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Thousands march across Brooklyn Bridge to protest anti-Semitic attacks in NY

Thousands of people marched across the Brooklyn Bridge on Sunday in a show of solidarity and defiance following recent anti-Semitic attacks that targeted Jews across the metropolitan region. Credit: Jeff Bachner, Corey Sipkin

Thousands of people marched across the Brooklyn Bridge on Sunday in a show of solidarity following recent anti-Semitic attacks across the metropolitan region.

Organizers said some 25,000 people braved Sunday's frigid winds to participate, with some traveling from as far as Cleveland and Toronto to demonstrate their support for the cause.

"Anti-Semitism has once again reared its head," said Michael Miller, chief executive of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, which helped organize the march. "We are here today to say: no hate, no fear."

The event came a week after a machete-wielding man attacked attendees of a Hanukkah celebration at a rabbi's house in Monsey in Rockland County, injuring five. Weeks prior, a kosher market in Jersey City was the scene of more anti-Semitic violence that left three dead.

Such attacks have made Samuel Shiff fearful of displaying his Jewish identity, the Atlantic Beach resident said at the demonstration Sunday.

"I'm scared to be who I am," said Shiff, 19. He wanted to participate in Sunday's event, he said, because "it shows that we're standing our ground and we're fighting anti-Semitism."

A long roster of state and local officials led the march from Manhattan to Brooklyn, including New York Democrats Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who earlier announced new state measures aimed at combating violence against Jews.

Cuomo said he will propose a new state law to label attacks like the one in Monsey as "domestic terrorism," increase the ranks of the state police's hate crimes task force and allocate an additional $45 million for security in nonpublic schools and religious institutions.

"Government must do more than just offer thoughts and prayers," he said. "Government must act."

State Sen. Anna Kaplan (D-Great Neck), also walked in Sunday's march, saying the issue is personal for her.

"As a Jewish political refugee, it's really important for me to see all of us stand together united," said Kaplan, who immigrated from Iran to the United States as a child. "We need to really come out and do something together."

Jonathan Greenblatt, chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League, said anti-Semitic incidents and attacks have doubled in recent years in the United States and increased by 55% in New York in 2018.

Melissa Polaner, who attended Sunday's event with others from her synagogue in Montclair, New Jersey, called the trend "disheartening and frightening." The uptick in anti-Semitism makes demonstrations like Sunday's all the more important, she said.

"In these times we have to show up and express to the world that hate is not the answer," she said. "I can't sit here and let it go on without showing up and saying it's not OK." 

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