Elected officials, Jewish community leaders and members of the NYPD were joined by over 300 borough residents Sunday night at the Jewish Community Center (JCC) in Sea View to discuss ongoing security concerns amid a rise of anti-Semitic and hate crime attacks across New York City.
Community questions and in-progress security measures took center stage at the meeting, which was organized by the Council of Jewish Organizations (COJO) on Staten Island. Many in attendance voiced fears about the increased frequency of acts of anti-Semitism, from swastikas drawn in public spaces, to attacks that threaten the community.
The meeting comes in the wake of a pair anti-Semitic attacks separated by only three weeks in New York and New Jersey, which targeted Jewish civilians, and amid a 21% spike of anti-Semitic incidents overall in New York City, NYPD data shows.
The troubling connection between an uptick of anti-Semitic incidents three-quarters of a century after the Holocaust was not lost on Israel Nitzan, the deputy consul general of Israel, who attended the event. “It’s very difficult to believe that 75 years after the holocaust we have to deal with Jewish casualties, rising anti-Semitism,” he said.
Congressman Max Rose said “we have got to secure our communities” at the security meeting.
In December, an attack targeting Jewish people left a veteran police officer and three people dead inside of a Kosher Market in Jersey City. Less than three weeks later, a man allegedly stabbed five people in a rabbi’s home in Monsey, N.Y., on the seventh day of Hanukkah. Authorities said the man, who faces five attempted murder charges, among others, searched “Zionist temples of Staten Island” less than two weeks before the attack.
District Attorney Michael E. McMahon, who previously created a task force to combat hate crimes on Staten Island, struck a positive note considering the considerable attendance of the event. Scott Maurer, the CEO and executive vice president of Council of Jewish Organizations, who is also the co-chairman of the task force, emceed the gathering.
“In hours of darkness and moments of hatred where evil shows its ugly face, it’s moments like these that are exhilarating and heartwarming,” McMahon said of the packed meeting room.
Congressman Max Rose condemned the rise of anti-Semitic incidents and displayed anger that “people are afraid to speak Hebrew in public, afraid to observe their religion … here in New York City.”
Rose, who recently urged Staten Island at-risk institutions, like synagogues, churches and mosques, to apply for part of a $90 million grant and stood beside President Donald Trump when he signed an executive order combating anti-Semitism on college campuses, said “Now is not a time for partisanship.” “We can’t think about politics when we’re addressing [anti-Semitism],” Rose said, “We have got to secure our communities.” “No one in New York City should be afraid when they are praying,” Rose said. NYPD Assistant Chief Kenneth Corey spoke during the meeting.
Assistant Chief Kenneth Corey, the NYPD’s borough commander, said that the department stands “committed to ensuring the safety of every community in Staten Island.” “That’s not just something we say,” Corey said, “it’s something we practice.”
The NYPD recently announced that it would add hate crimes to its publicly-available crime database — CompStat — for the first time since the stat-tracking site’s inception. Additionally, the NYPD unveiled the Racially and Ethnically Motivated Extremism — “REME” — unit, which is “focused on any trends and any signs of racially and ethnically motivated extremism,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said after the shooting in Jersey City. Corey said that NYPD officers on Staten Island have increased their visible presence outside places of worship, but also called on the community to reach out to the NYPD in instances where they see suspicious activity.
“It’s better to call us and not need us than need us and not call us,” he said. Corey further commended COJO, Mendy Mirocznik, president, Scott Maurer, CEO and Executive Vice-President COJO and Ari Weiss, Chair COJO Security Committee and Coordinator Staten Island Shomrim for their partnership and communication. Thanks to COJO’s efforts the NYPD has a better understanding of the needs of the community and is in a better position in addressing those needs.
Assistant District Attorney Mark Palladino said that the district attorney’s office is especially dedicated to prosecuting hate crimes, saying that the office has a “strict no plea policy” in instances where a crime is motivated by hate. “If you are going to target a victim based on their race, their ethnicity, their religion, their sexual orientation, their age, even, well then you are going to face further incrimination and you are going to be held accountable because you did bring that element of hate to the criminal transaction.”
Assembly Member Nicole Malliotakis spoke to the need for education about anti-Semitism. Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis also spoke extensively about the perils of the recently-adopted bail reform law, said that education is essential for combating acts of anti-Semitism. “I think it’s incredibly important that we educate the next generation about the atrocities of the Holocaust,” Malliotakis said. “We have to ensure that every child — not only here in New York State — but across the country, gets the education about the history of these atrocities so they know what these words mean,” Malliotakis said — referring to the use of language like “Nazi” and “racist,” particularly on social media.
As recently as last week, a set of flyers promoting a New Jersey hate group were found in New Dorp. A similar series of flyers were found in the neighborhood months before. On the Staten Island Ferry, a pair of intended hate symbols a reversed swastika and SS bolts — were discovered on the Guy V. Molinari Staten Island Ferry on Jan. 6.
The meeting was also attended by Councilman Chaim Deutsch (D-Brooklyn), who updated the community on the efforts he is taking to fight anti-Semitism citywide. Councilman Deutsch made it clear that he will push for security funding and cameras to cover schools and houses of worship. Councilman Steve Matteo also attended the meeting and exclaimed his disgust over the rise of anti-Semitism and made it clear that he will not tolerate this unlawful conduct and will work with his partners in government, NYPD and law enforcement to put an end to it.
Mendy Mirocznik, the president of the Council of Jewish Organizations of Staten Island, concluded the meeting by thanking all those who claim to show support. Mirocznik stated, that “bad things happen when good people are silent. My hope is that we can solve this vexing problem and prevent those individuals with hate in them on acting on their evil feelings. However, the resounding clear message both from the community, the elected officials, and NYPD is that we as a community will not tolerate hate and anti-Semitism in Staten Island and if our preventative efforts are not successful, we will then seek enforcement, prosecution and accountability. It is only through tackling the problem and taking the no-nonsense approach of District Attorney McMahon will we see success in the war against hate.
Mirocznik thanked FDNY Chief Kevin Wood, Staten Island Borough Commander for attending and showing his support.