAVE BUSINESSES VERY NEAR FEDERAL INSTALLATIONS ON LONG ISLAND.

THERE'S A PIZZERIA NEAR THE AIR TRAFFIC TOWER IN RON CONKA WHAT.

AND THEY'D SPEND $50 TO $60 PER VISIT AND NOW THEY'RE COMING IN ONCE EVERY TWO WEEKS.

ANOTHER RESTAURANT WE INTERVIEWED IS LOSING $130 A WEEK -- I'M SORRY, $130 A DAY.

THAT ADDS UP OVER THE WEEK AND THEY SAID, LOOK, WE CAN'T AFFORD TO TAKE THESE LOSSES.

ARE WE SEEING ANY OF THE AGENCIES OUT THERE ON LONG ISLAND THAT ARE STEPPING UP AND TRYING TO PROVIDE SOME ASSISTANCE TO THE FEDERAL WORKERS?

YES, WE ARE.

ISLAND HARVEST, LONG ISLAND CARES, A NUMBER OF THE LOCAL FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS ARE REACHING OUT BOTH WITH FOOD AND FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE IN SOME CASES BRIDGE LOANS SO PEOPLE CAN PAY THEIR MORTGAGES.

IN OTHER CASES, MORTGAGE PAYMENTS BEING DELAYED BECAUSE PEOPLE DON'T HAVE PAYCHECKS IN WHICH TO PAY THEIR MORTGAGE.

BUT STILL, VERY DIFFICULT.

WE HAVE HEARD ABOUT FEDERAL WORKERS TURNING TO UBER AND DRIVING PART-TIME WITH UBER.

OR DELIVERING PIZZAS.

OR SERVING AS NANNIES OR IN CHILD CARE.

THE ONE THING THAT'S DIFFICULT FOR FEDERAL WORKERS IS IF THEY MOONLIGHT, MOST OCCUPATIONS THEY HAVE TO GET PERMISSION FROM THEIR EMPLOYER FOR THEM TO BE ABLE TO MOONLIGHT.

SO THEY'RE RESTRICTED IN THOSE SECOND JOBS THEY CAN TAKE.

SO A HORRIBLE SCENARIO, BASICALLY WE'RE SAYING YOU CAN'T BE WORKING AT YOUR REAL JOB AND THERE'S NOBODY THERE TO EVEN TELL YOU WHETHER YOU CAN DO SOMETHING ELSE IN THE MEANTIME.

SO IT'S A DOUBLE BIND FOR THEM, IF YOU WILL.

LET ME ASK YOU THIS.

LAST QUESTION FOR US TO TALK ABOUT.

PEOPLE TALK ABOUT THE NOTION OF THIS HAS TO END AT SOME POINT IN TIME.

WE HAVE TO BELIEVE THAT HOPEFULLY -- I'M TALKING ABOUT THIS FROM A NONPARTISAN DIRECTION, HOPEFULLY REASONABLE MINDS CAN GET TOGETHER ON BOTH SIDES OF THE AISLE AND RESOLVE SOMETHING, GET THE BUSINESS UP AND RUNNING.

THE QUESTION IS WHAT'S THE IMPACT GOING TO BE -- ECONOMIC IMPACT?

SOME PEOPLE WILL SAY IT'S LASTING.

SOME PEOPLE SAY IT WILL BE A SNAP BACK.

IT WILL BE LIMITED.

FROM YOUR REPORTING AND WHAT YOU'RE SEEING AND THE PEOPLE YOU'RE TALKING TO OUT IN YOUR AREA, WHAT'S YOUR SENSE OF WHAT THE IMPACT WILL BE?

THE ECONOMISTS I HAVE SPOKEN TO FROM FARMINGDALE STATE COLLEGE AND THE LONG ISLAND ASSOCIATION SAY IT'S REALLY -- THERE ARE TWO PICTURES HERE.

ONE IS WE WILL SEE A BOOST IN CONSUMER SPENDING.

ONCE FEDERAL WORKERS FINALLY BEGIN TO GET THEIR PAYCHECKS.

ONCE THE SHUTDOWN ENDS.

HOWEVER, THERE'S ANOTHER GROUP.

FEDERAL CONTRACTORS.

THEY'RE NOT GETTING PAID AND THEY WILL HAVE NO BACK PAY COMING TO THEM.

FINALLY, YOU HAVE SOME BUSINESSES LIKE RESTAURANTS WHERE THEY HAVE LOST OUT ON BUSINESS.

