Brooklyn, NY – Standing in front of over 20 Yeshiva of Flatbush students and a banner reading “New Yorkers Stand Together,”, Mayor Bill de Blasio spoke out strongly this morning against anti-Semitism and in support of Israel, particularly in light of the recent rash of hate crimes that has been sweeping the city.
The mayor’s remarks came this morning at a press conference held at Kingsway Jewish Center in Midwood, where he was joined by NYPD Chief of Patrol Chief Rodney Harrison, Assemblyman Simcha Eichenstein, Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein, City Councilman Kalman Yeger, Jewish Community Relations Council executive director Rabbi Michael Miller and New York Board of Rabbis executive vice president Rabbi Joseph Potasnik.
Noting that New York City is home to a large population of Holocaust survivors, the mayor stressed the importance of learning from the past that silence and complacency in the face of anti-Semitism can lead to horrifying results.
Speaking behind a sign on the podium that read “No Place For Hate,” de Blasio described anti-Semitism as “a sad reality” that dates back two thousand years and spans the globe.
“We have to be blunt about it,” said the mayor. “It never went away and we are dealing with it to this day and it’s very dangerous. And the history tells us if you take it lightly, people will be hurt and people will die and we will not allow that in New York City.”
de Blasio emphasized the city’s position as home to the largest Jewish population in the world, affirming New York’s responsibility to take the lead in the fight against anti-Semitism.
“New York City will never be silent in the face of hatred,” vowed the mayor, calling on New Yorkers to report any hate crimes to the NYPD so that they can be dealt with swiftly, and vowing extremely significant consequences for those who perpetuate hate.
“To anyone who has hatred in their heart and you think you are going out scrawling something on a subway or on a front door and thinking of attacking an individual because of what they are wearing, because of the language they speak – if you do that, we will find you, we will arrest you and you will go to prison, period,” warned de Blasio.
The recent wave of anti-Semitism in a city that prides itself on tolerance and the October bloodbath at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh make the need for the State of Israel clearer than ever, observed de Blasio.
“Democrats and Republicans with equal fervor need to say Israel must exist so that Jewish people know they are always protected,” said the mayor.
de Blasio stressed the importance of supporting Israel and slammed BDS as a direct attack on the state’s fundamental right to exist, an act he described as unacceptable.
Chief Harrison listed the NYPD’s most recent hate crime statistics, with 49 bias crimes reported as of February 12th, 32 of which were anti-Semitic in nature.
That number represents an 81 percent increase over the same time period last year and Harrison tasked city residents with reporting any suspicious activity and expressed the NYPD’s commitment to apprehending and prosecuting offenders to the fullest extent of the law.
Harrison thanked the mayor and the City Council for providing the resources to place NYPD neighborhood coordination officers in every community, prompting the mayor to return to the podium and invite anyone who feels unsafe in their community to contact City Hall to arrange increased coverage.
Observing that all Jews carry the legacy of the Holocaust, Rabbi Miller said that it was distressing to see that the lessons of that dark time in history had still not been learned.
“Whether you are young, whether you are an adult, whether you are a senior, whether you wear a kipa, a yarmulke, on your head, or a Jewish star on a chain around your neck, that should be for us a sign of pride, not a target for anti-Semites,” said Rabbi Miller.
Rabbi Potasnik spoke about having an unwavering and emphatic commitment to combatting anti-Semitism, noting that the words “never again” often seem to be punctuated with a vague question mark instead of a firm and unequivocal period.
Sharing a cellphone picture of a swastika that had been drawn in the snow just around the corner of her office two days ago, Weinstein referenced the words of a 1949 Broadway show tune that observed that people are not born to hate, but instead are taught to do so by others.
“The snow melted,” said Weinstein. “The swastika melted. But the hatred endures.”
Eichenstein categorized anti-Semitism as sickening and intolerable, calling on all New Yorkers to fight back against BDS. He was followed by Yeger who reflected on de Blasio’s long and warm relationship with the Jewish community, telling the mayor, “you are a Jewish New Yorker in your heart.”
Taking the microphone one final time, de Blasio spoke about how he and his family had been invited to a Shabbos meal at the home of former Assemblyman Dov Hikind. The mayor shared that Hikind’s mother rolled up her sleeve, showing the de Blasio children the number that had been tattooed on her arm in Auschwitz, bringing home the lesson that anti-Semitism is alive and well and that it cannot go unchecked.
“We can never leave the Jewish people isolated and alone again and so I say to all New Yorkers, if you hear anyone suggesting an act of hatred towards the Jewish community or towards any community, it’s time to stand up for the values of New York City,” said the mayor. “If you hear that you must act. You cannot be indifferent. You must be part of the solution. A true New Yorker stands up against hate.”
18 year old Steven Sutton was one of the students standing on the podium with the mayor.
“I think he spoke very well and was really right,” the Yeshiva of Flatbush senior told VIN News. “I’m glad that he’s one our side.”