US political leaders discuss safety, vow to tackle antisemitism for New York’s Jews

NY Gov. Hochul announced the initiation of a new statewide task force to combat antisemitism alongside Mayor Adams, Sen. Schumer and Homeland Security Sec. Mayorkas at the forum on Monday

 NYC Mayor Eric Adams speaks at the Orthodox Union in Manhattan. (photo credit: HALEY COHEN)
NYC Mayor Eric Adams speaks at the Orthodox Union in Manhattan.
(photo credit: HALEY COHEN)

NEW YORK – Federal, state and city leaders spoke about the surge of antisemitism on Monday, at a forum hosted by the Orthodox Union in Manhattan. During the meeting, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced the initiation of a new statewide task force to combat antisemitism.

The event at Lincoln Square Synagogue on the Upper West Side focused on combating hate and enhancing security in Jewish communities.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams and Senate Majority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer spoke, along with US Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

Hochul, who last month became the first woman elected New York governor, said, “We can be in the prevention business. The Hate and Bias Prevention Unit is launching today,” the governor said, explaining that the unit is expected to serve as an early warning detection system in local communities, and quickly mobilize support in areas in which a bias incident has occurred.

“Today I’m announcing a hate and bias prevention unit going to all 62 counties,” she said. “New York State will use every tool at its disposal to eliminate hate and bias from our communities. We will not let the rise in hate incidents that we see happening online, across the country and across the world, take root here at home.“I could not be prouder to represent the largest Jewish community outside of Israel,” Hochul continued. “This is who New Yorkers are. We embrace everyone. When you attack one of us, you’re picking a fight with 20 million New Yorkers, starting with your governor. I’m a fighter from Buffalo.”

Schumer, the highest-ranking Jewish official to ever serve in the US, said, “When antisemitism rears its head and reaches the horrible levels we have seen, if we don’t speak out, it grows deeper and deeper. Blame the Jew has always been the scapegoat for those who are anguished about other things.”

 A NYPD officer stands guard near the Penn Station where streets have been closed following an early morning shooting in Manhattan New York, November 9, 2015.  (credit: BRENDAN MCDERMID/REUTERS) A NYPD officer stands guard near the Penn Station where streets have been closed following an early morning shooting in Manhattan New York, November 9, 2015. (credit: BRENDAN MCDERMID/REUTERS)

Adams, a former New York Police Department captain, said, “I did not spend 22 years of my life as a member of the NYPD protecting the people of this city to surrender to those who believe hate is going to have a foothold in this city. It will not happen.

“I did not spend 22 years of my life as a member of the NYPD protecting the people of this city to surrender to those who believe hate is going to have a foothold in this city. It will not happen."

NYC Mayor Eric Adams

“Antisemitism is not a Jewish issue, it’s a human issue,” Adams continued. “I get it. You’re watching your loved ones being attacked merely because of their religious beliefs. I get it that you’re watching across the globe the rise of antisemitism and the 125% increase in antisemitism in this city. I get it that swastikas are becoming so common. I get it that as you attempt to have a normal way of life, some people are afraid to put on a yarmulke.”

Adams continued: "You assault someone because they're Jewish, because they're African American, because they wear a hijab, you should not have that assault downgrade to harassment. I don't believe we have one person who has been arrested for a hate crime that served time in jail. That is unacceptable. It states that hate is acceptable . I believe there are two types of ministry. There's a ministry that should put in place to prevent crime, but also there should be a prison ministry where you should learn from your actions and think through before you ever do it again." 

MAYORKAS REFLECTED that as child, he was not allowed to go to sleep-away camp or have sleepovers because his mother was traumatized from the horrors of the Holocaust.“Sixty-three percent of religious hate crimes in the US are motivated by antisemitism,” Mayorkas said. “It is very important that we’re gathered here today to discuss the rise of antisemitism in our country and what we can and must do to combat it.”

The meeting was held amid a spike in antisemitic hate crimes across the city and the nation, and after the arrests of two men who last month threatened an attack on a New York City synagogue.

The Anti-Defamation League Center on Extremism released data earlier this year indicating a record number of anti-Jewish incidents in the US in 2021, the highest number since the organization started tracking an annual audit on antisemitic attacks in 1979. The ADL tallied 2,717 antisemitic incidents nationwide in 2021.

Antisemitic hate crimes across New York City’s five boroughs more than doubled in November from a year ago, NYPD data revealed this month. There were 45 hate crimes motivated by antisemitism in November versus 20 in November 2021, according to NYPD data, a 125% rise.

Notable attendees at Monday’s event included social media influencer Elizabeth Savetsky, who uses her platform to outspokenly support Israel and Judaism, and Masha Pearl, executive director of The Blue Card, a national nonprofit that aids needy Holocaust survivors.

“I’m so happy that the Orthodox Union is taking the initiative to hold this meeting today with politicians and Jewish community leaders so we can address the rise of antisemitism,” Savetsky told The Jerusalem Post.

Savetsky said she and her family have not felt safe in recent weeks. She recalled that earlier this month, her husband received a letter sent to his Manhattan office with a threat using antisemitic slurs.

“This is something we’re taking seriously and I’m curious to hear what political leaders have to say and what actions they think we can take to feel safer as a community,” Savetsky said. “There’s a blind spot when it comes to antisemitism that doesn’t exist within other communities. When we see hate rising in other communities there are immediate actions taken. As a Jewish community we are usually left to our own devices coming up with our own security.”

Pearl said that as a child of Holocaust survivors, it was “powerful to see elected officials coming together and pledging their support in combating antisemitism at this time.”

“It’s frightening to not feel protected going to synagogue,” Pearl told the Post. “This gives us hope that there will not be a resurgence of what happened in the Holocaust. Today made our community feel that we are not alone.”