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Photo by Gina Conteh
Photo by Gina Conteh

Troubled Queens residents and Jewish community leaders gathered at the Samuel Field YMCA in Little Neck on Friday, March 10, to address the ongoing rise in anti-Semitic threats and bias crimes in New York and across the country.

According to a recent study of crimes in New York, hate crimes against Jewish communities have risen by 94 percent since the same time last year. In response to this, Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio jointly announced an increase in the reward of $5,000 to $20,000 for any information leading to the conviction for a hate crime within New York state and New York City.

Councilmen Paul Vallone and Barry Grodenchik organized the March 10 rally and were joined by community and religious leaders to discuss this sudden rise in anti-Semitism.

“We have been blessed to live in the most diverse community on the face of the earth,” Grodenchik said. “We all live together and we all live as one. And we all share in each other’s joy and we commiserate with each other when we have sorrows.”

Many speakers stressed that all members of the community must come together to protect the diversity of the borough and speak out against any hate against a minority in Queens.

“I’m here because I love you,” Msgr. Martin Geragthy of the St. Vincent Robert Bellarmine Catholic Church in Bayside said. “We are here for Shabbat shalom, we are here for peace, and we celebrate that reality … I’m honored to say I’m with you with my whole heart.”

On the eve of Purim, the Jewish festival commemorating the defeat of Haman’s plan to kill the Jews, local rabbis spoke of the significance of the holiday with the recent attacks. Rabbi Yossi Blesofsky of the Chabad of Northeast Queens spoke on what can be taken from Queen Esther during this time of turmoil in the community.

Blesofsky said, “Queen Esther gave out a directive, to unify as a community, and that’s what we can do.”

Each speaker had their own ideas as to the steps that must be taken in order to end the hate going around the city, the state, and the country. Vallone believes that more funding must be secured for the NYPD Hate Crime Task Force in order to increase results and safety among Jewish communities. Others believed that the federal government must take action to combat the hate toward Jewish communities that has risen since January.

Assemblyman Edward Braunstein said, “It’s important we send a message all the way to the federal government that we need the president to step up and let his supporters know that these anti-Semitic attacks are unacceptable and quite frankly, I don’t think he’s done enough so far.”

Assemblywoman Nily Rozic, who grew up in Israel, said that she never believed she would be involved in marches or any events opposing hate after hearing stories from her grandparents growing up.

“But here we are,” Rozic said, “and we’re a united front ready to combat whatever kind of hate or anti-Semitism that comes our way… We will denounce the hatred and make sure our communities and our families are safe.”

According to Rozic, the State Assembly will soon consider legislation to combat hate crimes around the entire state.

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