NEW YORK – New York City Mayor Eric Adams and former Soviet prisoner and former Deputy Prime Minister of Israel, Natan Sharansky, were among notable speakers at the New York Symposium Against Antisemitism, held Tuesday afternoon in Manhattan.
“We are using antiquated methods to dismantle a modern day crisis,” Mayor Adams said. “If our methods are to merely sit in a sterilized environment of a room like this, with those of us who are all part of the same choir, that is not how you’re going to end antisemitism. The problem is not in this room, the problem is out there.”
The forum, hosted by the global coalition Combat Antisemitism Movement (CAM), also included former US Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism Elan Carr, New York City Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes Hassan Naveed and social media influencer and activist Elizabeth Savetsky, who uses her platform to support Israel and Judaism.
Naveed called his coalition the first of its kind. “There’s no other office like ours elsewhere in the country," he said about his office putting together a hate crime education curriculum in schools, which includes putting together resource guides on antisemitism.
“Misinformation is at an all time high,” Naveed added. “We have to combat hate with education. An attack on one of us, is an attack on all of us.”
Savetsky, who shared the event on her Instagram page with her 225,000 followers, told The Jerusalem Post it was "an honor" to attend the symposium.
"[There were] so many powerhouses from many organizations coming to the table with different viewpoints, experiences, and areas of expertise," she said. "We heard from Natan Sharansky, one of the most prominent prisoners of Zion, who personifies Jewish strength and perseverance. We heard from Mayor Adams who shared a message of the importance of breaking down barriers through conversation. I participated in a round table discussion about digital diplomacy in the age of influencers where we discussed the challenges of fighting antisemitism online and on social media and how we can most effectively reach outside our eco chamber. It was a productive meeting of minds. We are working hard to combat antisemitism and there is so much more to do."
Mayor Adams also referenced social media, saying, “Young people are being fed hate every day. If you aspire to be like someone, even when they do positive things, you’ll aspire to be like them when they start to do negative things. Don’t underestimate the power of Kanye West and what he did, and the millions and millions of young people who know nothing about the history of what antisemitism represents. They only know the modern day version of the credible messenger. When you are in pain, you reach out and displace your anger at whatever fits the conversation that's available. I see young people drawing swastikas without knowing what it is.”
Adams went on to call for action. “Some of our greatest legal minds need to come together and sue the social media companies that are destroying our communities and our cities and feeding our children the hate and despair they’re witnessing.”
Sharansky, who spent 9 years in Soviet prisons and several years in solitary confinement before becoming Deputy Prime Minister of Israel from 2001 to 2003, said: “The most important beachhead in the struggle for the future of the Jewish people are on our campuses. And today of course, antisemitism has gotten so big, there is a rise on the left, the right, in the Islamist community, and elsewhere.”
“Antisemitism for thousands of years was always uniting our people, religious or nonreligious. Whether in Paris or Kiev, it didn’t matter,” added Sharansky. It came from all different directions, he observed, but the Jewish people were always united in their response.
“Today, it’s not the case,” Sharansky said. “Some rabbis in their synagogues are afraid to speak about this phenomenon, because it has become very political, on the left and the right. One says, ’The real antisemitism is on the left.’ The other says, ’The real antisemitism is on the right.’ Or the real antisemites are Antifa, or the Proud Boys. People on the left have to fight antisemitism on the left, and people on the right have to fight antisemitism on the right," he concluded.
Antisemitism in New York City
The symposium was held as Jews in New York City and the state face a surge of antisemitic incidents.
In New York City, Jews are consistently targeted far more than any other group. Antisemitic hate crimes across the Big Apple's five boroughs more than doubled in November from a year prior, NYPD data revealed. There were 45 hate crimes motivated by antisemitism in November versus 20 in November 2021, according to NYPD data, a 125% rise.
New York state will provide $25 million to organizations that are considered vulnerable to hate crimes, Governor Kathy Hochul announced earlier this month.