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Long Island

Anti-Semitic acts nationwide subject of LIU forum

On Long Island, statewide and across the country, anti-Semitic acts are increasing — and represent a large chunk of all hate crimes — said several top law enforcement officials at a forum addressing the scourge.

“This year alone, we have seen a spike in the anti-Semitic/hate crimes arena,” said Anthony Bivona, supervisory special agent at the FBI in New York City, addressing about 400 people who attended a conference at LIU Post in Brookville on Wednesday night.

He added: “It’s been a traumatic year for the Jewish community not just in New York but across the country as well.”

And Assistant U.S. Attorney Nadia Shihata said her office is handling more cases. “Anyone who is watching the news can see there has been a spike in animus-based crimes,” she said.

The conference, titled “The State of Anti-Semitism: Local and Global,” was sponsored by the Global Institute, whose chairman is former Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington).

It brought together law enforcement officials, religious leaders, academics, elected officials and area residents to discuss the rise in hate crimes — and several speakers noted their own and the Jewish community’s resolve to eradicating it.

Ambassador Dani Dayan, consul general of Israel in New York, set the tone for the conference with words of encouragement from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, while saying Israelis consider any attack on Jews — simply because they are Jews — to be a “local issue” because it strikes so close to home.

“We’ve had ghettos and pogroms and Kristallnacht,” Steve Israel said, recalling some genocidal assaults on Jews throughout history. But he added that people chanted “Jews will not replace us” as recently as last month, at a rally to keep in place a statue of a Confederate general in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“There are cycles of anti-Semitism throughout our history,” he said. “And when we see those cycles we must push back on them and we must act.”

Evan Bernstein, New York regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, said New York City has reported 111 anti-Semitic incidents in 2017, a 40 percent increase over the same period last year. That number is about 40 percent of the 278 hate crimes reported during that period, a 34 percent increase over last year.

Long Island, he said, accounted for one-third of all anti-Semitic incidents that the ADL listed in 2016 in all of New York State. “Business for us is at an all-time high, unfortunately,” he said.

Suffolk police Commissioner Timothy Sini said the 14 anti-Semitic acts reported in the county in 2017 account for nearly half of the 30 reported so far.

His counterpart, acting Nassau police Commissioner Patrick Ryder, said tackling anti-Semitic acts is “a top priority” for his department, which established a bias crimes unit in 1980.

“Hate-driven crimes are despicable,” said Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas, adding that bias crimes affect a whole community even if they are targeted at individuals. “This is not something we will tolerate in Nassau County.”

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