ONCE THE FEDERAL WORKER GETS THEIR PAYCHECK AGAIN THEY'RE NOT GOING TO EAT DOUBLE.

SO RESTAURANTS IN PARTICULAR ARE BEING HIT HARD BECAUSE THESE MEALS THAT AREN'T BEING TAKEN YOU CAN'T REPLACE THEM.

I SAID LAST QUESTION, THIS IS ACTUALLY MY LAST QUESTION FOR YOU.

THAT IS THIS.

IN YOUR REPORTING, THE PEOPLE YOU'RE TALKING TO, I THINK PEOPLE SAID ALL RIGHT, THIS WILL BE A BLIP.

A LITTLE BIT OF TIME, MAYBE A WEEK AT MOST AND WE'RE PAST A MONTH NOW.

ARE YOU GETTING ANY SENSE OF THE PEOPLE YOU'RE TALKING TO AS TO WHETHER OR NOT THERE'S ANY OPTIMISM LEFT IN TERMS OF THIS GETTING RESOLVED FAIRLY QUICKLY?

WELL, THE FEDERAL WORKERS I TALKED TO AS YOU MIGHT IMAGINE ARE VERY DISCOURAGED.

IT'S IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER THESE ARE GOOD-PAYING JOBS.

THE AVERAGE WAGE IS $75,400 A YEAR.

FOR THE LONG ISLANDERS WHO WORK FOR THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT.

THOSE ARE GOOD PAYING MIDDLE CLASS JOBS THAT YOU NEED TO LIVE ON LONG ISLAND.

SO WHEN YOU DON'T GET YOUR PAYCHECK AND NOW WE'RE ON THE SECOND PAYCHECK THAT'S NOT COMING, PEOPLE ARE SCARED.

THEY'RE WORRIED ABOUT KEEPING THEIR HOMES.

THEY'RE WORRIED ABOUT KEEPING BODY AND SOUL TOGETHER.

WELL, I HAVE A FEELING THAT YOU AND I MIGHT BE TALKING ABOUT MORE DOWN THE ROAD.

GREAT REPORTING BY YOU.

WE APPRECIATE YOU SPENDING SOME TIME AND SHARING WHAT YOU'RE FINDING OUT THERE.

THANKS SO MUCH.

LOOK FORWARD TO TALKING TO YOU AGAIN.

THANKS SO MUCH.

> EVERY JANUARY, THOUSANDS OF VOLUNTEERS SPAN OUT ACROSS THE FIVE BOROUGHS WITH A VITALLY IMPORTANT MISSION -- HELPING THE CITY GET A COUNT OF THE NUMBER OF NEW YORKERS LIVING ON THE STREETS.

THIS SEGMENT IS PART OF OUR CHASING THE DREAM INITIATIVE ON POVERTY AND OPPORTUNITY IN AMERICA.

THE ANNUAL AND INFORMAL CENSUS OF THE HOMELESS IS FEDERALLY MANDATED AND IS CRUCIAL TO TACKLE CHRONIC HOMELESSNESS AND GET THE HELP THAT IS NEEDED.

THE CITY LOOKING FOR VOLUNTEERS IN THE MASSIVE CITYWIDE SURVEY WHICH WILL TAKE PLACE THIS COMING JANUARY 28th.

JOINING US TO TELL US MORE ABOUT HOPE 19 IS STEPHEN BANKS, COMMISSIONER OF THE NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES.

COMMISSIONER, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US TODAY.

THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME AND I APPRECIATE YOU GETTING THE WORD OUT.

FIRST OF ALL WHAT IS THE HOPE AND HOPE 19 STAND FOR?

IT'S THE HOMELESS OUTREACH POPULATION ESTIMATE AND I THINK THAT'S IMPORTANT.

SOMETIMES PEOPLE SAY, WELL, IT'S A COUNT.

IT'S AN ESTIMATE.

IT'S A FEDERALLY REQUIRED ANNUAL COUNT ALL ACROSS THE UNITED STATES.

IT'S SUPPOSED TO BE ON THE COLDEST DAY OF THE YEAR OR THE COLDEST PERIOD OF THE YEAR WITH CLIMATE CHANGE OF COURSE WE ARE SEEING VAGARIES OVER THE LAST NUMBER OF YEARS.

SOMETIMES IT'S WARM, SOMETIMES IT'S NOT WARM.

