As anti-Semitic hate crimes continue to rise, some Jewish organizations are putting their hopes into anti-bias education programs.
On Tuesday the Anti-Defamation League announced it was doubling its funding, adding $250,000 more, for its “No Place for Hate” programs in Brooklyn — where the lion’s share of the city’s anti-Semitic-fueled crimes have taken place.
“To stop hate, we cannot just arrest our way out of the problem, we have got to change hearts and minds,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said at a news conference Tuesday, JTA reported. “It is so important to focus on children so we can inoculate the next generation from intolerance, so we can immunize them against anti-Semitism and all forms of hate.”
Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams vowed to support the program. “No one should fear for their safety or be victimized because of their religious beliefs. But since extremist, hate-filled rhetoric has become awakened and stoked across this country … this unacceptable behavior is increasingly becoming the norm for some. And our children become indoctrinated and tainted in the process,” he said, adding that “our youth are our society’s most capable change agents.”
ADL’s No Place for Hate helps schools teach students how to combat “bias, bullying and hatred,” and sends “a clear, unified message that all students have a place where they belong,” where “respect and equity are the goals.”
Last year, ADL worked with 22 schools in Brooklyn. With the additional funding ADL will be working in as many as 40 schools — with an emphasis on public schools in Crown Heights and Williamsburg.
Also on Tuesday, the American Jewish Committee launched “Translate Hate” online, a page that presents 25 words and expressions — including “clannish,” “conspiracy theory,” “dual loyalty,” and “globalist” — that are examples of anti-Semitism and explains why they are anti-Semitic and how they’ve been used in the past to vilify Jews.
Meanwhile, a bit of hope came to Borough Park — the site of the most recent incidents — with the arrest of a 16-year-old in connection with a string of harassment and assault incidents against chasidic Jews just after midnight on Shabbat two weeks ago.
The teen is accused of participating in the first incident, at the corner of New Utrecht Avenue and 53rd Street, in which several men jumped out of a car, shined a flashlight at a pair of 15-year-old boys and yelled “Run, Jew.”
The second incident took place a few minutes later when what appeared to be the same car passed a couple walking near 14th Avenue and 48th Street, according to The Jewish Press. The car pinned the man against a parked car, and one of the passengers reached out of the window and punched him, luckily not connecting well enough to do any injury, said Motti Katz, a coordinator of the Borough Park Shomrim, a neighborhood watch group.
A few minutes later, what appears to be the same car stopped at 14th Avenue and 51st Street. Several men got out and chased a Jewish man. The man yelled and the men returned to the car, according to The Jewish Press.
The fourth incident took place near 14th Avenue and 53rd Street, according to Katz, who told The Jewish Week he didn’t have additio
nal details on that incident. However, incoming Police Commissioner Dermot Shea confirmed that four incidents did take place. He said cops have made “significant progress on the investigation” and that the NYPD “should have more to say on hopefully some arrests in a short time.”
Although the teen’s accused crime was classified as perpetrating aggravated harassment as a hate crime, because he is under 18, his sentence will be lighter than if he were an adult. While an adult could get up to one year in jail or three years of probation as well as a fine of up to $1,000, a teen would be tried in family court and the sentence will not include jail time. Instead, the judge will determine if he needs supervision, treatment or placement in an alternative living situation.
All but one of the victims in these incidents was hesitant to report the crimes to the police, believing that it wasn’t worth the trouble since even if suspects were arrested, they would probably be let go or get negligible sentences. Eventually, all but one of the victims made reports.
After the attacks, the NYPD sent additional cops to patrol Borough Park. That, and the arrest, has caused Borough Park Jews to have more trust in the NYPD, said Katz.
“They are very pleased to see that there was an arrest, and they do know that the NYPD and the NYPD hate crimes unit are working on it,” Katz said.
That said, despite the additional patrols, the crimes are continuing. This past weekend the weapon of choice was eggs. According to the NYPD, there were at least three incidents: On Saturday evening, a 38-year-old woman was on the stoop on a building on 38th Street near 14th Avenue when someone threw an egg at her. The egg hit the stoop and splattered onto her.
Ten minutes later a boy opened the door of Congregation Bnei Torah Sanz on Dahill Road just off McDonald Avenue and someone threw an egg through the door, hitting a wall.
The next day, three men ran up behind a 50-year-old woman on 38th Street near 15th Avenue and threw an egg, hitting her back.
People in Borough Park “feel good about the police coverage,” Katz said, “but they are upset that this keeps happening. They want to know what it is that they can do so that this should stop happening.”
According to Avi Greenfield, CEO of the Borough Park Jewish Community Council, there was a fourth incident this past weekend. Just after 10 p.m. two women were in front of the BPJCC when a car drove by with the passengers yelling anti-Semitic curses at them.
“We as a community will get together and see what we can do,” he said. “Most importantly we will work very closely with law enforcement. If we make sure that everyone in the community feels comfortable, hopefully may feel more comfortable reporting hate crimes.”
The recent incidents in Borough Park are part of a spike in anti-Semitic hate crimes in the city and nationwide.
In Brooklyn alone, there were at least 93 incidents of anti-Semitic violence, harassment and vandalism, including 13 violent anti-Semitic assaults in 2018, according to the NYPD.
There has been a notable spike in anti-Semitic graffiti in the subway, said NYPD Transit Chief Ed Delatorre at a press conference on crime statistics last week.
Between January and the end of August, anti-Semitic subway hate crimes were up 225 percent compared to last year, from 12 to 39, the New York Post reported.
Thirteen of the anti-Semitic hate crimes involved an assault, Delatorre said.
So far this year, there have been 68 hate crime investigations, up from 44 during the same period last year. Most — 55 — of the investigations concern graffiti and most of those — 39 — contained anti-Semitic elements — twice as many as this time last year.
“It’s basically swastikas being drawn in various places around the subway, sometimes on the train, in the bathroom, sometimes on a pillar in the subway,” he said, adding that the NYPD investigates “every single incident,” and is taking such steps as adding hidden cameras in places where there have been multiple incidents.
Nationwide, the FBI reported this week that there were 7,120 hate crimes in 2018. Of the religion-based hate crimes, more than half were against Jews in 2018. There were 24 hate crime murders, due to the 11 Jews murdered at the Tree of Life Synagogue, the highest since the FBI began tracking them in 1991.
Other notable findings in the FBI report include that race continues to be the most common motivation for hate crimes, with nearly half of race-based hate crimes targeting African-Americans. Hate crimes against the LGBTQ community increased by almost 6 percent, including a whopping 42 percent increase in crimes against transgender people, up from 119 in 2017 to 168 in 2018.
“Over the last few years, our audit has shown some of the highest numbers that we’ve ever seen,” said ADL New York Regional Director Evan Bernstein.
While anti-Semitic crimes usually wax and wane, right now there is only waxing. “This has been a kind of consistent ongoing assault, there hasn’t been any kind respite,” he said.
And, he added, “For every incident that’s reported, there are three more that aren’t reported.”