Mayor de Blasio: Jewish Lives Matter, Too

by Heather Robinson

A terrible attack on the Jewish community in Monsey, New York took place Saturday night, the seventh evening of Chanukah, when a machete-wielding assailant entered and began wildly stabbing worshippers during a crowded holiday celebration in a rabbi’s home, according to the NYPD.

The suspect was caught at 11:45pm yesterday trying to cross the George Washington Bridge with his clothes covered in blood.

This is the most recent in a series of attacks on Jews in and around New York City over the past weeks. Last week alone, during the festival of Chanukah, New York City’s Jews were reportedly attacked in hate crimes taking place almost every single day.

No one seems to know why this is happening, and in a city of over 8 million, it’s important to remember the vast majority of people across all communities have absolutely nothing to do with it. But it’s also vital to recognize it’s clearly a trend.

It’s also clear is the city’s response has been weak. Reportedly most of the suspects have been released back into the communities they allegedly terrorized.

In one instance, a woman who was charged with punching and screaming at three Orthodox Jewish women, and who told cops, “Yes, I slapped them. I cursed them out. I said, ‘F U, Jews!’” has already been released on no bail, despite this admission, and despite her record for felony criminal mischief, a charge for which she already failed to show up for court appearances.

The release without bail of these alleged attackers is tied to new “bail reform” legislation set to go into effect on January 1 “requir[ing] arraignment judges to free suspects in any nonsexual assault that doesn’t cause physical injury, even in cases of hate attacks,” according to The New York Post.

This is unacceptable.

On top of problems with this new legislation, adroitly unpacked by my colleague Karol Markowicz in The Post, it seems a very far-fetched and wimpy interpretation of the language of this law to categorize aggressive physical assaults such as slaps as causing no physical injury.

In the unfortunate event that any other group—Muslims, for instance—were being targeted for physical attack in the city, with more than a dozen assaults of mounting severity over the course of a month culminating in a mass machete attack at a religious event, I believe we would see thousands of New Yorkers take to the streets to stand in solidarity with that community. How much more would that be the case if the courts appeared to be soft on the alleged perpetrators?

To be sure, our Jewish community would be at the forefront of any such demonstrations.

No doubt the Orthodox are being targeted by anti-Semites because they are easy to identify, and perceived as an easy target (This despite the fact that some of the victims in the Monsey attack reportedly fought back). Remember: an attack on our most visible members is an attack on us all. Next time, any of us could be the target. The Jewish community needs to stand as one.

We must do more, now, to show solidarity with our Orthodox brethren and say loud and clear that this is unacceptable. If, G-d forbid, this trend continues, perhaps the Jewish community of New York City should seriously consider taking to the streets in peaceful protest and asking good New Yorkers of all religions and races to stand in solidarity with us in demanding action from city and state leadership. Jewish lives matter, too. Not to mention, any community could be targeted next in a city that’s soft on hate.

De Blasio has announced he’s beefing up police presence at Jewish institutions and Sunday he said, “We have to teach our young people more effectively. This is the crux of so much of what we’re seeing now—young people who somehow have come to assume that bias is acceptable. We will not let that happen in New York City.”

That’s a good start.

But if he’s serious, Mayor de Blasio should start by reflecting on how, indeed, young New Yorkers have “somehow” gotten the idea that bias is acceptable and reconsider some of his political alliances, including with The Reverend Al Sharpton, whom de Blasio recently –obscenely described as “pushing for justice in the teachings of Dr. King.” In reality, Sharpton, though he has lately tried to clean up his image, built his career on inciting racial violence, including during the bad old days of the Crown Heights riots, and has never apologized for it. De Blasio should also reconsider the Democratic party’s flawed and morally specious addiction to identity politics, which pits groups against each other and, in its obsession with differences and power dynamics rather than moral transcendence and ethics, the opposite of Dr. King’s vision. Instead, he should be seek alliance and input from New Yorkers of all colors and creeds who embrace humane values, including respect for the family and for the individual.

This brutal attack is a reminder that prejudice, racism, and anti-Semitic hate have no one face, no one race, no one religion, no one political ideology. Anyone can be either victim or perpetrator. While socioeconomic disparities and injustices are real, and some groups have suffered unique hardships, none of that gives anyone the right to abuse another person or group because they are different, or perceived to be part of a more “privileged” group. And being part of a historically disadvantaged group shouldn’t give anyone immunity from the law if they engage in such atrocities. People of all communities who are raised with good values and common sense understand these truths, of course.

But those quick to point to a “climate of hate” and embrace identity politics should consider how they may unwittingly be making their own contributions to this climate by balkanizing Americans into a bunch of divided groups and apportioning values based on ethnic and racial identity without recognizing the deeper truths that we are all human, no one has a monopoly on prejudice, and we are all equal under the law. Are kids learning this at home and in school? They should be.

Long past time to teach the simple truth that anyone, of any religion or race, is capable of dehumanizing others, which is the essence of racism. And anyone can be better than that. Perhaps that’s the first thing that Mayor de Blasio should insist be taught in Brooklyn’s public schools as part of a new curriculum he has promised if he’s serious about countering hate and the terrible ignorance we’ve seen spewing onto the streets of New York City in recent weeks.

Mayor de Blasio, as the proud father of a wonderful interracial family, how about asking for help from community leaders, including Jewish and black New Yorkers with a track record of successful bridge-building, to institute a new curriculum in all of New York City’s public schools dedicated to combating prejudice?

Lesson one could be: in actuality, there is only one race, the human race.