Sharp Increase in Anti-Semitic Attacks

“When I was a kid, I was not afraid to go out in the street. My children grew up, and it wasn’t an issue neither. But now my grandchildren, they wake up in the morning, and they have to go to school or to go to the synagogue, I’m afraid what’s going to happen.” -Rabbi David Niederman

In the Williamsburg Section of Brooklyn, directly in front of the Williams Plaza housing project, just one block from the elevated “J” train, members of the Hasidic community walk up and down the street. So do other residents that happen to be African American, Latino, or from some other part of the world. Brooklyn is a melting pot when it comes to diversity and different communities co-existing. The Williams Plaza is owned by the City of New York. A “NYCHA” property which includes an Hasidic population.

Brooklyn New York

But for the last few years there has been a very disturbing trend

In fact alarming statistics of anti-semitic attacks.

I met with Rabbi David Niederman. He is the Executive Director of the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg and North Brooklyn. Here in the audio of our interview for the story on Verizon FiOS TV News/RNN.

Rabbi we are talking about a very serious subject, Anti-Semitism. Alarming increases. What is going on Rabbi? (Newsman Dominic Carter)

Rabbi Niederman responded.

“This is exactly the question I am asking? Precisely that question. And that is what worries everybody. And I wonder, and I keep on asking why! The fact is that we are bending over backwards to working with diverse communities, addressing everybody’s needs. So why are we being targeted. Why shouldn’t every child understand tolerance, respect. We live in the same planet, we live in the same city. We live in the same block. Why should either one, it doesn’t make a difference, but why should the Jewish Kid be afraid he will be knocked down. Or the story that happened…really that almost knock out Friday night. And it keeps on, and on, and on. I think it’s important that media, and social media should not only talk, and I’m sorry for saying that, but not only talk about something that divides us, but really talk also, and bring out the beauty of all communities, and the fact that, united, we will not be defeated, and otherwise it’s bad for everybody.” — Rabbi David Niederman of the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg and North Brooklyn

The videos of such attacks are absolutely horrible. In one, when you look closely at this surveillance video, it shows an orthodox man that is brutally attacked in Crown Heights Brooklyn, This happened in April of 2018. He’s pushed up against an iron fence, and the man attempts to strangle him.

Another incident is in broad day light… an orthodox man is chased and punched repeatedly in the middle of the street…..another person tries to break it up and he’s even chased.

Then just this month at Ivy League Columbia University, a vandal spray painted two large swastikas on the office walls of a professor who has written extensively about Jewish topics. And of course the shooting at the Pittsburgh synagogue. Eleven people killed including four police officers.

According to the Anti-Defamation league, anti-Semitic Incidents have not only had a sharp rise over the last few years…but in New York State shot Up 96 Percent just in 2017. The NY Times did a piece with the headline: “Is it safe to be Jewish in New York.”

Rabbi David Niederman

A newspaper caption that after pausing for a second pleased Rabbi Niederman even if for all the wrong reasons. This is the exact question I put forth: “Things are so bad, the NY Times recently did a piece, “Is it Safe to be Jewish in New York. How does that make you feel Rabbi?”

“It makes me feel good because it tells me that people outside, not from the Jewish Community really realize and appreciate the fear that we have, that we can’t walk freely in the streets. That unfortunately is terrible, but I’m happy people see it. The NY Times, everything that is fit to print say that, so everybody…leaders, community leaders, elected officials should start looking at this and say what can we do, are what are we doing. We have to do more to bring communities together…. versus dividing us.” Rabbi David Niederman

In your opinion, why is this happening?

“Because the media portrays the Hasidic community in a very negative light, and make it comfortable for people to say negative things against Hasidic Jews that they wouldn’t, not only not dare to do that and speak about somebody in a different ethnicity or religion, but even of Jews. A Hasidic Jew is something that they feel nobody will care about. That is what’s terrible.” Rabbi David Niederman

I also spoke to New York City Councilman Mark Levine. His district includes Columbia University. Here is the audio of our interview.

“ Councilman as far as Anti-Semitism, What is going on?”

“There’s been an incredible spike in Anti-Semitic incidents in New York City. Beginning in 2016, It’s continued last year, and this year even worse. This is not a problem unique to Red states and Rural America. Right here in New York City, this has been a persistent, persistent epidemic. There are more Anti-Semitic hate crimes then crimes of every other category against other identity groups in the city, and that’s despite the fact that Jewish New Yorkers are only 13 percent of the population. So it’s disportionately focused! We understand that a crime against any identity group in the City, is a threat to all of us. And I am no less concerned people that are attacked because of the color of their skin, because of their religious, ethnic, national, gender identity, because their LBGT New Yorkers. But we are particularly alarmed at the rise of Anti-Semitic attacks right here in New York City.” NYC Council Member Mark Levine

Levine puts the blame squarely on national leadership.

Councilman how do you explain the rise?

“Anti-Semitism is an ancient, ancient form of hatred, which has endured over the centuries. And it’s never been entirely absent from any society, certainly not American society, but It’s just undeniable that it was in 2016 when Donald Trump launched his presidential campaign, that we saw this noticeable, statistically increase in attacks on Jewish New Yorkers, and hate crimes in general, and I don’t think you can separate that from the climate of hostility that he has enabled. Whatever the cause, the impact is real, and it’s not just graffiti. It escalates far too often into violent attacks, and so the lesson is we have to combat it, confront it, denounce it in all its forms.” NYC Council Member Mark Levine

Now…. you want to go past just talking about the problem, you want to actually do something about the problem. Tell me about it Councilman?

“We have to up our game in the battle against hate crimes. That is going to require us coordinating amongst many different agencies in New York City have has a role in this battle. Not just the NYPD, but we need the DOE mobilized to create curriculum to educate young people, to help prevent hate crimes. We need the Health Department involved, so that they send Mental Health Counselors to communities which are victims of these attacks. We need to collect data from the District Attorney’s, so that we have accurate reporting on the trends. This is done for other challenges that the city faces. Whether it’s Combating Domestic Violence. Whether it’s advancing climate resiliency, or coordinating film production, or coordinating services to immigrants, we’re doing it for other challenges the City is facing. We need to do it in the battle against hate crimes. So we have legislation. It’s Intro number 1,2,3,4, very easily to remember, that would establish an office at the mayoral level to coordinate, the fight against hate crimes in New York City.” NYC Council Member Mark Levine

Are you worried that “Never Again,” might be closer than you think?

“I don’t think we can any more ignore this threat. I don’t think we can say that hate speech is nothing more than speech. We have seen it now elevated to the level of the ugliest violence in Pittsburgh, and we need to denounce it, and confront it, and call it out in all its forms. Whether the target is Jewish New Yorkers, or any group. Muslims, African Americans, LBGT people. We have to denounce the cancer that is hate speech, and hate crimes, and I’m calling for the City to do that in a more robust, intense level through the creation of this office.” NYC Council Member Mark Levine

I close with the Rabbi as he points to the media. “Is the anything Rabbi that I didn’t ask you that you feel needs to be said?”

“Let me just say the media…the media..can do alot to improve the lives of all residents so that we celebrate our diversity and live in peace.” Rabbi David Niederman

There are numerous other attacks in Brooklyn alone, caught on surveillance tape. New York Officials say they have had enough.

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Dominic Carter

Dominic Carter

Dominic Carter is a TV Political Commentator and WABC Talk Radio host in NY. Dominic is a Keynote Speaker on Children issues, Foster Care, and Mental Illness.