Gillibrand: ‘We Must Address Anti-Semitism Head-on’


As Rosh HaShanah and the High Holidays approach, our friends and neighbors will gather together to usher in the Jewish New Year, to pray together and to share wishes for peace and happiness. This year, sadly, for many in our community, those gatherings will be tinged with anxiety and fear. We cannot ignore the horrible reality that anti-Semitism is on the rise all around us.

Our nation is great because people of all religions may worship peacefully beside each other. But in recent years, we have been plagued with anti-Semitic attacks across the country and also right here at home.

I have been deeply disturbed by the horrific attacks on the chasidic community in Brooklyn. Members of the community no longer feel safe on their own streets without fear of physical attack. Students at schools across the state are confronted with symbols of anti-Semitism. Reports of swastikas appearing across college campuses mean our students are bombarded by symbols of hate even as many of them first leave their families and experience the broader world.

Just this week Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed, a leader with a long history of outrageous and harmful anti-Semitic rhetoric, was here speaking on the Columbia campus. I condemn his words and am saddened to see him given such a prestigious stage to bolster his image and normalize his rhetoric. Earlier this month, the Rockland County Republican Party ran a deeply anti-Semitic ad that used imagery directly meant to target Orthodox Jews. I spoke out strongly against the ad — it is never OK to use hate and discrimination in our politics. We must ensure when harmful and hurtful leaders speak in our communities, that we support our Jewish community and ensure they know we value and stand with them.

And even more disturbingly, we have mourned too much violence over the last year. First we watched in horror as a shooter opened fire on worshippers in Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh and became the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in the United States. We relived the horror six months later when a white supremacist walked into a synagogue in California and opened fire as people prayed on the last day of Passover.

These anti-Semitic attacks do not just harm the Jewish community, they harm all of us. They put the integrity of our communities and our very way of life at risk. They are not who we are as a nation, and we cannot stand by as white supremacists march through our streets, hate crimes spike across the country and the Jewish community and other minority communities are forced to endure painful attacks.

We must restore our country to the tenets of its founding to be able to worship freely and safely here and honor the Sabbath without coming under attack. We must show this country and the world that we are united against anti-Semitism and that we are devoted to addressing it head-on.

I will continue to speak out against anti-Semitic attacks, and I will use my platform to call for increased visibility and education around anti-Semitism. It is why I have signed on to the Never Again Education Bill which will provide funding for Holocaust education. Knowledge is key to combating hate and violence. This is a step toward ensuring our students are being given the foundation to grow and learn with understanding and kindness.

Kirsten Gillibrand is the junior U.S. senator from New York.