By Meaghan McGoldrick and Ned Berke
The NYPD will immediately beef up its presence in Brooklyn’s Jewish communities as the city rolls out other initiatives in classrooms, on the streets and on social media to combat a “crisis” of anti-Semitic attacks, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Sunday.
Anti-Semitic incidents in New York City are up 21 percent as of Sunday, according to NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea. Police were investigating at least three potentially anti-Semitic attacks in Brooklyn that occurred within a 30-hour span — two in Crown Heights and another in Williamsburg. By Saturday, they’d arrested and charged a woman in connection to another Crown Heights assault.
“This is systematic in the sense that we have seen attack after attack after attack,” the mayor said, stressing that, while the attacks have not been organized, they have been consistent. “Therefore we have to take extraordinary measures. People cannot live in fear.”
The NYPD will increase resources and patrols to precincts in Borough Park, Crown Heights and Williamsburg, as well as Midwood and Bedford-Stuyvesant. Each precinct will have an additional four to six officers per tour, in addition to an increased police presence at houses of worship during local events and more security cameras.
Borough Park will also get six new light towers, officials said, on top of 15 that have already been installed throughout the other neighborhoods this month.
“People in the community will see our officers present in front of houses of worship and out on the streets. We have to give people a sense of security and we have to show that this horrible trend we’ve seen over the last weeks will be stopped dead in its tracks,” the mayor said Sunday.
Around the city, police received at least eight reports of possible anti-Semitic bias incidents since Dec. 13.
“What we’ve been seeing in New York City on the crime side for some time this year [is] an increase in swastikas, an increase in hate speech, escalation into shoving, some assaults [and] a 21 percent increase in anti-Semitic hate crimes in New York City,” Shea said during Sunday’s announcement at the Central branch of the Brooklyn Public Library.
The additional officers to Jewish neighborhoods is the second increase in as many days, spurred on by yet another high-profile incident in Monsey on Sunday, where a man with a machete stormed a Hanukkah celebration at a rabbi’s home, stabbing five.
In addition to increased police presence, the mayor announced three initiatives rolling out in January to address increases in anti-Semitic incidents.
Neighborhood Safety Coalitions
“Neighborhood Safety Coalitions” will launch in Williamsburg, Crown Heights and Borough Park, and will be overseen by the Mayor’s Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes, which launched in early September in response to a sharp uptick in anti-Semitic incidents.
These coalitions, de Blasio said, will identify and address “issues that drive hate-based crimes, bringing together stakeholders from across their communities.” They will meet community members “where they are,” be that in schools, on street corners, in houses of worship or in other community centers, “to be a regular presence to deter acts of hate.”
“A critical part of our work is engaging directly with the communities impacted by anti-Semitism,” Deborah Lauter, executive Director of the Mayor’s Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes, said in a statement. “The neighborhood coalitions will help further New York City’s commitment to diversity and respect for all and ensure every New Yorker feel safe in their community.”
The groups will gather regularly to strategize about ways to interrupt hate acts before they happen, while identifying and offering relevant programming to foster community and connect to local youth. The mayor’s press office did not immediately respond to a request for additional information.
The coalitions will be based on an already successful Cure Violence model used in neighborhoods with high levels of gun violence, and coordinated through the mayor’s Office to Prevent Gun Violence. Cure Violence responders mobilize after a shooting to “interrupt” any cycle of retaliation, and also engage neighborhood youth with programming and resources.
Schools to launch hate crime curriculum
The mayor’s office is directing the Department of Education to launch hate crime awareness programming in January for middle and high schools in Williamsburg, Crown Heights and Borough Park. Teachers will be encouraged to use the annual Respect for All week in February to have conversations about preventing and addressing hate crimes, according to the mayor’s office.
A more robust curriculum on addressing hate crimes will be rolled out to the same neighborhoods in the fall.
“We’ll be providing programming and resources to schools in order for students and school communities to engage in thoughtful and respectful dialogue, and to advance learning about hate crimes through historical context and current events,” Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza said in a statement.
The curriculum’s resources will also be made available to middle and high schools citywide for the 2020-2021 school year.
The rise in anti-Semitism coincides with a stark decline in awareness of the Holocaust among young people. Forty-one percent of millennials believe that fewer than two million Jews were killed in the Holocaust, and 66 percent cannot say what Auschwitz was, according to a 2018 report. Six million Jews, and 11 million people total, were killed in the Holocaust; Auschwitz is the most notorious of concentration camps, where at least 1.1 million were murdered.
Education can be an effective means to combat anti-Semitism and increase tolerance for all, according to Jack Kliger, the president and CEO of the Museum of Jewish Heritage.
“So much of anti-Semitism and hate and hate crimes is really based out of ignorance. It’s not necessarily just evil, it’s ignorance,” Kliger said. “We teach the lesson that there were three groups involved in the Holocaust — perpetrators, victims and bystanders. We say very strongly you cannot be a bystander, you must be an upstander. You must stand up to address the ignorance, and stand up for tolerance and inter-group cooperation.”
In the Holocaust, “we have very strong historical reference point” for how dangerous fear and ignorance can become if left unchecked, he said.
The museum has developed curriculum already in use at some city schools, and has previously worked with the Mayor’s Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes — though it was not involved in Sunday’s announcement.
The de Blasio administration will also launch a series of advertising and social media campaigns aimed at highlighting the diversity of New York City, encouraging respect for all communities — as well as recognizing and reporting signs of potential bias-motivated violence.
The mayor repurposed a key phrase from the city’s counter-terrorism initiative: If you see something, say something.
“Hate has been unleashed in the last few years,” de Blasio said on MSNBC this morning. “So now see something, say something means if someone is speaking in threatening ways towards others or if you see something on the street or someone has done something to affront someone or assault someone, it needs to be called in immediately … If someone’s talking in hateful terms, report it so we can act on it.”