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Photos provided by Assemblyman David Weprin's office
Photos provided by Assemblyman David Weprin's office
Hateful graffiti found on the exterior and interior of the abandoned Holliswood building in June of 2017.

Queens saw the largest increase in anti-Semitic incidents in New York during 2017 according to a new report released by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) on Feb. 27.

With a statewide increase of 90 percent, New York experienced the largest single-year increase in such incidents since ADL began tracking the data in the 1970s, and more than half of anti-Semitic assaults nationwide occurred in the state. In Queens, there were 39 reported incidents of anti-Semitism in 2017 compared to 11 in 2016.

ADL New York Regional Director Evan R. Bernstein said in a press release that the organization is redoubling its efforts to educate and engage school leaders, law enforcement and elected officials on how to better prevent and respond to these incidents.

“The dramatic increase in harassment, school related incidents and against religious institutions cannot be accepted as a ‘new normal,’” said Bernstein. “This kind of hate hurts the victim and deeply impacts the Jewish community; we must remain vigilant in denouncing and exposing hate wherever it emerges. We know that when anti-Semitism is on the rise, so too are other forms of hate.”

Among a total of 380 reported incidents in New York State in 2017, there were 236 incidents of vandalism, 133 incidents of harassment (including 24 bomb threats against Jewish institutions) and 11 incidents of assault. In Queens, some examples included swastikas drawn on slides at a playground, glass panes shattered on the front doors of an orthodox synagogue, a swastika and the phrase “no Jews” written in a bathroom at a K-8 school and a sign at JFK Airport was vandalized to read, “Any problems with Jews please call…”

On March 1, Congresswoman Grace Meng, who represents parts of western, central and northeast Queens, released a statement in response to the ADL’s findings.

“It is deeply disturbing to see that the number of anti-Semitic incidents in New York rose by over 90 percent in 2017 compared to 2016,” said Meng. “Queens, the area that I represent in Congress, saw the largest increase in incidents rising from 11 to 39 from 2016 to 2017. As Americans, we must come together and stop these anti-Semitic attacks.”

The most important factor in reversing this trend is education, said Rabbi Yossi Blesofsky of Chabad Lubavitch of Northeast Queens. While he has not seen any anti-Semitism near his Bayside location, Blesofsky said the practice is deep-rooted in nature. He referenced Adolf Hitler’s infamous words, “Conscience is a Jewish invention; it is a blemish like circumcision.”

“He thought having a moral conscience was despicable and that Jewish people represent that,” Blesofsky explained. “Everything starts in the home. Unless you change the way people are taught, the reality is things aren’t going to change.”

Blesofsky added that despite the rise in anti-Semitic incidents, he believes that the younger generations have grown up learning that “prejudice is disgusting”and most people have moved away from that way of thinking.

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