NEW YORK (JTA) — Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg, whose home was the site of a stabbing last month on the holiday of Hanukkah, delivered an invocation at Governor Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State address.
Joseph Gluck, the man who stopped the attacker by throwing a coffee table at his head, was also in attendance and received a standing ovation.
The attacker injured five people at Rottenberg’s home in Monsey, New York, on Dec. 28, including the rabbi’s son. One of those wounded, Joseph Neumann, remains in critical condition.
“May it be your will that we all join together in the struggle to see divine dignity in all of humanity,” Rottenberg said Wednesday, ahead of the governor’s annual address in Albany. “Father in heaven, bless and heal us. I will never forget the horror of that night. But I will also never forget how we continued to celebrate after the attack, how we continued to rejoice in the miracle of Hanukkah. I will never forget the resilience on display that night and in the following days, the resilience of Jewish people and the resilience of New York.”
Rottenberg also advocated for protection of the Hasidic way of life. In particular, he spoke out on behalf of Hasidic private schools, which may be forced to devote more hours to secular subjects like math, science and English pending a proposal now under consideration by the state Department of Education. The proposal has met intense resistance from Hasidic leaders.
“We pray that divine providence should continue protecting us from evil forces who are out to harm us physically or from those who are out to attack our Hasidic traditional way of life and system of education,” he said.
Later, referring to Cuomo, he added, “Help him promote and instill the values of tolerance and appreciation among all our neighborhoods and communities who may look different, talk in a different language or raise and educate their children according to their unique ancestral traditions.”
Cuomo condemned anti-Semitism near the beginning of the speech and praised Gluck, calling him “the definition of New York bravery.” Near the end of the speech, he called on New York to end the national rise in anti-Semitism.
“There is no place for hate in our state, period,” he said. “What happened in Monsey is intolerable and we will not allow it to happen in this state.”
Cuomo proposed a series of measures to prevent anti-Semitism. Against the backdrop of a photo of the recent march against anti-Semitism, he repeated an earlier call to define hate crime attacks as domestic terrorism, promised to increase the capacity of the New York state police hate crimes task force, and provide additional funding for security to schools and houses of worship.
He also called for adding classes about bigotry and religious freedom to the educational curriculum. He recounted George Washington’s letter to the Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island, in which he wrote that Jews would be able to practice their religion freely in America, and he called for clergy to preach against hate crimes.
Cuomo also proposed an expansion of the Museum of Jewish Heritage, a Holocaust museum in Lower Manhattan, and called for schools across the state to visit the museum.
“Let’s make sure our schools are teaching our young children, who are frighteningly involved in so many of these incidents, let’s teach them what America truly stands for,” he said. “I want our schools to add to their curriculum a lesson that teaches our young people our civic values and our history on diversity, and that a fundamental premise of this nation is religious freedom.”