New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a range of new measures on Sunday to combat anti-Semitism after a slew of recent attacks against the Jewish community in the city and surrounding areas.
The mayor spoke at a press conference at Brooklyn’s Central Library, standing alongside New York City Police Commissioner Dermot Shea and New York State Attorney General Letitia James. None of the Orthodox Jewish community’s four elected officials were at the press conference, according to Jewish Insider.
“Hate crimes ― the word doesn’t even begin to capture the full reality. It is not just a physical attack. Hate crimes constitute an attack on our society, on our democracy, on our values,” de Blasio said. “Any hate crime tries to take us backward, we will not go backward. We will never go back to the past that we suffered through.”
The new measures focus on three Brooklyn neighborhoods — Williamsburg, Crown Heights and Borough Park — and will include larger police presences there, installing more security cameras, and creating “neighborhood safety coalitions.” The city’s Department of Education will also implement new school curriculum focusing on “what hate crimes really mean and the dangers they pose” starting next month.
“We have to reach our young people more effectively. This is the crux of so much of what we’re seeing right now,” de Blasio said. “When hatred takes a violent form, it then moves from one community to the next, to the next. And so many can be lost as that horrible momentum builds. Our young people have to understand this history, but we have to teach it to them.”
The measures will be overseen by the newly created Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes. Following his announcement, de Blasio will join the community in lighting the world’s largest menorah on the last day of Hanukkah.
“The menorah symbolizes the positive, the light, the hope. Everyone tonight should remember that hope and act to build it,” the mayor said. “For all those those in the Jewish community who are feeling pain and feeling fear right now, when you light that candle tonight, know that we stand with you.”
The measures come the day after after five Hasidic Jews were injured in a stabbing attack at a rabbi’s home in Monsey, a suburb north of New York City. A man armed with what appeared to be a machete burst into the home, where people were attending a Hanukkah celebration, and began slashing and chasing victims before he fled the scene on Saturday night.
Monsey is a community with a large population of ultra-Orthodox Jews. The attack happened in the home of Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg, who leads the synagogue Congregation Netzach Yisroel next door to his house, according to the Rockland/Westchester Journal.
Police arrested a suspect identified as 37-year-old Grafton E. Thomas, who pleaded not guilty Sunday morning to charges of attempted murder and burglary. Thomas’ bail was set at $5 million.
While the motive for the attack has still not been officially determined, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) called the incident an “act of domestic terrorism.”
“This is intolerance meets ignorance meets illegality,” Cuomo told reporters Sunday. “This is an intolerant time in this country. We see anger, we see hatred exploding. It is an American cancer in the body politic.”
The attack in Monsey marks what Cuomo said was the 13th anti-Semitic incident to occur in the state of New York over the last few weeks. At least six such incidents appeared to have happened in New York City in just the last week. The NYPD recorded over 300 total hate crimes from January to September of this year, more than half of which targeted Jewish people, according to the Times of Israel.
The attacks during the week of Hanukkah happened about two weeks after a targeted anti-Semitic shooting at a kosher market in nearby Jersey City, where two of the three victims who died were Hasidic Jews.
New York City had already increased police patrols in three Brooklyn neighborhoods as a result of the slew of attacks.