BY JAMES FARRELL
Councilmen Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) and Barry Grodenchik (D-Oakland Gardens) and a number of Queens residents turned out at Little Neck’s Samuel Field Y on Friday to denounce a reported rise in anti-Semitic and hate-related incidents.
The rally was held in the wake of bomb threats targeting Jewish community centers and anti-Semitic vandalism across the nation.
Vallone said that the rally’s intent was to promote unity during a time when many feel targeted.
“[Grodenchik] and I really wanted to get everyone today to be heard, that there is so much good in our community, there is so much joining of our faiths, of our families, of what makes New York City and Little Neck and Bayside and Douglaston and northeast Queens so amazing,” Vallone said. “We wanted to come today and say [that] we stand against hate and discrimination of any kind, against any race. But specifically, what has been happening with the anti-Semitic attacks and the threats of our brothers and sisters in the Jewish community is simply unacceptable.”
Joining the councilmembers were several Jewish and civic community leaders, state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing), Assemblywoman Nily Rozic (D-Fresh Meadows), Assemblymen Edward Braunstein (D-Bayside) and David Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows) and others. The leaders spoke to a crowded room in the Samuel Field Y.
Grodenchik praised the work of the city’s police department and spoke about the scale of recent anti-Semitic threats.
“This outbreak of anti-Semitism, the calls to community center after community center, to the Jewish Children’s Museum yesterday in Brooklyn, is unprecedented in my lifetime,” Grodenchik said. “The message today that I bring is very simple: If you do something bad, [the police] are gonna get you.”
Braunstein placed the blame for the recent anti-Semitism squarely on the 2016 presidential campaign, arguing that various hate groups came together to support President Donald Trump.
“This uptick in anti-Semitism, it didn’t happen in a vacuum,” he said. “We need the president to step up and let his supporters know that these anti-Semitic attacks are unacceptable and, quite frankly, I don’t think he’s done enough so far.”
Weprin provided statistics on the recent incidents and praised a recent joint announcement between Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo that the reward for any information leading to an arrest and conviction in the incidents would be increased from $5,000 to $20,000.
“Since Jan. 1, at least 91 locations of Jewish organizations in the United States, including schools, Jewish community centers and the office of the Anti-Defamation League, have received a total of 116 bomb threats, with 15 threats made against Jewish locations in New York State alone,” said Weprin. “Each of these acts deserves to be condemned and is unacceptable for our community, our city, our state and, of course, our country.”
The event was held just hours before Shabbat Zachor—a special day of rest just before the Jewish holiday of Purim. That holiday commemorates the saving of the Jewish people from Haman, a biblical figure who planned to kill all Jewish people.
“This shows how important this is to us if we come out just a couple of hours before sunset, ready to welcome Shabbat,” said Rabbi David Wise of the Hollis Hills Bayside Jewish Center.
He explained that this Shabbat commands that the Jewish community remember the attacks of Amalek, a biblical figure who attacked “the rearguard,” or the most vulnerable people of Israel as they left Egypt.
“So how do you attack the rearguard? You call in a bomb threat to a JCC, where preschool children need to leave the facility,” said Wise. “How do you display Amalek-like behavior? We’ve seen this in acts perpetrated by people who are not Jewish, but who are also visible minorities, as we have heard horrific stories of people being attacked and told, ‘Go back to your country.’ These are manifestations of Amalek, who is not today a person, but rather a mindset.”
Reach James Farrell at (718) 357-7400 x 127, firstname.lastname@example.org or @farrellj329.