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'Anti-Semitism crisis' wakens hateful views, NYC Mayor de Blasio says

An image from a video released by NYPD

An image from a video released by NYPD Crime Stoppers showing the suspect in an alleged bias attack in Queens. Credit: NYPD Crime Stoppers

 Wearing a yarmulke, Mayor Bill de Blasio told Jewish worshippers at a Sabbath service in Manhattan that New York City is facing “an anti-Semitism crisis” that’s invigorated long-simmering prejudices.

Speaking Saturday after a Torah reading at an Upper West Side synagogue where a girl was celebrating her bat mitzvah, de Blasio said the NYPD had increased police patrols and he sought to bolster the public schools’ curriculum on anti-Semitism.

“I don’t think there’s anyone gathered here who believes that anti-Semitism ever died or was eradicated on this earth, he told congregation Ansche Chesed on West 100th Street. “I think it was quieter in some places, and now it’s become louder and therefore more dangerous.”

De Blasio’s remarks came the day after the NYPD released surveillance video of a recent anti-Semitic attacker, this time in Far Rockaway, Queens, where a man denied entry to a yeshiva approached a car out front, made anti-Semitic remarks and spat at a woman through an open passenger window. He has not been caught.

The crimes have mostly targeted Orthodox Jews and their institutions. In the final days of 2019, there were at least eight such attacks reported. NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea has said there was a 22% increase in anti-Semitic crimes reported last year, most not physical violence but vandalism such as swastika graffiti.

A “No Hate. No Fear” solidarity march is planned Sunday for Foley Square in Manhattan around 11 a.m. across the Brooklyn Bridge to Cadman Plaza, an event the congregation was encouraged to attend. De Blasio, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) plan to attend, according to their schedules, as does U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, according to his spokesman Angelo Roefaro. 

“There is an anti-Semitism crisis — it is not by any means just in this city,” de Blasio said, adding: “There is no question, when we look across this city, that there are too many young people who harbor hateful views. They’re of many different backgrounds. We have to find out why that is happening, and we have to stop it.”

Details about the incident at the yeshiva, at 15-13 Central Ave., on Dec. 24 about 9:40 a.m. were released Friday night by the NYPD, which publicized a video showing a suspect in a hooded sweatshirt, with a backpack and rolling luggage.

At the address is Talmud Torah Siach Yitzchok. Observant Jews don’t answer the phone or transact nonreligious business on the Sabbath, so a representative of Siach Yitzchok couldn't be reached Saturday for comment.

It was unclear why the man sought entry. A police officer at the NYPD’s press office said he didn’t know whether the woman was hit by the man's spit.

 De Blasio said New York City ought to look to the lessons of healing from the aftermath of the Crown Heights riots of 1991, race riots that began after a young black boy was accidentally struck by a driver in the motorcade of an ultra-Orthodox rebbe.

Soon thereafter, a group of black people shouting “Get the Jew!” descended on and fatally stabbed a rabbinical student. In the following days, Jews in the mixed neighborhood were attacked, their stores looted, property damaged, and police cars burned.

“I’m sorry to say that communities broke out in conflict — and literally in violence,” he said.

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