Boro pols urge Obama to launch anti-Semitism summit

By Madina Toure

City Councilmen Barry Grodenchik (D-Oakland Gardens) and Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest), along with state Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows), were among 13 lawmakers across the city who have joined with the Simon Wiesenthal Center to urge President Barack Obama to convene a summit on anti-Semitism, invoking the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, unveiled the center’s “Top Ten Anti-Semitic/Anti-Israel Incidents” Jan. 14 at the center at 226 E. 42nd St.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center is a global human rights organization that researches the Holocaust and hate in historic and contemporary contexts. Named for Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal, its educational arm, the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, Calif., forces visitors to confront bigotry and racism.

In the report, the center said that sports venues in Europe witnessed “shocking anti-Semitic chants” in front of tens of thousands of fans at soccer matches and that the nuclear deal has not diminished Iranian threats against the Jewish state.

The center said in its report that genocidal hatred and threats against Jews have increasingly become a staple of ISIS online propaganda. It also attributes the 14-victim shooting in San Bernardino, Calif. last month to “hatred of Jews.” Lancman cited the severity of the incidents mentioned in the report.

“The Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Top Ten are but the tip of the iceberg, but they reveal that the mega-events start with hate at home and on the streets,” he said. “If we’re not careful, they can turn into the new normal.”

Grodenchik stressed the historical significance of his district and its connection to the Jewish community, referring to the discrimination the English Quakers faced in the 1600s.

“My district, which includes Flushing, Queens, was the community that first invited persecuted minorities to settle in what was then the New World,” he said. “Now in 2016, we are again confronted with that same persecution.”

Weprin expressed dismay at the fact that Jews were still being mistreated, also noting that many other minorities in his area face similar struggles.

“Seventy years after the Holocaust, it’s hard to believe these incidents are happening,” he said. “Hate crimes are also targeting other minorities in my district who’ve come from as far away as South Asia.”

Cooper said 2015 was a “disastrous year,” noting that new alliances have to be created.

“We are confronting an unprecedented and toxic combination of terrorist threats, an online subculture of hate and theologically and ideologically fueled anti-Semitism… To defeat anti-Semitism, we need to build new coalitions,” he said.

Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtoure@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.