Four anti-Semitic Hate Crimes Committed in New York City This Week

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Yosef Rapaport, left, and his son Alexander do not feel that life has become more dangerous for Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn. They say attacks on Jews are nothing new.
Yosef Rapaport, left, and his son Alexander do not feel that life has become more dangerous for Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn. They say attacks on Jews are nothing new. Credit: Ben Sales

NEW YORK — Three Orthodox Jewish men were violently attacked in Brooklyn and a Queens beach club vandalized over the past week, in the latest string of anti-Semitic incidents being investigated by the New York Police Department. 

Last Tuesday, Rabbi Avraham Gopin, 64, was attacked with a brick-shaped rock in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights neighborhood as he was exercising in a park. Gopin lost two teeth and suffered facial and leg injuries.

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On Thursday, police said a group of men threw rocks at an Orthodox man sitting in his truck in Crown Heights, just a few blocks away from where Gopin was assaulted. The rock broke the driver’s side window and hit him in the eye, cutting his face.

The latest violent attack took place over Labor Day Weekend when an assailant hit a third Orthodox Jewish man with a belt outside a synagogue on Saturday night. 

In addition, a private beach club in Queens was closed over the weekend after anti-Semitic graffiti was scrawled on the property, including a swastika, the words “gas chamber,” “Heil Hitler” and other slurs. 

According to New York Police Department statistics from early June, there have been 110 hate crimes against Jews in 2019, ranging from assaults to anti-Semitic graffiti. That’s nearly double the previous year’s figure.

“We won’t tolerate hatred or violence against our Jewish community,” Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted on August 30, the day after the second rock-throwing attack.

Women and children wait at a crosswalk in the Orthodox neighborhood of Borough Park, Brooklyn, Sept. 3, 2019.Credit: Ben Sales

On Tuesday, the mayor’s office announced the opening of New York City’s new office for the prevention of hate crimes, which came months ahead of schedule, and the appointment of Deborah Lauter as its executive director. Lauter previously worked for the Anti-Defamation League for some 20 years. 

The goal of the new office is to coordinate responses to hate crimes across city agencies and take a “holistic approach” to preventing them, amid a staggering rise in anti-Semitic incidents citywide.

Some of the responsibilities of the new division will include developing and coordinating community-driven prevention strategies to address biases fueling crimes, and fostering reconciliation and healing for victims. It will also support training for police officers and promote reporting of hate crimes, which is still a challenge for affected communities. 

But some are still calling on de Blasio, who has been dividing his time between New York and the presidential campaign trail, to take stronger action. 

“Enough is enough,” former state assemblyman Dov Hikind, who recently founded an organization called Americans Against Anti-Semitism, said in a video posted on social media. “Mayor de Blasio, we need you to address the out of control anti-Semitism that is going on right here in New York. Jews [are] being assaulted because they are Jews,” Hikind said. “We need this to be addressed not just through another press conference condemning anti-Semitism.”

He added: “Something is terribly, terribly wrong with all of these attacks. This cannot go on.”

All four of the past week's anti-Semitic incidents are being investigated as hate crimes. Suspects have yet to be arrested for the violent incidents. In one case, the ADL has put out a reward of up to $5,000 for information leading to an arrest. 

The ADL’s New York and New Jersey director, Evan Bernstein, said the violence “must stop now.”

“This is not normal and this is not acceptable,” he said. “No one in our city should have to live in fear simply because of who they are or how they worship.”

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