Op-Ed: United we stand, divided we fall

Eliseo Labayen


Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.

I am running for office because there are a plethora of issues impacting my community all at the same time; one of those issues is the rise in anti-Semitism. Forest Hills, like many communities across the country, is seeing a rise in anti-Semitism. As a community, we must combat it from the graffiti in our parks and schools to the misinformation being circulated through cyberspace. 

According to the Anti-Defamation League, “there were 1,879 incidents of anti-Semitism in the United States in 2018, including more than 1,000 instances of harassment.” In Pittsburgh, a gunman stormed the Tree of Life synagogue, killing 11 in attendance and wounding six more. In Monsey, N.Y., five Hasidic Jews celebrating Hanukkah in the home of rabbi Chaim Rottenberg were attacked by a machete-wielding intruder. In Rego Park, a student was arrested for drawing swastikas across his schoolyard. This disturbing rise in hate must be met with action by our elected representatives. If elected, I intend to combat this rise in hate through education, funding and law enforcement. 

First, according to the New York Times, “In November, the Anti-Defamation League expanded an anti-bias education program it started in Brooklyn in 2018 with a goal of bringing it to 40 schools. Eric L. Adams, the Brooklyn borough president, praised the program when the expansion was announced.”

The program, No Place for Hate, is “designed to create inclusive school communities by promoting unity and respect, and empowering students to reduce bullying, name-calling, and other expressions of bias.” We need to bring this program to our schools here in NYC Council District 29. Additionally, we need to mandate Holocaust education to serve as an additional deterrent. I agree with and support Governor Cuomo’s pledge to require students across New York to visit museums providing education related to the Holocaust.

Second, we must ensure that our synagogues and community centers have the security funding needed to safeguard themselves from another potential attack. According to Patch, “Congress allocated $90 million to its Nonprofit Security Grant program in December 2019. The grants will be available to high-risk synagogues, mosques, churches and community centers across New York City.” Applications to this funding must go through FEMA and our elected representatives should be educating and encouraging those who need access to this capital.

Finally, our communities must work hand in glove with the NYPD Hate Crime Task Force. This specialized unit is experienced in and dedicated to bias-crime prevention. To get in contact with this unit call 888-440-HATE or email hctf@nypd.org

If elected, my role in government would be local but that would not inhibit me from fighting on this issue on a statewide or national level; too much is at stake for our city. I also intend to advocate for our ongoing commitment and alliance to Israel. Israel is not an apartheid state and boycott, divestment and sanctions are not an answer to our staunchest ally in the Middle East. I stand against any such position whether made by an elected representative or by graffiti in our midst. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

Eliseo Labayen (@EliseoLabayen) is running to represent City Council District 29, which encompasses Forest Hills, Rego Park, Kew Gardens and Richmond Hill.

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