New York City mayor calls on Black and Jewish groups to build on their historic alliances
Responding to an increase in openly anti-Jewish rhetoric, New York City Mayor Eric Adams said in a recent interview that he wants social media companies to examine how they have allowed hate and antisemitism to spread on their platforms.
“Social media has allowed people to coalesce with others who harbored those same thoughts, historically,” Adams said. “It is now a method that permits people to be radicalized right from their own bedrooms, even if the other family members are not part of what’s causing that radicalization. And it allowed them to recruit people who have experienced trauma and pain to funnel that into being harmful and hurtful.”
Adams said this has to be countered by having the social media industry take a stronger role in dealing with hate, along with law enforcement’s efforts to identify and prosecute those who have committed hate crimes.
Adams attended a global gathering of municipal leaders to address the rise in antisemitism last week in Athens. In his remarks at the two-day Mayors Summit Against Antisemitism, Adams said society has become “accustomed” to antisemitism because it has slowly been normalized online. He used the analogy of a frog surviving in a pot of boiling water if the temperature is slowly increased.
“When you normalize something,” he said, “people have a tendency to believe that they can do whatever they want without any repercussions.”
The gathering co-hosted by the Combat Antisemitism Movement, in partnership with the Center for Jewish Impact and the Jewish Federations of North America, was largely kept under wraps before it convened and organizers did not invite reporters to cover the event. It raised questions about whether the group, founded in 2019 amid a surge in violent antisemitic attacks, was shielding participants from unwanted criticism about its objectives and goals as tensions over how to fight antisemitism have divided the Jewish community.
In the interview, Adams said he initially thought it was important to accept the invitation and travel in person to deliver a message of support as mayor of the city with the largest Jewish population outside of Israel. “But little did I know that my arrival did more than allow me to show my support,” he said. “My arrival was inspiring to the other mayors.”
During his visit, Adams also visited the Beth Shalom Synagogue and laid a wreath at the Holocaust Memorial of Athens.
Adams said leaders also have to think of “creative ways” to foster relations between Black and Jewish communities that have historically worked together to combat bigotry. He dismissed the idea that the Black-Jewish alliance has taken a hit with the recent comments by the rapper Kanye West and NBA star Kyrie Irving. “I don’t think there is a period of restoration that’s needed,” said Adams, who is the second Black mayor of New York. “We need to raise a new generation of Black and Jewish groups and coalitions in our schools, our universities and our civic and youth groups, and start building out a new pipeline so that that good relationship does not fade away or die.”
In a virtual press conference upon the conclusion of the conference, Adams told reporters that he wants to see a “no plea-bargaining rule at all” for suspects arrested for committing hate crimes. “It is imperative that we do not attempt to cover up hate crimes but respond to them accordingly, charge people accordingly and hold them accountable for their actions,” he said.