The rate of assault on visibly Jewish people on the streets of New York is accelerating. This repugnant reality should be roundly condemned. At the same time there is also an increase of attacks on other ethnic minorities, especially African Americans and Asians.
I need to go out on a limb here and say that attacks on Jews are not that exciting for the media. In other words, when a hate crime is perpetrated against a person who looks Jewish—wearing a yarmulke or featuring a beard and payos—the news coverage is not that attention-grabbing.
In a sense, these types of attacks on Jewish individuals are condoned on some level, largely because throughout the generations, singling out and targeting Jews has been passively accepted, and shockingly, even expected.
Earlier this week, a 14-year-old was arrested and charged with a hate crime after chasing a 72-year-old man walking to shul in Williamsburg and spraying him with a fire extinguisher. The assault took place on August 21 and on that same morning, a 66-year-old man in Williamsburg was also sprayed with a fire extinguisher and then punched in the face.
These kids probably thought at least two things about perpetrating an assault like this: (1) It would be fun. (2) They would get away with it. Since they were so young, they were released shortly after they were detained. The case will wind its way through the juvenile court system until it fades into history.
This is an isolated incident, but it is also important to note that these types of hate crimes are up 100% in New York City this year. Attacks on Jews in New York are up 45% so far this year. According to the ADL, on a national level anti-Semitic attacks are up 56%; viewing that statistic in context, it is worth noting that Jews are just 2.7% of the U.S. population.
But there is also a more sophisticated—if you can call it that—form of anti-Semitism being perpetrated in our midst, and that is on our college campuses where Jews, Orthodox Jews in particular, are isolated and assaulted without recrimination, penalty, or, in many cases, any attention given.
On many college campuses around the country and, in particular, in New York, hostility directed at Jewish students and faculty is dressed up as a combination of anti-Israel and anti-Zionist activity along with the call for the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state, preferably supplanting Israel. In reality, it is plain, old-fashioned, unmitigated Jew hatred.
At last week’s Cedarhurst news conference on standing up to anti-Semitism in New York chaired by Assemblyman Ari Brown, Kingsborough College Professor Jeff Lax shared his personal experience as a staff member of the City University of New York.
Professor Lax says it is no secret that anti-Semitism at CUNY (Kingsborough, in his case) is on display, with hateful assaults being perpetrated against Jewish students as the school administration consistently looks the other way.
He says that this year at Kingsborough a student took a bat to another student who wears a yarmulke and administered a vicious beating. He adds that there are protests and rallies at the school that feature chants of “Kill the Jews” and “Free Palestine.” The school’s president, Claudia Schrader, has not commented on these violent and provocative events.
Professor Lax is the chairman of the Department of Business and Economics. Over the last several years he has spoken out with determination about CUNY’s adaptation of resolutions condemning Israel and especially referring to Israel as an apartheid state.
In 2020, on an anti-Israel resolution, Lax told JNS in a phone interview: “Whoever wrote this was not very intelligent.”
“You can’t have it both ways. If Israel is an apartheid state, how can it also be a diverse nation-state? It’s clearly an anti-Semitic trope to call it an apartheid state. Do they not know that there are Arabs in the government? They serve on the Supreme Court and make up 20% of the population. It’s absurd. Facts matter.”
Lax, who is also an attorney, said he plans to quit the union because he does not want his money to go to Jew hatred. He said union dues are about 1% of his salary. He wrote to PSC President James Davis and made it clear that just because a resolution says it is not anti-Semitic does not make it so. Lax said the resolution also seeks to put an end to American financial support for Israel, a move tantamount to divestment from Israel, one of the stated goals of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement.
For more on this very disturbing issue, see the article by Jeff Ballabon, senior counsel to the American Center for Law and Justice.
Hatred for Jews and the traditional Jewish way of life disguised as anti-Zionism is pervasive. Over the last year or so, it has even impacted on the ice cream we consume, whether here or in Israel. Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield believe they are doing the proper Jewish thing by refusing to sell their ice cream in Judea and Samaria of Israel.
If Cohen and Greenfield had their way, they would refuse to sell their products anywhere in the sovereign and democratic state of Israel. Ben and Jerry never thought that this would lead to a conflict between them and their parent company, Unilever. They never thought that states like Florida and even New York would subsist from using their products or divest themselves from investments in the company they have built so successfully over the years.
Ben and Jerry probably thought the American Jewish community was going to throw a parade for them once they announced their boycott plans. They probably felt just like the Jewish professors on the CUNY board and staff who believe that saying that Israel is an apartheid state is a noble and righteous position.
It’s not a smart thing to say or believe. But too many—whether kids on the streets or higher education officials—believe that the world will go along with their Jew hatred because it is so deeply ingrained in the history of the world.
However, Lee Zeldin, running for governor of New York, Assemblyman Ari Brown, Professor Jeff Lax, and Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida say, “Not so fast—and no more.” We need more of them.
Larry Gordon is Editor-in -Chief of the 5 Towns Jewish Times.