With anti-Semitic incidents on the rise across the city, the Queens Jewish community stood as one to denounce hate during a rally outside the Kew Gardens Hills library on Sunday afternoon.
The NYPD reports that anti-Semitic hate crimes constitute half of all hate crimes across the five boroughs. Queens has seen its share of these incidents such as the discovery of swastikas in a Rego Park schoolyard. While not specifically declared a hate crime by the NYPD, others pointed to the recent assault a 16-year-old Bukharian teen on 108th Street as further evidence of an uptick in anti-semitism locally.
A crowd estimated to be more than 500 raised their voices as one against “this ancient and odious hate,” as Councilman Barry Grodenchik put it.
“I have a message for all the anti-Semites out there,” he said. “We are not going away.”
For more than an hour, elected officials and religious leaders spoke of the need to not be silent.
“Queens is united against anti-Semitism,” Borough President Melinda Katz said. “The world needs to see we stand together against anti-Semitism as we stand together in support of the state of Israel.”
Congresswoman Grace Meng noted that hate crimes motivated by anti-Semitism “have reached their highest rates in the last two decades” and she called on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the F.B.I. to do more to combat it. She then addressed one such issue on everyone’s minds.
“This has been a tough few weeks for our community. It has felt a lot of anger, a lot of hurt and a lot of grief due in large part to a comment from a colleague of mine, Representative Omar,” Meng said.
The crowd reacted with boos and chants of “Omar Must Go” for several minutes venting at the freshman Congresswoman from Minnesota Ilhan Omar who made two anti-Semitic comments in recent weeks. Democratic Party leadership in the House were unable to address it properly, according to many of the rally’s speakers, choosing instead to pass a more generic anti-hate resolution instead.
One Jewish leader shared Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s phone number. “We want a million people to call,” the leader said.
A woman in the crowd responded by saying, “You’ll only get an answering machine.”
Councilman Rory Lancman — who, like Katz, is a candidate for Queens district attorney — said when anti-Semitism is on the rise they will continue to speak out against it.
“We are Jews. We are proud. We are Americans and we demand the same justice, the same protection, the same commitment that every other American enjoys in this country,” he said. “To stay quiet is not an option.”