Twitter and other social media forums are abuzz with worry and anger about two anti-Semitic incidents in New York City: the smashing of windows at a girl’s yeshiva, and the scrawling of swastikas and a message — “Kill all Jews” — on a Manhattan subway station wall.
These two incidents, which happened between Friday night and Monday morning, are adding to the widespread sense that anti-Semitic hate crimes are on the rise. New York’s Jews are justified in feeling this way, say local and national experts.
“The Jewish community is more fearful than ever,” said Evan Bernstein, the New York and New Jersey regional director at the Anti-Defamation League.
The New York Police Department has received 200 anti-Semitic hate crime complaints so far this year, which is up almost a third from the same period in 2018. Almost half of all hate crimes reported were directed at Jews, according to the NYPD.
Online, the community continues to lament a few especially horrific attacks, including a rabbi being assaulted with a large paving stone, a man beaten with a belt and a delivery driver being pelted with rocks.
ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt and Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams will host a press conference Tuesday to announce a new initiative aimed at reducing anti-Semitic violence and hate crimes.
“I wanted to sit down and look at this and just come up with a proactive way of addressing this problem,” Adams said. “I’m really concerned about the increase in hate crimes across the city in general, but specifically, those that we are witnessing dealing with the Jewish community.”
Violent assaults have mostly taken place in the Crown Heights neighborhood in Brooklyn, and many have been perpetrated by young black men, according to video surveillance footage. Bernstein said those incidents might be the result of a “turf battle” that has been spawned by the expansion of the Orthodox community, and landlord disputes that have bred “negative feelings.”
“A lot of it always seems to come down to gentrification,” he said.
Brooklyn residents of all faiths are being pushed out of long-term, affordable housing and as the numbers of identifiably Orthodox residents continue to grow due to high birth rates, everyone feels the squeeze — despite the “wonderful working connections” between communities of color and white Orthodox residents, said Bernstein.
Brooklyn saw 13 violent anti-Semitic assaults in 2018, and more than 70 other anti-Semitic incidents, according to the NYPD.
New York City is a part of a larger trend of an increase in violent anti-Semitic hate crimes, said Brian Levin, the director of the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at California State University in San Bernardino.
“The thing to look at is really the crimes of violence,” he said. “Our numbers are showing an increase in violence directed against Jews and we’re seeing a diverse group of people committing this violence.”
As the attacks continue in New York City, some residents wonder why perpetrators escape despite surveillance video by the local neighborhood watch in Orthodox neighborhoods, the Shomrim.
Yet the NYPD’s arrest record for anti-Semitic hate crimes from last year is largely proportional to the number of those incidents. Of all of the hate crime arrests the NYPD made in 2018, nearly half were for anti-Semitic hate crimes, according to data from the department.
Rabbi Eli Cohen, the executive director of the Crown Heights Community Council, said the neighborhood has had a “good response” from the police.
“The police are doing their job,” he said.
Virginia Jeffries contributed reporting.