New York politicians share tools to fight rising anti-Semitism

New York Jewish Week via JTA – New York City saw nearly three times as many anti-Semitic hate crimes in January 2022 compared to the same period a year ago, prompting concern from local lawmakers .

City Councilwoman Julie Menin, who represents the Upper East Side, hosted a virtual “anti-Semitism town hall” on Wednesday night that included remarks from U.S. Senator Charles Schumer and his colleague Eric Dinowitz.

The event, co-hosted by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, drew some 200 attendees and brought together politicians and representatives from Jewish organizations and the NYPD to discuss how to crack down on anti-Semitism.

The NYPD’s hate crimes unit has reported 22 hate crimes against Jews so far this year, up from eight during the same period last year.

Last weekend there were three suspected anti-Semitic attacks in Williamsburg. They included an assault on a man wearing Hasidic clothing and a graffiti attack on yeshiva school buses.

Residents of the Menin District were also troubled when, in early January, a woman found a swastika stamped on a $100 bill dispensed by a Chase Bank ATM on 86th Street. The next day, comedy club Second Avenue Comic Strip Live compared vaccination mandates to the Holocaust in an Instagram post.

Menin – who last night stressed her personal connection to the issue as the daughter and granddaughter of Holocaust survivors – condemned all recent events.

Senate Majority Leader Schumer — who recently spoke at a confirmation hearing endorsing researcher Deborah Lipstadt as the US State Department’s anti-Semitism watchdog — delivered a keynote address at the town hall and also spoke about the loved ones he lost in the Holocaust. Schumer called for doubling funding for the federal nonprofit security grant program from $180 million to $360 million. He noted that about a quarter of that funding goes to New York to bolster security at religious institutions and other nonprofits.

“It is our collective responsibility to speak out against anti-Semitism whenever it comes up,” he said. “We know what happens when anti-Semitism is not fought and fought and fought.”

Dinowitz, whose district covers the northwest Bronx, pointed out that anti-Semitic incidents are not always violent attacks — often they appear as biases or implicit remarks in everyday life. He chairs the Council’s Jewish Caucus.

Panelists discussed the various tools available to New Yorkers to combat anti-Semitism, including reporting crimes to the police, filing civil lawsuits, attending bias and intervention trainings, implementation of strong security measures in Jewish spaces, etc.

NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force Commander Detective Jessica Corey and Upper East Side 19th Precinct Detective Melissa Eger explained how and when to contact law enforcement when they are witnesses to a hate crime. They stressed that while social media can be effective, witnesses should call 911 to report a crime, using physical IDs and as many details about the incident as possible.

Rick Sawyer, the state attorney general’s special hate crimes adviser, explained the type of civil lawsuits his office can bring against implicit bias and discrimination. Jonah Boyarin, the Jewish liaison for the New York Commission on Human Rights, noted the various workshops his office can offer, such as bystander intervention training.

In this Dec. 11, 2019, photo, Orthodox Jewish men walk past New York police guarding a Brooklyn synagogue ahead of the funeral of Mosche Deutsch, a Brooklyn rabbinical student who was killed in a shooting at a Jersey City market , New Jersey (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, file)

Other panelists included Mitch Silber, executive director of the Community Security Initiative, and Alexander Rosemberg, deputy regional director of the NY/NJ branch of the Anti-Defamation League.

“By reporting, you generate data, which drives policy,” Rosemberg said. “That’s how you can affect change.”

Michael Cohen, Eastern Director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, spoke about his organization’s role in educating children about anti-Semitism and tolerance. He praised the center’s newest educational initiative, the Mobile Museum of Tolerance, which will visit schools across the state. Last month, the State Assembly announced $1.5 million in capital funding for the mobile museum.

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