RESPONDING TO HATE VIOLENCE EPIDEMIC, LEADERS OF NEW YORK’S JEWISH COMMUNITY DEMAND ACTION & NEW APPROACH

Fifty rabbis and other Jewish community leaders join Arab-American, Muslim, LGBTQ, immigrant, Black and Brown communities to press for citywide initiative to combat hate violence;

NEW YORK CITY, June 11, 2019 – Fifty of New York’s Jewish leaders — religious and secular — have signed a letter (appended below) asking the City Council and the Mayor to fund the Hate Violence Prevention Initiative in response to the city’s astronomic rise in hate violence.

According to the NYPD, hate crimes have skyrocketed by 83% in the first quarter of 2019, and antisemitic hate crimes increased by 90% — a shocking increase. Two weeks ago we witnessed a Staten Island synagogue defaced, and even as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, rainbow flags were burned at a gay bar in Harlem, and Layleen Polanco was found dead in her Rikers Island cell, where “[trans-] women are routinely and illegally incarcerated in men’s facilities, and experience harassment and gender-based violence,” in addition to harassment and profiling by the NYPD.

“Thoughts and prayers are not enough. Let’s invest in community-led efforts to end antisemitic violence and bigotry in New York,” said State Senator Julia Salazar

The Hate Violence Prevention Initiative was created by nine community-based organizations with a direct stake in find more effective strategies to combat bigotry and hate. (The Audre Lorde Project, Arab American Association of New York, Brooklyn Movement Center, Center for Anti-Violence Education, Desis Rising Up & Moving, Global Action Project, Jews For Racial & Economic Justice, Make the Road New York, and the New York City Anti-Violence Project.)

Today, New York’s Jewish leaders, alongside Muslim, LGBTQ, Black and immigrant communities, are asking the New York City Council to fund the Hate Violence Prevention Initiative.

The initiative would create greater safety in our communities through:

  • Bystander/upstander intervention trainings to empower community members to ally themselves with victims when an incident of hate or harassment is underway in public.
  • Community-based, culturally competent reporting of hate violence incidents. Marginalized communities feel safest reporting incidents to community-based organizations, which can help them to make a safety plan and determine whether or not they would like to report to law enforcement or another city agency.
  • Community care, including community-led transformative justice processes that focus on challenging and transforming the perspectives of people who do harm in our neighborhoods, as well as counseling and peer support services for survivors of violence.
  • Rapid incident responses that may include community alerts, town hall meetings, neighborhood safety events, and will also create space for targeted school-based and neighborhood education across multiple identities.

As is painfully clear, the city’s current response to incidents of hate violence is ineffective, does not prevent crimes, educate or heal communities, and overly relies on policing. Obtaining a resolution to a hate-violence related incident through reporting to the police is insufficient for healing in communities, does not address the underlying tensions and ideologies that lead to hate violence, and increases penalties for hate crimes which are unlikely to deter assailants from committing acts of violence.

“There has to be a better way, and the setting of one community against another is surely not it.  We are all at risk and we are at risk together, so it is together that we must prevent hateful violence and care for those attacked,” said Ellen Lippmann, Rabbi (Emerita), Kolot Chayeinu

“I know my community in Queens. I know that there is kindness and cooperation, and also that there is antisemitism. We need to find solutions that are restorative and preventative. We need to find ways for neighbors to see a path forward where we understand our differences, and stick up for one another anyway. The NYPD can only come in once the damage is done, and too often, an approach that relies on the criminal justice system just creates more pain and resentment. The smart, effective, community-based approach of the Hate Violence Prevention Initiative is exactly what we need in Western Queens,” said Rabbi Rachel Goldenberg, founder of Malkhut and co-chair of the JFREJ Rabbinic Council.

As Martha Acklesberg and Arielle Korman, leaders at Jews For Racial & Economic Justice, recently wrote in Gotham Gazette, if we are serious about confronting the rise in hate crimes in New York City, “we need approaches that prevent violence through education and community-building, interrupt violence through community-based upstander/bystander trainings and rapid response at the local level, and repair damage through restorative justice, counseling, and peer-support.”

All of New York’s communities have a stake in standing up to right-wing, white nationalist ideology and the violence that it inspires. We believe that the only effective response to hate violence is one that cuts these ideas off at the root, and that binds together all of the impacted communities.

