NEW YORK — Michelle Gary, after hearing Mayor de Blasio forcefully denounce the recent rise of anti-Semitism in New York and around the nation, struggled to make sense of the growing hatred against her people.
“I never thought that in this day and age, on the Upper West Side of New York City, I would feel scared,” the 64-year-old Jewish woman said Saturday in disbelief. “And it’s just a very strange and disturbing feeling.”
She is not alone.
Gary was among the concerned congregants inside the Ansche Chesed synagogue when de Blasio addressed the growing bias and violence against Jews on the eve of a massive Brooklyn Bridge march protesting the ugly current environment. A new report from the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University indicates anti-Semitic hate crimes in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago are at their highest point in 18 years.
“There is an anti-Semitism crisis,” the mayor told the congregation of the Manhattan synagogue. “It is not by any means just in this city. It is in this country, and more and more in the entire Western world. I don’t say that to be overly dire. I say that because I think it has come out in the open more and more in the recent years.”
The Sunday demonstration, billed as a “No Hate No Fear Solidarity March,” steps off at 11 a.m. in Manhattan’s Foley Square before heading across the Brooklyn Bridge. The event is sponsored by a number of major Jewish organizations, including the UJA-Federation of New York, the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee and the New York Board of Rabbis.
Marchers from around the country were expected to join protesters from across the metropolitan area in the call for an end to religious bigotry.
“All this hatred is accumulated on the internet and social media,” said Gary. “That’s how is differs today than years past.”
De Blasio, to the crowd’s applause, said anti-Semitism never died or disappeared in the decades since the Holocaust.
“I think it was quieter in some places, and now it has become louder and therefore more dangerous,” he said.
The spate of anti-Jewish hate included the Dec. 10 shooting spree by a heavily armed couple on a kosher supermarket in Jersey City, with three people killed in a Hasidic neighborhood, and the attack by a machete-wielding madman on a Hanukkah night event inside a home in the Jewish enclave of Monsey, N.Y. The attacker hacked five Jewish men, including one left brain-damaged and likely paralyzed for life.
While those incidents spawned headlines, there was other evidence of the uptick in hate — with more than a dozen anti-Semitic attacks investigated by the NYPD in recent weeks. On Christmas Eve, a suspect trying to enter a Far Rockaway yeshiva spit on a woman and threatened to “kill all Jews” when he was denied admission.
A New Year’s Day attack in Williamsburg featured a woman screaming “I will kill you Jew!” while assaulting an Orthodox man. And a knife-wielding man threatened a Jewish teen on a city bus.
“We have to see this crisis for what it is, and stop it dead in its tracks,” said de Blasio. “I won’t say that as a hopeless statement. But I said that as a recognition to call all of us to our better selves. We have overcome much worse, and we will overcome again as New Yorkers.”
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