Firefighter fired for antisemitism assigned to Jewish neighborhood

Joseph M. Cassano, 28, once tweeted “I like Jews about as much as Hitler.”

By JTA,
April 23, 2018 13:20
3 minute read.
A firefighter approaches a burning car in New York City

A firefighter approaches a burning car in New York City. (photo credit: MIKE SEGAR / REUTERS)

 
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NEW YORK - A former New York City EMT who resigned from his post over allegations of antisemitism has landed a job as a firefighter in the heart of an ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn.

Joseph M. Cassano, 28, left his job with the city as an emergency first responder more than five years ago after posting bigoted social media messages to Twitter.

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“I like Jews about as much as hitler,” Cassano once wrote on the online public platform.

In another offensive tweet, Cassano wrote: “Getting sick of picking up all these Obama lovers and taking them to the hospital because their medicare pays for an ambulance and not a cab.”

On Martin Luther King Day in 2013 he tweeted, “MLK could go kick rocks for all I care, but thanks for the time and a half today.”

Cassano, who graduated from the city’s firefighters’ academy last week, was assigned to Engine 247 on 60th Street in Borough Park, a predominantly ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhood.

In response, local Assemblyman Dov Hikind said that Cassano’s new appointment was an affront to his constituency.

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“For him to be assigned to Borough Park, where you have an incredible number of Holocaust survivors, is an insult to our community,” Hikind said, adding “Put him somewhere else.”

Cassano is the son of former New York City Fire Commissioner Salvatore Joseph "Sal" Cassano, who was appointed to the job by former mayor Michael Bloomberg December 2009 and served until June 2014.

Cassano was allowed to resign after the tweets came to light in 2013. He received counseling from Rabbi Steven Burg, then a director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. After the counseling and an apology he was allowed to return to work as an EMT and apply to become a firefighter.

In 2015, Cassano told the Daily News he had seen the error of his “very ignorant and very immature” ways. “I’ve apologized for those comments and I am still apologizing for them today,” he also said.

A spokesman for the FDNY said in a statement that “assignments are at the discretion of the Department, and every member is expected to perform their duties with dedication, commitment and compassion to the people they serve – for which they will be held accountable.”

Meanwhile, police have opened an investigation into the assault of a visibly Jewish man over the weekend as he was walking back home from Shabbat services.

According to police, it is the second such attack on a member of the Jewish community in the past week.

The Jewish man was walking home from prayer services at about 1:30 on Saturday afternoon after saying “good afternoon” to a man who was smoking a cigar on a street corner in mixed Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights..

“As soon as [I greeted] him he began yelling at me ‘you fake Jews, who are you saying hello to? Your fake Jews and you stole all my money and robbed me, and stole my mortgage and my house. I want to kill you!’” the news website quoted the man as saying.

The victim said he walked away from the man quickly but that the assailant caught up with the Jewish man and put him in a chokehold and threatened to kill him.

Two women eventually separated the victim from the assailant and told him to run. He called the Jewish ambulance service Hatzalah from his home, which notified police. The victim sustained a cracked rib along with swelling, bruising and scratches over his body after being taken to Kings County Medical hospital.

Police have opened an investigation into the attack as an assault motivated by bias.

Last Friday night a Jewish man was assaulted in the Crown Heights near 770 Eastern Parkway, the international headquarters of the Chabad movement.

The Anti-Defamation League announced on Sunday that it is offering $5,000 rewards for information leading to the arrests and convictions of the individuals responsible for both attacks.

“We unequivocally condemn these senseless assaults,” said Evan R. Bernstein, ADL New York regional director.

“We appreciate the leadership of the NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force who are investigating these assaults as hate crimes. Hopefully these rewards will encourage anyone who may have seen something to come forward.”

ADL tracked 11 incidents of assaults motivated by antisemitism across New York State in 2017, seven of which occurred in Brooklyn. Statewide, incidents of antisemitism jumped over 90 percent in 2017.

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