THAT AFFECTS WHAT YOU SEE ON THE STREETS.

OBVIOUSLY, IN THIS MOST RECENT PERIOD OF TIME, WE HAVE MADE NEARLY 150 PLACEMENTS OFF THE STREETS IN THIS VERY COLD PERIOD BECAUSE WE'RE OUT THERE 24/7.

THE ESTIMATE -- THE SURVEY NEXT MONDAY NIGHT IS REALLY A CRITICAL PART OF OUR WORK IN NEW YORK.

WE'RE OUT 24/7, 365 DAYS OF THE YEAR BUT THIS ONE NIGHT VOLUNTEERS HELP US CHECK OUR WORK.

HELP US LOOK AROUND THE CITY AND SEE IF THERE ARE AREAS AND OTHER CONCENTRATIONS OF PEOPLE THAT WE HAVE SOMEHOW MISSED.

SO WE HAVE DOUBLED THE NUMBER OF OUTREACH WORKERS OVER THE LAST FOUR YEARS TO MAKE SURE THAT WE'RE ABLE TO CONSTRUCT THE FIRST-EVER NEW YORK CITY BY NAME LIST OF PEOPLE ON THE STREETS.

THAT'S HOW WE'RE BRINGING PEOPLE OFF THE STREETS.

WE HAVE GOT NEARLY 3,000 VOLUNTEERS ALREADY FOR THE HOPE COUNT.

WE ENCOURAGE NEW YORKERS TO VOLUNTEER.

IT'S STARTING AT 10:00 NEXT MONDAY NIGHT.

YOU CAN GO TO NYC.GOV/HOPE AND US DO THE WORK.

THE WORK IS SOMETHING THAT REALLY IS BOTH CHALLENGING, SATISFYING AND HEART BREAKING.

PEOPLE END UP ON THE STREETS BECAUSE THEY HAVE FALLEN THROUGH EVERY SAFETY NET.

IT TAKES US AN AVERAGE OF FIVE MONTHS TO CONVINCE SOMEBODY TO COME IN OFF THE STREET.

THE MOST COMPREHENSIVE PROGRAM IN THE COUNTRY WITH A DOUBLING OF FINANCIAL ESTIMATE FROM THE MAYOR WE HAVE BROUGHT 2,000 PEOPLE IN OFF THE STREETS WHO HAVE REMAINED OFF THE STREETS.

SOME DON'T WANT TO GET OFF THE STREETS BECAUSE THEY'RE AFRAID OF THE SHELTERS, RIGHT?

PEOPLE END UP ON THE STREETS AS I SAY THEY HAVE HAD BAD EXPERIENCES IN DEALING WITH EVERY TYPE OF SAFETY NET THAT EXISTS.

AND THEY'RE MISTRUSTFUL.

SO IT TAKES FIVE MONTHS ON AVERAGE TO BUILD THAT TRUST.

AS I SAID, WE HAVE BEEN ABLE TO DO THAT FOR 2,000 PEOPLE, TO HELP BUILD A PATHWAY OFF THE STREETS.

AND THESE ARE INDIVIDUALS WHO HAVE REMAINED OFF THE STREET.

THE METRIC USED TO BE BRINGING PEOPLE OFF THE STREETS, WHETHER THEY REMAINED OFF THE STREETS OR NOT.

WE ARE VERY FOCUSED ON ACTUALLY CHANGING LIVES.

THIS IS FEDERALLY MANDATED, CORRECT?

IT'S ALL JURISDICTIONS THAT ARE REQUIRED TO DO IT.

WE DO IT 365 DAYS A YEAR.

AS I SAID THE BY NAME LIST IS A GAME CHANGER FOR US IN NEW YORK CITY.

WE ACTUALLY HAVE A LIST OF PEOPLE ON THE STREET SO THAT OUR OUTREACH WORKERS CAN ENGAGE THEM.

WE MIGHT KNOW, YOU KNOW, JOHN ON SUCH AND CORNER OR THE INDIVIDUAL WITH THE RED HAT, BUT BUILDING THAT TRUST IS WHAT HELPS US BRING PEOPLE IN AND THE VOLUNTEERS WILL HELP US MAKE SURE --

MY IMMEDIATE QUESTION WHEN I READ ABOUT THIS IS IT'S FEDERALLY MANDATED.

HOW COME YOU NEED VOLUNTEERS?

