New York officials address uptick in anti-Semitic attacks in virtual town hall

After the hostage-taking “act of terror,” as President Biden called it, at a Texas synagogue last month, fears of anti-Semitic attacks have renewed across New York and the rest of the United States.

In an effort to address these concerns, as well as the multiple attacks that transpired in NYC recently, Councilmember Julie Menin convened a virtual Town Hall meeting on Feb. 9, where she answered questions about the recent hate crimes and provided information to the over 200 attendees.

Speaking alongside the Counselor were a number of highly qualified professionals from various sectors, including the NYPD, Attorney General’s Office, and several Hate Crime and Jewish Community leaders.

Menin, who is also a member of the New York City Council Jewish Caucus, began the webinar with a firm statement, that she believes the increase in anti-Semitism “is no anomaly,” adding, “quite frankly, enough is enough.” Menin then revealed startling statistics about the increasing frequency of Jewish-targeted attacks in the past year.

“No state has more anti-Semitic incidents than New York State, and New York City has the most antisemitic incidents than any other city,” she said. According to the NYPD’s latest crime statistics, “reported hate crimes against Jewish people are up 275% year over year, with 15 reported in January 2022—versus 4 in January 2021.”

Menin also disclosed that there has been a spree of antisemitic attacks within the past month, in Brooklyn, as well as two that occurred in her council district on the same weekend. One of the situations arose at a Yorkville Chase Bank where a woman discovered Nazi imagery imprinted on four $100 bills, while in Brooklyn a 44-year-old Jewish man was assaulted, and only a few minutes later, on a different corner, a 24-year old ultra-Orthodox Jewish man was struck from behind.

Following Menin’s introduction, New York State Senator Chuck Schumer came from the Senate floor to speak on what he called, “an issue that feels all too familiar.” 

“Nowhere else in America have so many different communities, so many different cultures layered on top of each other, lived well together, as they have in New York,” said Senator Schumer. “And anytime our cohesion is threatened I feel it’s my duty—all of our duty to respond. We all know, bigotry against one, is bigotry against all, and so its our collective responsibility for all of us to call out anti-Semitism whenever it rears its ugly head.”

However, calling out anti-Semitism or discrimination is difficult, especially when you don’t know what that means or looks like. Michael Cohen, the Eastern Director of the Jewish human rights organization, Simon Wiesenthal Center, highlighted the importance of teaching the younger generations about understanding and identifying antisemitism. 

“They don’t recognize what a swastika is, so there is a specific and huge need for education,” said Cohen. “The city council has been incredibly supportive of the Simon Wiesenthal Center being in public schools around NYC with our combat hate program, which specifically teaches middle school kids and high school kids how to identify issues of hate on social media, and also teaches them what to actually do about it.”

While the Town Hall meeting was primarily focused on addressing the antisemitic attacks, it was also made clear that the resources and advice the speakers offered could be applied to all forms of discrimination or prejudice. 

Deputy Director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) of the New York/New Jersey Region, Alexander Rosemberg, reiterated the need for an anti-bias education and stressed that once a hate crime is recognized, it is essential to report it. 

“If we don’t speak up, if we don’t share facts, and we don’t show strength, hate is never going to stop. So it’s up to each and every one of us to make sure that these things are called attention to,” said Rosemberg. “By reporting, you drive data, and by driving data you drive policy, and we’re able to effect change.”

Commanding Officer of NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force, Inspector Jessica Corey, emphasized this point, and noted that bystanders or victims of any crime, should call 9-1-1, “no matter what.”  The longer you wait to call, the less likely the patrol officers will be able to catch the perpetrator.

“Hate crimes will continue to be vigorously investigated by the Hate Crime Task Force as we seek justice for all victims of these heinous acts,” said Inspector Corey. “Hate has absolutely no place in New York City.”