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February 14, 2022 3:17 pm
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Following Latest Attack, Brooklyn Jewish Leader Urges New York City Officials to Launch Antisemitism Awareness Campaign in Public Schools

avatar by Ben Cohen

Illustrative: Two suspects in an antisemitic attack on a Jewish man in Brooklyn, New York, Oct. 21, 2021. Photo: NYPD.

The head of an organization representing Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn has urged the city of New York to launch an antisemitism awareness program in the city’s public schools while praising new Mayor Eric Adams’ determination to stamp out hate crime.

Rabbi David Niederman, president of the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg and North Brooklyn, told The Algemeiner on Monday that the latest antisemitic attack in the city on Friday night, in which a Jewish teenager was punched in the face by an unidentified assailant, underlined his concern that attacks on Jews in New York are becoming normalized.

“It doesn’t make a difference if it’s in Flatbush or Williamsburg or Crown Heights, it’s an attack on a Jew, and that is unfortunately no longer a traumatic event, because it happens so often,” Rabbi Niederman said.

Niederman emphasized that he was impressed with new Mayor Eric Adams’s response to hate crime on a weekend that witnessed not just the assault in Flatbush, but also the shocking murder of a 35-year-old Asian woman, Christina Yuna Lee, who was stabbed by an assailant who followed her into her apartment building in the Chinatown section of lower Manhattan. Both the Jewish and Asian-American communities in New York have suffered from an increase in hate crime in recent months, some of it connected to falsehoods and conspiracy theories relating to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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“It’s good that the mayor is very outspoken,” Niederman said of Adams, who tweeted in the aftermath of the outrage in Flatbush  that “an attack on our Jewish community is an attack on every New Yorker. We will catch the perpetrators of this assault.”

Niederman added that the New York Police Department and its Hate Crimes Task Force had been “great” in providing support to the Jewish community. “From the top down, there’s zero tolerance, [antisemitism] has to be eradicated,” he said. “But it’s very sad that this is the state of affairs.”

Niederman said that in speaking out forcefully against antisemitic violence, Adams had already taken “the first step.”

He continued: “The second step is a sustained campaign in New York City’s public schools against antisemitism. It’s not enough to talk about the Holocaust, as important as that is, we have to speak specifically about antisemitism. Kids need to understand what a swastika represents, that people are getting hurt, that this type of hate will in the end turn on them.”

In a separate development on Monday, the UJA-Federation of New York announced a $250,000 fund to provide security for at least 50 small synagogues — known in Yiddish as “shtiebels” — around Brooklyn. The synagogues, in Midwood, Kensington, Williamsburg, Crown Heights, Borough Park and Flatbush, have a capacity of fewer than 200 people and little or no staff, according to a UJA statement.

Mitchell Silber of the Community Security Initiative (CSI) — a joint initiative of the UJA and the Jewish Community Relations Council in New York —  said that the program’s goal was to “fortify and protect some of our most vulnerable locations and communities.”

Applauding the UJA announcement, State Assemblyman Simcha Eisenstein remarked that “criminals who hate do not distinguish between small or large houses of worship.”

That realization meant that “security is imperative in every single house of worship,” Eisenstein said. “I strongly encourage all our shuls to take advantage of this vital program.”

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