WHY DON'T THE FEDS PAY ENOUGH MONEY SO YOU CAN PAY PEOPLE TO DO THIS?

WELL, I THINK IT WOULD BE REALLY HELPFUL TO GET ADDITIONAL FUNDING FOR MORE HOUSING AND WE SEE THE DIFFERENCE WHEN WE HAVE A FEDERAL PARTNER.

WE ARE ABLE TO BE CERTIFIED FOR ENDING CHRONIC VETERANS HOMELESSNESS.

THERE WAS THE COMBINATION OF THE VOUCHERS AT THE CITY LEVEL WE ARE ABLE TO MAKE REAL PROGRESS IN ADDRESSING CHRONIC VETERAN HOMELESSNESS.

BUT THE VOLUNTEERS ARE THE EYES AND EYES ON THAT NIGHT.

LOOK, IT'S PART OF THE GREATNESS OF NEW YORK THAT PEOPLE REALLY CARE.

PEOPLE ARE INHERENTLY COMPASSIONATE.

WE SEE IT EVERY DAY ON THE STREETS WHEN PEOPLE ARE CALLING ATTENTION TO INDIVIDUALS WHO WE CAN HELP BRING OFF.

SO I WAS WONDERING ACTUALLY IF THE CALL FOR VOLUNTEERS WAS NOT BECAUSE YOU DIDN'T HAVE THE MONEY TO PAY FOR IT, BUT BECAUSE YOU WANTED PEOPLE, ACTUAL EVERYDAY NEW YORKERS TO GET INVOLVED IN THIS PROCESS.

LOOK, HOMELESSNESS IS BUILD UP OVER MANY DECADES IN NEW YORK CITY.

HOMELESSNESS INCREASED 115% FROM 1994 TO 2014.

AS A RESULT OF THE FACT THAT THERE'S A GAP IN RESIDENT -- THE RENTS UP MORE THAN 18%. INCOME WENT UP LESS THAN 5%. IT'S THE INHERENT COMPASSION OF NEW YORKERS THAT'S HELPING US ADDRESS THIS CRISIS THAT'S BEEN DECADES IN THE MAKING.

SO SOME OF OUR VIEWERS WATCHING RIGHT NOW MAY WANT TO GET INVOLVED, THEY WANT TO VOLUNTEER.

BUT THEY HAVE SOME QUESTIONS ABOUT HOW SAFE IT MAY BE.

WHAT DO YOU SAY ABOUT THAT?

COME AND JOIN US.

GO ON TO NYC.GOV/HOPE.

PEOPLE GO OUT IN TEAMS AND THEY'RE TRAINED.

IT IS REALLY A COLLECTIVE RESPONSE TO A NATIONAL PROBLEM THAT WE EXPERIENCE ON THE STREETS HERE IN NEW YORK CITY.

IT'S NO COINCIDENCE AS WE LOOK ACROSS THE COUNTRY --

ACROSS THE UNITED STATES.

BUT BEFORE I LET YOU GO, WE HAVE ONLY 90 SECONDS I THINK IT WAS IN DECEMBER THAT THE MAYOR SAID THAT AMONG HIS FAILURES THOSE ARE THE THINGS HE CONSIDERS THE FAILURES IS HIS INABILITY TO REDUCE THE NUMBER OF HOMELESS.

WHY IS IT SO DIFFICULT FOR HIM AND PREVIOUS ADMINISTRATIONS TO REDUCE THE NUMBER OF HOMELESS IN THIS NEW YORK CITY?

IT'S THE REASONS WE TALKED ABOUT EARLIER.

THE MAYOR IDENTIFIED HOMELESSNESS AS A CHALLENGE.

I THINK HE LIKE I ARE NOT SATISFIED WITH WHERE WE ARE NOW.

BUT WE ALSO AS I SAID ARE SEEING SOME OF THE INITIATIVES THAT WE HAVE PUT IN PLACE TAKE HOLD.

HOMELESSNESS IS DRIVEN BY ECONOMIC FACTORS, 70% OF THE PEOPLE IN SHELTERS ARE FAMILIES.

A THIRD OF THE HOMELESS FAMILIES ARE HEADED BY SOMEONE WHO WORKS AND THEY'RE IN THE SHELTER SYSTEM BECAUSE AS I SAID THE GAP BETWEEN RENTS AND INCOME IS A MAJOR DRIVER OF HOMELESSNESS.