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"No group in New York City is immune from the alarming increase in hate crimes here, and all New Yorkers must come together to combat this epidemic.  We need to support the community-based organizations that are on the ground in the impacted communities, ensuring they have the resources to help prevent and respond to the terrible acts of bias impacting so many," said City Council Member Mark Levine.

"At this urgent juncture in our history, with anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and other forms of racist, xenophobic, and homophobic hatred on the rise across the planet, I'm so deeply encouraged to see Jews, Muslims, immigrants, people-of-color, LGBTQ New Yorkers and so many others coming together to combat hate, strengthen compassion across difference, and build a city where all of us can thrive," said City Council Member Brad Lander.

“At the end of the day, truly addressing hate crimes is not simply a question of law enforcement, it’s about building solidarity between all communities. Acts of hatred and violence cannot be eradicated by force. Building a sense of trust and understanding across our city, and country, is a highly complex and long-term endeavor, but it’s the only real way forward. Thank you to Jews for Racial and Economic Justice and all of its partner organizations for advocating a far more holistic, and ultimately effective, approach,” said City Council Member Helen Rosenthal.

"The Hate Violence Prevention Initiative is an important grassroots effort to prevent and reduce hate violence and bias incidents across New York City. This new initiative recognizes that many vulnerable and marginalized New Yorkers are much more likely to report hate violence and bias incidents to trusted local organizations in their communities than to the police or other law enforcement agencies. The Hate Violence Prevention Initiative will help ensure that survivors of hate violence receive the support they need to heal and recover. And it will give our communities crucial tools and resources for transforming the perspectives of those who cause bias-related harm in our communities," said Monifa Bandele, a leader of Communities United for Police Reform (CPR).

“When LGBTQ people experience hate violence on the street, at home, or on the job, they want to be sure that the person they report to affirms not only their experience but also their identities. That’s why 282 LGBTQ survivors reported hate violence to AVP’s hotline in 2017 while 325 people across all identities reported hate crimes to the NYPD. Community based organizations, like the New York City Anti-Violence Project, are best positioned to support survivors of violence, and city council must fund us to do this work. We know what we need, and it isn’t more policing,” said Audacia Ray, Director of Community Organizing and Public Advocacy at the New York City Anti-Violence Project.

"The Center for Constitutional Rights stands in solidarity with our community-based partners, who are leading transformative practices without dependence on law enforcement," said CCR Advocacy Program Manager Nahal Zamani.

"Violence is strangling our communities and diminishing all of us. Disrupting hate violence means we get into every single community and support the people who are on the front lines confronting sexism, homophobia, transphobia, racism, Xenophobia, Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism. This is a call to action - not just for our communities who are targeted, but for allies. Join us and be Upstanders to violence." said Loren Miller, Executive Director, Center for Anti-Violence Education

An open letter to Speaker Corey Johnson and the
New York City Council from New York’s Jewish Leaders.

June 12, 2019

These are scary times. Hate crimes are up in NYC and those directed specifically against Jews are up even more dramatically. According to the NYPD, hate crimes increased by 64% in the first quarter of 2019 for a total of 184 incidents. Of these, 110 were anti-Semitic, an 90% increase over last year. That’s why JFREJ launched the Hate Violence Prevention Initiative, in partnership with organizations representing communities on the front lines of hate violence. As rabbis, cantors and Jewish institutional leaders, we have the opportunity to help make sure that the city invests in community-based teshuvah, education, healing and prevention, instead of ineffective, dehumanizing punishment.

We ask Speaker Johnson and the New York City Council to fully fund the Hate Violence Prevention Initiative — our communities need effective solutions to hate violence today.

The Hasidic community of Crown Heights has been the most frequent victim of local anti-Semitic violence, because  they do not pass as non-Jewish. The right wing media is drumming up the same old, tired narrative of racialized anti-Semitism, calling it “black racism against Jews,” even though the data shows that the majority of alleged perpetrators are white. Some elected officials have called for greater policing of the Black and West Indian communities in Crown Heights and elsewhere in the City.

What, then, should be our response as leaders in the Jewish community?  Some of us understandably want to turn to law enforcement to stop the surge of anti-Semitic hate crimes before they become more violent and more frequent. But we have to acknowledge the truth that more police means less safety for people they profile, including people of color, queer people, and others, some of whom are members of own congregations and organizations. And we know in our guts that the while the police can occasionally prevent, and will most often punish, they can never transform the underlying reality of rising anti-Semitism in our city. What can transform our society is work done within our communities that can actually change people’s minds, our communities’ relationships to one another, and own material conditions.

