Gov. Kathy Hochul's bill aimed to protect organizations at risk, including those in the Five Towns


“Hate has absolutely no place in our state,” Gov. Kathy Hochul stated in a July 11 news release, “and we will continue to do whatever it takes to make sure every New Yorker is safe from baseless violence that stems from prejudice.”

Hochul signed a bill that day that will fund $51.6 million worth of safety and security enhancements at nonprofits and community-based organizations that are at risk of hate crimes or attacks because of beliefs, ideology or mission.

A little more than $8.5 million is slated to benefit 70 Long Island groups. The money can be used for security improvements such as barriers, alarms, panic buttons and shatter-resistant glass.

The Five Towns, home to many Jewish schools, community centers and cultural organizations, will likely receive some of the funds, but it is unknown which ones will benefit.

Hochul noted that hate crimes against Jews have doubled over the past year. “This is a historic investment in the communities that need our help the most,” she said, “and with these funds, New York’s most at-risk organizations will be able to invest in the security measures they need to stay safe. In the face of disgusting vitriol and violence, I want to be clear: We are not afraid. If you attack one of us, you attack us all, and no one wins a fight against New Yorkers.”

New York had 580 antisemitic incidents last year, a 39 percent increase to the 416 incidents reported in 2021, and the most of any state in the country, according to the Anti-Defamation League. Half of those incidents occurred at Jewish institutions, private residences, non-Jewish schools and businesses. According to the ADL, 42 took place in Nassau County.

At the Marion & Aaron Gural JCC in Cedarhurst, Executive Director Stacey Feldman said on behalf of the organization that it backed the governor’s efforts to combat hate.

“The Gural JCC supports Governor Hochul on her efforts and generous support to make sure our communities are safe and residents can live without fear,” Feldman said.

Michael Cohen, of Hewlett, Eastern director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a human rights organization that confronts antisemitism, hate and terrorism, attended the bill signing at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Manhattan.

“The Simon Wiesenthal Center highly commends Governor Hochul, as well as the bill’s authors, NYS Senator (Toby) Savitsky and NYS Assemblymember (Linda) Rosenthal for sending a strong and clear message that the state takes the fears of Jewish students in the face of rising antisemitic incidents on our state college campuses seriously,” Cohen wrote in an email. “While everyone around the table understands that the actions taken are a significant positive step in the right direction, I believe it is collectively recognized to by no means be the last step. This bill mandate sends a loud and clear message to all of New York’s college campuses — they need to immediately act decisively to protect their Jewish students from antisemitism or the state will.”

The bill will require colleges and universities statewide to review and enhance policies that address hate crimes.

This past school year, there were three incidents in which swastikas were etched on the walls of restrooms in Woodmere Middle School, in the Hewlett-Woodmere School District.

Cohen, who became aware of the incidents through mutual friends and parents in the district, was peppered with questions from them about what they can do.

Last month, Cohen was invited to speak to the Hewlett-Woodmere Board of Education as part of a workshop on combating crime. Others like it, organized by the center, are conducted in junior high and high schools around the country. Nearly 650, involving students in sixth through 12th grades, have taken place in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens.

The workshops help them identify offensive material on social media platforms and encourage them to combat all forms of hate, stereotyping and bullying.

Cohen said that he and Hewlett-Woodmere district officials have discussed bringing the program to the district.

“District #14’s Board of Education and Superintendent should be commended for not hiding from the issues of bias and hate that they have encountered in their schools, but rather facing the situation head on and recognizing that action must be taken,” he wrote. “… The Simon Wiesenthal Center program teams and the district leadership have been in regular contact since the June presentation to the board and are in the process of ensuring that District 14 students will be the beneficiaries of these critical programs in the coming academic year.”