Political and faith leaders from across the area joined together over the past week to rebuke the spread of hatred and anti-Semitism after a man broke into a rabbi’s home and assaulted five people on the seventh night of Chanukah in Monsey, NY.
The Sid Jacobson Jewish Community Center (JCC) in East Hills hosted a community gathering on Friday, Dec. 3 to offer support to the area’s Jewish community and send a message that discrimination in all its forms will not be tolerated anywhere in Nassau County.
“I think it is more important than ever that we are together to say with one voice that we have zero tolerance for hate crimes, bias crimes and anti-Semitism in our county,” Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said at the gathering. “While crimes in many indices are going down, we have to be very careful about the fact that hate crimes are going the wrong way.”
Curran, who spoke in front of a projector screen emblazoned with the words “Hate Has No Home Here” in six languages, commended the work of the Nassau County Police Department (NCPD) in keeping the county’s communities safe. She then announced that county police will be increasing their patrols around churches, synagogues, mosques and other areas of worship, as well as cultural center’s for the counties minority communities, in order to ensure a tragedy like the attack at Monsey would not repeat itself in Nassau.
According to the county, there were 50 hate crimes, 30 of them anti-Semitic, reported in Nassau from January to late-September 2019. Those numbers represent a sharp increase from 2018, when the county had 34 reported incidents of hate crimes for the whole year.
Anti-Semitism most recently made headlines in the area when the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County (HMTC) in Glen Cove was defaced with graffiti twice in two weeks, with spray-painted swastikas included in the second incident. In response, Curran and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone announced the formation of a bi-county task force to combat hate crimes across Long Island.
The Town of North Hempstead has participated in the nationwide Not In Our Town project since 2017. Supervisor Judi Bosworth, the daughter of Holocaust survivors, reiterated the town’s commitment to standing against discrimination.
“We’re here to denounce those evil acts of violence and anti-Semitism,” Bosworth said. “We cannot be silent. Silence is a form of acquiescence, and history has taught us the consequences of silence when hate rears its ugly head. North Hempstead stands with all of you, united, in saying there’s no room for hateful speech or actions.”
Speakers throughout the event made reference again and again to the words of Martin Luther King while discussing how best to respond to hatred.
“We all share the same theory of ministry and work, the vision of a God who delivers,” First Baptist Church of Glen Cove Pastor Roger Williams said. “The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, in writing ‘A Letter From A Birmingham Jail,’ said such a poignant phrase. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. It behooves all of us who have come from communities where we have known the threats of hate to come together today and speak to the specificity of this matter.”
At the close of the gathering, Temple Beth Sholom Rabbi Uri Allen and a group of young Israeli men and women spending time stateside before conscription led the audience in song whose title translates to “The Song of Love,” first in Hebrew, then in English, as the hundreds gathered in attendance clapped to the rhythm and sang together.
Later that day, public figures and spiritual leaders again gathered in Great Neck for a unity shabbat service at Temple Beth El. New York State Senator Anna Kaplan organized the event, which featured village, town, state and county politicians from both Nassau and Suffolk, as well as Jewish spiritual leaders and Jonathan Greenblatt, the director of the Anti-Defamation League.
Kaplan was sent to the United States by her parents when the Iranian Revolution took hold of Persia and the country’s Jewish population endured heavy discrimination and abuse from the state. Coming to America as a refugee fleeing anti-Semitism, Kaplan said that seeing anti-Semitism rise in her new home has been particularly painful.
“As a Jewish refugee who came to this country fleeing anti-Semitic violence in my homeland, my heart aches over the outbreak of anti-Semitic violence taking place here in New York and across the country,” Kaplan said. “I invited my Senate colleagues and colleagues from across government and public service to join me in prayer as a powerful display of unity and support for Jewish New Yorkers, and as a demonstration of solidarity in combating the crisis of anti-Semitism in every community.”
The following morning, Kaplan reflected that “it’s so critical that we all stand together and speak out at every opportunity to combat the crisis of anti-Semitism and hatred, and last night’s event was an important moment of unity, strength and support that is so desperately needed during this difficult time.”
In addition to the events already held, a march against anti-Semitism will be held in Mineola on Sunday, Jan. 12. The march will begin at 3 p.m. in front of the Theodore Roosevelt Executive and Legislative Building at 1550 Franklin Ave.