The Hate Violence Prevention Initiative, supported by a coalition of grassroots community organizations,  seeks a better solution, focused on prevention and healing and community-based work, including:

Bystander/upstander intervention trainings, including education about anti-Semitism, to empower community members to ally themselves with victims when an incident of hate or harassment is underway in public.

Community-based, culturally competent reporting of hate violence incidents. Marginalized communities feel safest reporting incidents to community-based organizations, which can help them to make a safety plan and determine whether or not they would like to report to law enforcement or another city agency.

Community care, including community-led transformative justice processes that focus on challenging and transforming the perspectives of people who do harm in our neighborhoods, as well as counseling and peer support services for survivors of violence.

Rapid incident responses that may include community alerts, town hall meetings, neighborhood safety events, and will also create space for targeted school-based and neighborhood education across multiple identities.

Not only does this approach offer an alternative to turning to law enforcement as a first response. As a community-based initiative, it has the power to build the transformative relationships that will, themselves, combat anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic hate crimes.

Thank you.

Signatories:

Audrey Sasson, Executive Director, Jews for Racial & Economic Justice (JFREJ)

Leo Ferguson, Author of Understanding Antisemitism, Jews For Racial & Economic Justice

Nancy Wiener, Rabbi

Michael Feinberg, Rabbi, Greater New York Labor-Religion Coalition

Ellen Lippmann, Rabbi, (Emerita), Kolot Chayeinu

Lisa Grant, Rabbi

Barat Ellman, Rabbi, JFREJ (Jews for Racial and Economic Justice)

Rachel Goldenberg , Rabbi, Malkhut: progressive Jewish spirituality in Queens

Mira Rivera, Rabbi, Romemu

Hara Person, Rabbi

Andy Kahn, Rabbi

Salem Pearce, Rabbi, T'ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights

Brad Lander, City Council Member, New York City Council

Ayelet S. Cohen, Rabbi, New Israel Fund

April Baskin

Lani Santo, Executive Director, Footsteps

Lev Meirowitz Nelson, Rabbi

Ruth Messinger, Social Justice Consultant; Former Manhattan Borough President; Former President & CEO of American Jewish World Service

Jack Jacobs, Professor of Political Science, John Jay College and the Graduate Center, CUNY

Alison Pepper, College teacher

Carolyn Abrams-Dyer, Teacher, Educational Alliance

Pippi Kessler, Independent Consultant, Pippi Kessler Consulting

Julia Salazar, State Senator, New York State Legislature

Dove Kent, Senior Strategy Officer, Bend The Arc; co-author of Understanding Antisemitism, and co-founder of Tzedek Lab

Susan Miller, Teacher, The Heschel School

Debra Nussbaum Cohen, Journalist,

Jonathan Memmert, Bnai Jeshurun synagogue

Sally Gottesman

Daniel Rous, Cantor, retired

Lauren Grabelle Herrmann, Rabbi, SAJ

Paul Hechinger

David Ingber, Rabbi, Kehilat Romemu

Rachel Glicksman

Susan Falk, Rabbi

Andrea Kopel, National Council of Jewish Women New York

Janice Tannin

Nancy K Kaufman, Outgoing CEO, NCJW

Anita Altman, Board Chair,  YAFFED

Deborah Secular, Educational Director, Habonim Dror North America

Mark Kaiserman, Rabbi, The Reform Temple of Forest Hills

Guy Austrian, Rabbi, Fort Tryon Jewish Center

Stosh Cotler, CEO, Bend the Arc Jewish Action, Bend the Arc Jewish Action

Joshua Stanton, Rabbi, East End Temple

Mackenzie Reynolds, Rabbi

Barbara Dobkin, Donor-activist; Trustee, Dobkin Family Foundation; Founding Chair, The Dafna Fund; Founding Chair, The Hadassah Foundation, Founding Chair of Ma’yan, past board chair of American Jewish World Service

Felicia Sol, Rabbi

Mia Simring, Rabbi

Marc Margolius, Rabbi

Rachel Timoner, Rabbi, Dismantling Racism Team of Congregation Beth Elohim

Simkha Y. Weintraub, Rabbi

Elad Nehorai, Co-Founder, Hevria

David Adelson, Rabbi, Dean at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion