A call for help may become a punch in the gut.
A Federal Communications Commission proposal to replace its 10-digit national suicide prevention hotline number with the three-digit 988 hits too close to home for a Staten Island activist, who noted the numbers 88 are significant in neo-Nazi and white supremacy movements.
The letter H is the eighth letter of the alphabet, and to neo-Nazis, the numbers 88 together stand for “Heil Hitler.”
“Its not just a number,” said Charles Greinsky, a 68-year-old Jewish war veteran, who recalls when hatemongers spray painted the digits on his temple in 2008.
Greinsky is lobbying Rep. Max Rose and Sen. Charles Schumer to come up with a different three-digit combo.
“Youd have Holocaust survivors and children of Holocaust survivors that are in need of mental health services dialing a number that causes extreme stress and makes people relive some of the worst experiences the world has ever seen,” he said.
Greinsky “gets” that theres a 9 preceding the hate code, but he fears white supremacists would latch onto the number and overload the hotline in a twisted tribute to Hitler. “I get the idea of making it a simple number. Just make it something that doesnt conjure up hate,” he said.