New Jersey House Rep. advocates for COVID-19 antisemitism protection

Antisemitism hit a new all-time high in the US in 2019 and continued on an upward trajectory for the sixth straight year, according to the Anti-Defamation League’s annual report.

Orthodox Jews arrive during the 13th Siyum HaShas, a celebration marking the completion of the Daf Yomi, a seven-and-a-half-year cycle of studying texts from the Talmud, the canon of Jewish religious law, at the MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, U.S. (photo credit: REUTERS/JEENAH MOON)
Orthodox Jews arrive during the 13th Siyum HaShas, a celebration marking the completion of the Daf Yomi, a seven-and-a-half-year cycle of studying texts from the Talmud, the canon of Jewish religious law, at the MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, U.S.
(photo credit: REUTERS/JEENAH MOON)
New Jersey Rep. Bill Pascrell is requesting that the federal government vamp up their efforts with regard to combating antisemitism, as surges in hate crimes have emerged surrounding unsubstantiated claims surrounding blame in the coronavirus pandemic.
Antisemitism hit a new all-time high in the US in 2019 and continued on an upward trajectory for the sixth straight year, according to the Anti-Defamation League’s annual report.
“In the midst of people trying to come together and do the right thing [to battle the virus], it is very sad when you see people falsely being accused of being the cause of the COVID-19, and this has being going on for a while,” Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) said in an interview with Jewish Insider on Thursday
Physical assaults against Jews rose 56% compared with 2018, which had twice as many as in 2017.
In total, there were 2,107 incidents of antisemitism in 2019, a 12% rise over the 1,879 in 2018, which was the second highest on record this century after the 1,986 recorded in 2017.
New York State recorded 430 antisemitic incidents in 2019, the highest of any state, followed by New Jersey with 345, California with 330, Massachusetts with 114 and Pennsylvania with 109.
“That’s nauseating, absolutely unacceptable,” he said. “And things like this don’t start in a vacuum. They are initiated by those who seek to divide us.”
Last week, Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY) introduced legislation (The COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act [H.R. 6721]) demanding the Department of Justice provide Congress with updates of reporting bias with regard to the coronavirus pandemic - requesting Attorney-General Wiliam Barr to designate an officer from the DOJ to review said cases.
Pascrell hopes that the legislation will be awareness to “a very serious problem which is affecting democracy” and that “would precipitate” action.
“Antisemitism has existed before COVID-19, it has existed for years — all over the place, and we’re not addressing it,” Pascrell said. “We bumper-sticker the problem. We say, ‘Oh, we are with you.’ But what are we doing?” Pascrell told JI it was time for lawmakers to call out antisemitism and bigotry “wherever and whenever it may appear.”
The number of antisemitic incidents in 2019, which includes acts of assault, vandalism and harassment, eclipsed figures for both those years.
The year witnessed several hate-inspired murders of US Jews, including the shooting attack on haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Jews in Jersey City, New Jersey, in December in which four people were killed, and a brutal stabbing attack in Monsey, New York, in the same month in which one man eventually died from his wounds and four were wounded.
In April 2019, one woman was killed in a shooting attack at the Chabad of Poway synagogue in San Diego.
“This was a year of unprecedented antisemitic activity, a time when many Jewish communities across the country had direct encounters with hate,” ADL CEO Jonathan A. Greenblatt said. “This contributed to a rising climate of anxiety and fear in our communities. We are committed to fighting back against this rising tide of hate and will double down on our work with elected leaders, schools and communities to end the cycle of hatred.”
Jeremy Sharon and Zachary Keyser contributed to this report.