ATTACKS ON THE RISE
Reports of anti-Semitic incidents in the United States – ranging from violent attacks to verbal abuse and vandalism (including swastikas drawn on Jewish institutions) – have been on the rise over the past two years, culminating in the deadliest U.S. attack on the Jewish community ever with the Tree of Life synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh last October. The trend hasn’t spared New York City. In 2018, the local police department’s Hate Crimes Task Force recorded a 23 percent increase in anti-Semitic incidents citywide – 189, compared to 154 in 2017.
A question people inside and outside the Jewish community are increasingly asking is: why now? After the Jewish man was punched on Kingston Avenue in January, Behrman tweeted: “What's wrong with Crown Heights that innocents are being beaten in the streets? Is there an atmosphere that is encouraging violence?”
He believes the answer carries an economic dimension. “The prices in Crown Heights have gone up for apartments, rent, food,” says Behrman. “There is tremendous poverty; people can’t afford to live with the rising prices, and there is a story being peddled in the streets that the Jews are the ones doing this and raising the prices.
“If your landlord happens to be Jewish and he disrespects you, and you go and beat an innocent Jew, that is the very definition of anti-Semitism,” he says. “It doesn't make it right just because your landlord may have done something wrong. … The truth of the matter is that gentrification is about economics, not race, and the Jewish community in Crown Heights has been here since 1940. We are suffering the same way everybody else is suffering.”
Evan Bernstein, the New York regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, says Brooklyn “has had issues of anti-Semitic assaults for some time. Whether it is gentrification or other issues that are leading to these assaults, the Jewish community … is very concerned.”
In addition to gentrification, Behrman also points a finger at public figures who have either openly expressed anti-Semitic views or have refused to condemn them.
“Ilhan Omar, the congresswoman, tweeted that the Jews are buying up the government. That’s exactly like saying the Jews are buying up the community,” he charges. “That’s also not true and that’s very frightening.
“Anti-Semitism has become mainstream – from the halls of Congress to the leader of the opposition in Britain,” he adds, referring to Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Katz concurs that the current climate is being fueled by politicians’ failure to speak out against anti-Semitism. “Ten years ago, if a politician said [what Rep. Omar said about pro-Israel lobby AIPAC’s control of Congress], they’d have to resign,” he says.
Since its last annual report, which showed an nearly 60 percent increase in anti-Semitic incidents across the United States in 2017, ADL has attributed much of that rise to political rhetoric since the 2016 presidential campaign.
The 2017 neo-Nazi rally at Charlottesville, the Pittsburgh massacre “and elected officials’ statements have brought more attention to anti-Semitism nationally,” says Bernstein. “With that, more of a spotlight has been put on what is taking place in Brooklyn.”
Although Brooklyn-based incidents rarely make it past the local news, anti-Semitism has undoubtedly become big news in the United States since President Donald Trump took office.
OY VEY THE GOYIM KNOW.
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