New York saw a spike in hate crimes directed at the Jewish community toward the end of 2019 — during Hanukkah, of all times. It was particularly disturbing given that the holidays are traditionally a time of good will, when crime rates tend to drop.
The trend was, perhaps, not surprising, given that hate crimes reached a 16-year high in 2019, according to an FBI report released in November. Hispanics have consistently been the targets of many of these crimes nationwide, but in New York, half of all hate crimes have been aimed at Jews.
Shortly before the holidays, the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County, in Glen Cove, was vandalized with anti-Semitic graffiti that included swastikas. Imagine that: Someone actually had the audacity to deface an institution whose purpose is to remember the 6 million Jews killed during World War II, with the symbol of that evil.
The Hanukkah stabbing of five in Monsey, N.Y.; the December attack at a kosher market in Jersey City, N.J., in which a local yeshiva and Catholic school were riddled by gunfire; and the mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh in October 2018 underscore the need to protect Jewish institutions from violent extremism.
As part of New York’s Securing Communities Against Hate Crimes Grant Program, funds were allocated to enhance security at local religious schools and cultural centers. Long Island will receive more than $2 million in state funding for safety improvements, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office. This is a much-needed step that will no doubt protect people.
Still, we could all do more. In 2020, we must speak out against acts of bias, discrimination and racism, wherever and whenever we see them, in order to stamp out the hatred that is brewing in our nation.