(New York Jewish Week) — New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced a new “hate and bias prevention unit” to combat antisemitism and other forms of hate on Monday.
The unit will include public education and outreach efforts, a “rapid response team” to assist communities affected by a bias or hate incident, and regional councils where community members can share concerns, host events and conduct training, among other functions.
Hochul’s announcement came during a 90-minute conference held by the Orthodox Union at Manhattan’s Lincoln Square Synagogue to discuss the rise of antisemitism. The event also featured Sen. Chuck Schumer, New York City Mayor Eric Adams and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas.
Hochul said that the new prevention unit will be implemented statewide and embedded in the Division of Human Rights. “It’s not just going to be sitting in a bureaucratic office,” Hochul said, adding the new unit will also be used as “an early warning system.”
“We can be in the prevention business, by educating people as to what the signs are,” Hochul said. “I’m going to make sure that this organization is actually an effective instrument for change.”
The new unit will alsomobilize support to “areas and communities in which a bias incident has occurred,” according to a press release from the governor’s office.
The new regional councils will be organized by the Division of Human Rights.
Hochul’s announcement follows her signing of a bill in late November that requires mandatory hate crime prevention training for individuals convicted of hate crimes.
The state also made $50 million available to strengthen security measures at organizations at risk of hate crimes, as well as $46 million in federal funding for 240 such organizations across the state.
The New York Police Department reported that antisemitic attacks in the city in November 2022 last month were up by 125% when compared to the same month last year.
Also, a report from the Anti-Defamation Leage counted 2,717 antisemitic incidents across the country in 2021 — a 34% increase from the previous year, and the highest since it began tracking in 1979.
During the Monday morning conference, Adams reiterated what he said last week about building up a pipeline of new relationships between the Black and Jewish community to combat hate. He also said that “there should be a no plea bargaining rule” when it comes to hate crimes.
“I don’t believe we have one person who has been arrested for a hate crime that served time in jail,” Adams said. “That is unacceptable. That sends the wrong message.” (An analysis earlier this year by The City news site found that between 2015 and 2020, only 87 cases, or 15% of hate crime arrests, resulted in a hate crime conviction.)
Sen. Schumer warned about the “dramatic resurgence of antisemitism” and called out former President Donald Trump for having dinner last month with Kanye West, the rapper who has shared a torrent of antisemitism in recent weeks, and white supremacist and Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes.
“Rather than apologize afterwards, [Trump] lectures American Jewish leaders for insufficient loyalty,” Schumer said, referring to remarks Trump made Friday on his social media platform, Truth Social. “It is incumbent on all of us to speak out.”
Schumer said added that antisemitism is “seeping into our society” from not only the far right, but also the far left. “I must say that some, certainly not all, of the anti-Israel sentiment among some here in this country seeps right over into antisemitism,” he said.
The Orthodox Union’s managing director, Maury Litwack, who introduced the mayor and governor at the event, told the New York Jewish Week that the conference wasn’t just about denouncing antisemitism but included “concrete actions.”
“This is about tachlis,” Litwack said, using the Yiddish expression meaning “brass tacks.” “It’s not enough to simply say ‘denounce this.’ Each elected official has a responsibility. Like so many other communities, it’s our job to step and have that conversation.”
Major players from leading New York Jewish organizations attended the event, including Agudath Israel of America, UJA-Federation of New York, the Community Security Initiative, the Hasidic Bobov sect and even former “Real Housewives of New York” cast member Lizzy Savetsky. There was a notable Orthodox presence.
Rabbi Moishe Indig, a Satmar community activist who has a close relationship with both the governor and mayor, told the New York Jewish Week that the event was important to bring awareness to the issue of rising antisemitism.
“If you don’t speak up, if you don’t do anything about it, if you don’t bring awareness, then you barely know what it is,” Indig said. “We are calling it out and trying to do prevention.”
Tzvi Waldman, a Rockland County activist and one of the few Jewish representatives at the meeting from outside the five boroughs, told the New York Jewish Week that it was important to show elected officials that there is an interest in these issues.
“If we’re willing to work with them, they’ll work with us,” said Waldman, who is also suing the governor for not allowing guns in synagogues and other houses of worship.
Avi Greenstein, the CEO of the Boro Park Jewish Community Council, told the New York Jewish Week that it’s important to “hold our elected officials accountable.”
“Having the opportunity to hear from our elected leadership about their resolve to stand up for us, it brings out a cautious hope,” Greenstein said.