J ewish members of the New York City Council are requesting $25 million in additional funding to protect houses of worship and other institutions amid a spate of anti-Jewish hate crimes.
Since the beginning of the year attacks against Jews and Jewish institutions have risen 210% in New York City according to the New York Police Department. In New York City generally hate crimes are up 123%.
To combat this trend the City Council Jewish Caucus led by Councilman Mark Levine has requested a multimillion dollar supplemental that will bolster an existing $20 million program that provided protection to houses of worship and schools. The new allotment would go toward community centers like JCCs that have been threatened nationwide.
According to Levine while anti-Semitic incidents were already the single largest category of hate crimes before the recent spike the growing number of anti-Semitic attacks is “simply unacceptable particularly because it’s targeting not just individual New Yorkers but institutions.”
If Mayor Bill de Blasio approves the budget request Levine said he would like to see the funding applied to installing security cameras upgrading alarm systems and hiring more security guards whose average hourly wage of $40 is out of reach for many institutions.
“There are many schools that have now resorted to hiring off-duty police officers on Shabbos ” said Levine a Democrat whose district includes the Upper West Side and Washington Heights. “This is an appropriate role for government to step in to protect its people and its institutions in the face of a very tangible threat.”
While Levine says there is no denying that this spike in anti-Semitic threats is concurrent with the ascendancy of the Trump campaign he dismissed the notion that the mainstream media’s focus on anti-Semitism is leading to disproportionate reports of such incidents.
“The heightened awareness is a good thing ” he explained. “For many years in the Jewish community there has been a debate: ‘Do we want to give attention to these attacks? Maybe that only motivates copycats.’ But the times of that debate is over. This is happening at unacceptable levels. This is no longer in the shadows and so we have to confront it.”
Last October the city council passed a bill sponsored by Levine to require the New York Police Department to include a category for hate crimes in its reporting on neighborhood crime statistics.
The Jewish Caucus also prioritizes speaking out more forcefully in support of Israel and advocates deeper ties between New York City and Israel.
“That has been a more challenging fight than you might expect ” Levine told Mishpacha in an interview outside City Hall. “I’m in an interesting position as a progressive because I actually believe that support of Israel is a profoundly progressive position to take. I believe it’s critically important that Israel be a bipartisan issue that it not be only one end of the ideological spectrum that supports Israel.”
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Issue 653) Jacob Kornbluh is the political writer for JewishInsider.com
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