Gov. Hochul unveils new plan to combat antisemitism in New York


(New York Jewish Week) – Gov. Kathy Hochul announced the founding of a new center to combat hate via education — the centerpiece of a larger plan to fight antisemitism in New York, the state with the largest Jewish population in the country. 

Hochul unveiled plans for the State Anti-Hate in Education Center during an event Tuesday at the Center for Jewish History in downtown Manhattan, in front of a crowd of about 300 people that included representatives of Jewish organizations across the city. Hochul portrayed the initiative as a response to the Biden administration’s national plan to counter antisemitism, which was presented in May. 

An annual survey from the Anti-Defamation League found that antisemitic incidents in New York state had jumped 28% in 2022 from the previous year. 

“I will stand here as your governor and tell you, with every fiber of my body, that we will never show indifference to the evil of antisemitism — not now, not ever,” Hochul said at the event. 

The State Anti-Hate in Education Center will be part of the governor’s office and will aim to bring together representatives from major educational bodies in the state, including the City University of New York, State University of New York, the state’s Education Department and a group representing the leaders of independent campuses across the state. The center will focus on outlining ways institutions can partner to combat hate, particularly through education, and will host a conference next summer. This year, the center will focus on antisemitism, and will choose a different form of bigotry to study annually in subsequent years. 

“Hate cannot be fought in silos. We know what begins with the Jews rarely ever ends with the Jews,” said Deborah Lipstadt, the State Department’s special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, who spoke after Hochul about the Biden administration’s anti-antisemitism plan. “What we’ve got to understand, and what I believe that our government does understand, is that there is an interconnectedness of hatred, that what begins with one group never ends with that group.” 

L-R: Ted Deutch, Deborah Lipstadt and Kathy Hochul at the Center for Jewish History, New York, NY, Sept. 19, 2023.(Darren McGee/Office of Governor Kathy Hochul)

Hochul also pledged to implement a program that would educate children about discrimination, and to enforce a law requiring Holocaust education in schools. New York has required schools to teach about the Holocaust since 1994, and last year, Hochul signed a bill directing the state to survey whether schools are complying with that mandate. 

Hochul’s plan also includes measures to improve the way law enforcement responds to, investigates and collects data on reported hate crimes. She also pledged to simplify the process by which victims of crimes can apply for financial assistance for lost or damaged property and other crime-related expenses. 

Another facet of the plan, Hochul said, focuses on providing culturally sensitive mental health care to help Jewish New Yorkers “handle what they’re going through over the last couple years.”

“I want the word out. We have the resources, we have the commitment, we have the people who will do the right thing,” Hochul said. “I don’t ever want to find any limitations on our ability as a state — or my ability as a governor whose number-one job is to protect people in this state.”

She also announced that $38 million of federal funding has been allocated to help fund security measures at 195 synagogues and other religious and nonprofit institutions in the state. In addition, the state has allocated $500,000 toward a program that would “empower community organizations to help lead other, non-Jewish organizations in systemwide anti-hate efforts.” 

Antisemitism was not the only issue that came up at the event. Before her speech, the governor was interrupted by two screaming protesters — including Jonathan David Rinaldi, a Jewish Republican candidate for New York City Council — who demanded that she “close the border” in response to the influx of migrants into the state. The two men also demanded that Hochul stop seeking federal funding to help resettle migrants, that she fight what they termed “Jew hatred at CUNY” and that she lift COVID-19 vaccine requirements (though what they were referring to was unclear). The men were swiftly removed by security. 

In addition to Hochul and Lipstadt, American Jewish Committee CEO Ted Deutch spoke to the crowd, praising the governor and quoting the rabbinic adage that “All of Israel are responsible for one another.” 

“That responsibility starts very much with us,” Deutch said. “It’s true within the Jewish community, it’s what we say about our own community, but it’s remarkable to see the governor of the state of New York recognize that responsibility the way you have.”

Some attendees hoped the governor would address Jewish concerns beyond antisemitism and hate. 

“I believe it’s very good what the governor is doing, but we still need to meet about something positive,” said Alexander Rapaport, the founder of Masbia, a kosher food pantry network, and Masbia relief, a Jewish communal disaster relief team that has been aiding newly arrived migrants to New York City. “If all we can talk about is antisemitism and combating hate and it takes up all the air in the room, the haters are still winning in some way.”