Fighting hate crime

N.Y. Gov. Hochul announces new state actions to combat antisemitism

Hochul’s announcement Tuesday makes New York State the first in the nation to respond to President Joe Biden’s national strategy to counter antisemitism

Riccardo Savi/Getty Images for Concordia Summit

Governor of New York, Kathy Hochul speaks onstage at the 2023 Concordia Annual Summit at Sheraton New York on September 19, 2023 in New York City.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul pledged on Tuesday to use the power of government to combat  antisemitism by announcing the state’s first Anti-Hate in Education Center and Annual Convening as well as distributing an additional $38 million to nonprofit organizations throughout the state that face an increased risk of hate crimes. 

Her announcement comes as the Jewish community in New York faces an elevated threat of antisemitic incidents during the High Holy Days, including bomb threats at a number of synagogues during Rosh Hashanah.

The governor’s announcement makes New York State the first in the nation to respond to President Joe Biden’s national strategy to counter antisemitism, which was released in May. Hochul called the 60-page document “a blueprint for other states to follow.”  

“As governor of the state with the largest Jewish population outside the State of Israel, I feel a solemn responsibility to protect and uplift New York’s vibrant, diverse Jewish communities,” Hochul said at a Rosh Hashanah reception held at the Center for Jewish History in Manhattan. “No one should have to fear for their safety while going to their place of work, going to school or just walking the streets. It has always been my top priority to keep the people of New York safe, and we will continue taking action to fight antisemitism and use every tool at our disposal to eliminate hate and bias from our communities.”

The governor said that $500,000 would go to community organizations to fight antisemitism and hate, while an additional $38 million would be used to upgrade security at synagogues and other nonprofits, an initiative that had previously received $150 million in funding.

The first conference is scheduled for summer 2024, the governor said, adding that one of the initial objectives of the center is to define hate and its impact on education.

The event also featured remarks from Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt, the Biden administration’s special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, and American Jewish Committee (AJC) CEO Ted Deutch. AJC will be partnering with Hochul’s office in the new effort. 

“Hate cannot be fought in silos,” Lipstadt said. “What begins with Jews rarely ever ends with Jews. It has to be a whole-of-society approach. Speak up.”

Deutch, a former Florida congressman, said, “AJC is proud to partner with my friend and former colleague Governor Kathy Hochul on New York’s comprehensive State Action to Combat Antisemitism. We look forward to working with the governor and the many other Jewish organizations engaged in this vital work to help New York be the first state to implement the U.S. National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism.”

At the reception, Hochul also announced that the State Division of Human Rights will improve its data collection of hate crimes and the state’s Office of Victim Services will simplify its victim compensation application. 

Further, she said the New York State Police unit focused on hate crimes will relaunch and the Office of Mental Health will launch a campaign to recognize issues surrounding mental health of Jewish New Yorkers who have been victims of hate crimes. 

Hochul did not respond to an array of questions from protestors, some holding signs, who interrupted the beginning of her speech before being escorted out of the room. 

“What are you going to do to end Jew hatred at CUNY?” one man shouted, referencing recent reports of anti-Israel bias accusations on the City University of New York campuses.

CUNY officials have in recent months drawn scrutiny from critics who believe that the university system — long viewed as a haven for Jewish students — has failed to address a broader rise in anti-Israel activity across its campuses, making Jewish students and faculty members feel targeted. In May, CUNY Law School sparked controversy when it hosted a student-selected commencement speaker, Fatima Mohammed, who accused Israel of “indiscriminate” killings and called for a “fight against capitalism, racism, imperialism and Zionism around the world.”

Hochul said that the new education center will bring together numerous institutions, including CUNY, to create more inclusive environments. 

Notable attendees at the event included Queens Assemblyman Sam Berger, who earlier this month won a special election to succeed Dan Rosenthal, one of the leading Jewish advocates in the state legislature, and UJA-Federation of New York CEO Eric Goldstein.

In New York City, Jews are consistently targeted far more than any other group. 2022 saw a significant increase in antisemitic hate crimes nationally, notably in the Empire State, where 580 antisemitic incidents were reported by the Anti-Defamation League, a 39% increase from the previous year. 

The first half of 2023 has seen a notable decrease in anti-Jewish hate crimes in New York, with 100 incidents reported by the NYPD, a 20% decrease compared to the same time last year. The NYPD’s monthly data is preliminary and is subject to revisions.

Hochul launched a statewide Hate and Bias Prevention Unit within the New York State Division of Human Rights in December 2022. The unit is designed to support communities in which a hate crime incident has occurred. In May, Hochul pledged $25 million in hate crime prevention funding. The latter announcement was made at New York’s first-ever Unity Summit, a statewide convening of more than 500 New Yorkers representing community groups, faith leaders and public safety experts. 

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