NOT JUST IN NEW YORK CITY, BUT ALL ACROSS THE COUNTRY THAT'S WHY VOLUNTEERS ON THIS NIGHT OF HOPE IS SO IMPORTANT.

TO HELP US DO OUR WORK TO CONTINUE TO LITERALLY TURN THE TIDE ON HOMELESSNESS.

AS I SAID, 2,000 PEOPLE'S LIVES HAVE BEEN CHANGED BY COMING OFF TO STREET.

AND 100,000 HAVE BEEN CHANGED BY MOVING INTO THE SHELTER.

27% FEWER EVICTIONS.

SO MUCH MORE TO BE DONE.

AND I KNOW WE'LL KEEP AFTER IT.

COMMISSIONER, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US TODAY TO TALK ABOUT THIS VERY IMPORTANT ISSUE.

THANKS FOR HAVING ME.

I APPRECIATE IT.

> THE HISTORY OF THE HOLOCAUST WHO HAS THE RIGHT AND THE RESPONSIBILITY TO TELL IT?

IS IT PROFESSIONAL HISTORIANS AND HOLOCAUST SCHOLARS OR THE EYEWITNESSS TO THE HORROR?

THOSE WHO WERE THE DIRECT VICTIMS OF THE BRUTALITY AND SURVIVED IT?

THAT'S THE QUESTION POSED IN JEFF COHN'S IN A PLAY BEING PRESENTED AS A SERIES OF CONCERT READINGS IN TRIBUTE TO INTERNATIONAL HOLOCAUST REMEMBRANCE DAY AND STARRING ED ASNER AND HERE'S A LOOK.

WE HAVE MADE THE DETERMINATION THAT --

YOU HAVE MADE THE DETERMINATION --

IT'S NOT THE EVIDENCE NECESSARY.

OH, HOW CAN YOU MAKE THE DETERMINATION?

FOR 40 YEARS THERE WAS NO QUESTION.

YOU WANT ANOTHER REASON I AM COUNTING ON YOU, ANNIE?

YES.

BECAUSE SOON, I WILL BE GONE.

SOON ALL THE WITNESSES WILL BE GONE.

JOINING US NOW ARE ED ASNER AND THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US TODAY.

SUCH AN HONOR TO HAVE YOU BOTH HERE.

IT'S AN HONOR TO BE HERE.

THANK YOU.

I SAW THE PLAY YESTERDAY, BY THE WAY.

WHEN YOU CALL IT A CONCERT READING SOME PEOPLE MIGHT MISUNDERSTAND THAT.

BECAUSE IT PACKS THE SAME WALLOP, THE INTELLECTUAL AND EMOTIONAL WALLOP THAT IF IT WAS A FULLY STAGED PLAY.

I CAN'T SPEAK ENOUGH ABOUT IT.

BUT I'LL TRY IN THE NEXT FEW MINUTES.

I SHOULD ADD YOU ARE TWO OF THE FOUR CAST MEMBERS OF THIS PLAY.

YEAH.

AND THE OTHER TWO WHICH ARE AS BRILLIANT AS YOU ARE, THEY ARE LEYVA VINEBERG AND NED EISENBERG.

IT'S THE BERG TWINS, FABULOUS.

SO THE FIRST QUESTION TO YOU.

WHAT IS THE SOAP MYTH?

WHAT IS THE STORY AROUND WHICH THE PLAY EVOLVED?

IT'S ABOUT THE NATURE OF TRUTH AND THE VALUE OF TRUTH.

WE HAVE A WONDERFUL MAN IN THE VERY GIFTED ED ASNER WHO'S HAD AN EXPERIENCE THAT JEWISH FAT WAS USED TO MAKE SOAP.

THAT IS HIS VISCERAL EXPERIENCE.

THAT IS HIS EXPERIENCE WITH THE TRUTH.

THOSE -- HE HAS PHOTOGRAPHS OF BURIALS WITH PIECES OF THE GREEN SOAP MADE FROM JEWISH FAT.

FAT FROM HUMAN CADAVERS?

THAT'S THE ASSUMPTION.

I CAN TELL YOU, BORN IN THE '50s IN MY CHILDHOOD I WAS TAUGHT THAT WE WERE MADE INTO LAMP SHADES AND THAT OUR FAT WAS REDUCED TO MAKE INTO SOAP.

WHAT THE PLAY CALLS INTO QUESTION IS WHETHER THERE IS A COOPERATIVE EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT MILTON SALTSMAN'S CLAIMS AND THE FACT FINDERS AND MUSEUMS FIND THERE'S NO EVIDENCE --

HARD EVIDENCE.

TO PROVE THAT SOAP WAS MADE FROM HUMAN FLESH.

THERE'S DNA ALL OVER SOAP FROM MANUFACTURE TO HANDLING SO THIS IS THE QUESTION.

HE WOULD LIKE THIS IN THE PERMANENT EXHIBIT OF THE MUSEUM.

BUT THE MUSEUM EXECUTIVES LIKE MYSELF, MUSEUM SCHOLARS, WON'T ALLOW IT FOR FEAR THAT THE ENTIRE MUSEUM WILL BE DISCREDITED BECAUSE IT DOESN'T HAVE ANY COB ATIVE PROOF.

ABOUT THE MURDERED VICTIMS OF THE HOLOCAUST, THEIR BODIES BEING USED TO CREATE THIS SOAP, I PREPARED FOR THIS CONVERSATION, I ASSUMED IT WAS A FACT.

IT WAS A FACT FOR DECADES AND THE EXECUTIVE PRODUCER OF THIS SHOW, HE WAS A SON OF A SURVIVOR, HE THOUGHT IT WAS A FACT.

DID YOU GUYS KNOW THAT IT WAS A CONTROVERSIAL ISSUE?

NO.

NO IDEA.

WE WERE TAUGHT THAT VERY CLEARLY.

NOT JUST IN -- I WAS IN THE CONSERVATIVE MOVEMENT, BUT WITH THE REFORMS -- I MEAN THIS IS PART OF A JEWISH CHILD'S KNOWLEDGE.

SO ED, YOU PLAY A MAN TO PROVE THAT THE SOAP MYTH IS NO MYTH.

AND WITH ED'S ABILITY, IT'S JUST IMPOSSIBLE FOR ED ASNER TO LIE.

YEAH.

WHEN HE'S ACTING.

HE'S JUST A TRUTH-O-METER.

SO THE EMPATHY HE ENGENDERS AND HE'S STILL OPERATE ON ALL EIGHT CYLINDERS IS AN INSPIRATION TO ALL OF US.

MAY I BE AS CLEVER AND AS GIFTED WHEN I APPROACH HIS AGE WHICH IS VERY DIFFICULT BECAUSE I'M STILL 39.

39.

OH.

YOU PLAY TWO CHARACTERS IN THE PLAY.

ONE IS KIND OF LIKE THE BUREAUCRATIC UNSYMPATHETIC HOLOCAUST SCHOLAR AND THE OTHER ONE IS A CHARMING, SEDUCTIVE HOLOCAUST DENIER.

HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED IN THIS PLAY?

I'M A SUCKER FOR A GREAT PLAY.

AND A GREAT PART.

I DO ENOUGH OF THE OTHER STUFF.

NO, BUT YOU GET A GREAT SCRIPT IN YOUR HAND.

YOU DON'T CARE WHO -- YOU'RE DOWN ON SKID ROW, YOU WANT TO BE PART OF IT.

BY THE WAY, JEFF, THE AUTHOR HAS WRITTEN THAT HE ACTUALLY WROTE THE CHARACTER WITH YOU IN MIND.

WHAT DOES HE KNOW?

BUT I MEAN, YOU TRAVELED AROUND WITH THIS THING LIKE A ROCK BAND.

I MEAN, IT'S NOT THAT EASY.

YOU WENT TO BALTIMORE.

YOU'RE TRAVELING ALL --

IT'S PRETTY INTENSE, BUT JEFF IS AGAIN -- HE'S A MENSCH AND HE TAKES GOOD CARE OF HIS COMPANY.

SO IT'S OKAY.

WE LOVE EACH OTHER.

MIND YOU, IT'S OUR JOB TO LOVE EACH OTHER.

WE DO LOVE EACH OTHER.

OH, YOU, HERE WE GO.

WELL, AS YOU SAID, THE ESSENTIAL QUESTION OF THE PLAY IS, YOU KNOW, WHO GETS TO TELL THE HISTORY AND WHO SHOULD WE BELIEVE ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED -- WHAT REALLY HAPPENED IN THE HOLOCAUST?

THE SURVIVORS OR THE SCHOLARS?

I READ THE PLAY BEFORE I SAW IT AND THE PLAY IS SO INTELLIGENT.

THAT THE ARGUMENTS ARE SO WELL BALANCED.

YOU KNOW, THE AUTHOR DOESN'T HELP YOU.

WHEN YOU SEE IT, BECAUSE YOU'RE SO CAPTIVATING, YOU'RE EMOTIONALLY -- YOU GO, THE SURVIVORS YOU HAVE TO BELIEVE THE SURVIVORS BUT THE ARGUMENTS OF THE SCHOLARS ARE SO COMPELLING.

AGAIN, YOU ARE LEFT TO YOUR OWN DEVICES.

YOU HAVE TO BELIEVE THE SURVIVOR AT WHAT COST?

THAT'S THE QUESTION.

IF IT'S AT THE COST OF TRUTH, IN A MUSEUM THAT'S A BIG COST.

WHAT IS YOUR ANSWER?

WHAT IS YOUR ANSWER?

MY ANSWER IS THIS.

THAT AS WE DISCUSSED HERE T THAT -- DISCUSSED THE PEOPLE WHO REACT AS IF THE SOAP WAS NOT A MYTH AND TO MY KNOWLEDGE MOST JEWS LIVE LIVES WHERE THEY ACCEPTED IT AS TRUTH.

SO WHATEVER THE HISTORIANS ARE SAYING IT'S FLYING AGAINST THE WIND.

YEAH.

THEY'RE NOT BEING BELIEVED.

AT LEAST FOR IN GENERATION.

JEFF IS BRINGING UP IN FUTURE GENERATIONS LIKE OUR EXPERIENCE OF THE CIVIL WAR.

WHAT EXPERIENCE DO WE HAVE OF THE CIVIL WAR?

I ONLY HAVE ONE IN HISTORY BOOKS AND MY VISITING THE SOUTH.

SO THAT WAS JEFF'S FEAR AND HIS WAY OF IMMORTALIZING THIS ARGUMENT WITH MY WRITING -- WRITING THIS PLAY.

YOU KNOW, BUT THE POINT THAT YOU MADE, THE ISSUE -- REALLY, THE MAIN REASON WHY THE SCHOLARS HAVE QUESTIONED THIS SOAP STORY IS BECAUSE THE DENIERS ARE USING IT.

GENERALLY BECAUSE THEY SAY IF WE DON'T HAVE HARD PROOF ABOUT ONE THING, THE DENIERS WILL SAY, YOU KNOW, THEY'RE MAKING THIS UP.

YOU KNOW, THEY CAN'T PROVE THIS.

THEY'RE MAKING THIS UP.

IF THEY'RE MAKING THIS UP, THEY'RE MAKING EVERYTHING UP.

BUT IF YOU USE THAT AS THE ARGUMENT, THAT THE DENIERS WILL USE IT TO DISCREDIT THE WHOLE HOLOCAUST STORY, THEN YOU'RE ABDICATING THE POWER TO DETERMINE WHAT WE'RE GOING TO TALK ABOUT ABOUT THE HOLOCAUST TO THE DENIERS AND THAT IS MADDENING.

IT'S A REAL CONCERN.

RIGHT?

THAT IS CORRECT.

SO THE WAY YOU PLAY MILTON, IT'S LIKE -- OH, MY GOODNESS.

IT'S LIKE A FRIGHTENING -- I CAN'T EXPLAIN IT.

BUT IT'S SO EMOTIONAL.

IS IT ALL ABOUT PROVING THAT THIS MYTH IS NOT A MYTH OR IS THERE SOMETHING GOING ON WITH MILTON AS HE ENGAGES IN THIS CRUSADE?

I DO IT AS -- WHERE THE TOP OF MY PROFESSION I COULD INVESTIGATE MILTON AND FIND THAT HE HAS CHOSEN THIS AS A MEANS OF LEAVING HIS MARK IN THE WORLD.

THAT HIS LIFE WILL MEAN SOMETHING.

TO PROVE THAT SOAP WAS MADE FROM FAT AND THAT'S A GOOD ENOUGH REASON.

YEAH.

TO FAIL IS ALSO NOT SURPRISING.

UNFORTUNATELY OUR TIME IS UP, BUT I HAVE TO SAY TO EVERYONE OUT THERE WHO HAS THE OPPORTUNITY TO WATCH THIS PLAY I USUAL YOU TO GO SEE IT.

YOU HAVE TO SEE IT.

IT WOULD BE A TRAGEDY IF YOU DON'T.

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US.

THANK YOU.

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MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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