New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) made an impromptu trip to Israel on Sunday, during which he spoke out against hate and discrimination at a time when anti-Semitic incidents are on a rapid rise in the United States.
“You must live by the rules that an abuse to one, and an affront to one, is an affront to all and that large fires start as small fires,” said Cuomo during a news conference. “And we must have zero tolerance for any abuse or discrimination about any fellow human being.”
“In New York now and in the United States we’ve had a rash of anti-Semitism, over 100 acts of anti-Semitism, and I’m sad to say also in my state, the state of New York. It is disgusting, it is reprehensible, it violates every tenet of the New York state tradition.”
New York was among the states in which a slew of Jewish Community Centers received bomb threats over the last couple of months. While the threats proved to be hoaxes and no one was hurt, the incidents put members of the Jewish community on high alert.
“These acts of anti-Semitism will not be tolerated. New York State has reacted, aggressively, with extraordinary measures — more than any other state in the nation, I am proud to say,” Cuomo said. “We have posted rewards, we have put together a special unit of the state police; we’ve made it clear that there will be no tolerance for these acts of anti-Semitism. My sadness is that now another generation of young people has had to experience this pain, a pain that for many young people was only in the history books, is now very much in their daily lives.”
On Saturday several headstones at a Jewish cemetery in Brooklyn were toppled over. Police have since reported that the incident was not vandalism, citing age and weather conditions as possible factors.
However, the incident occurs just days after a similar incident at a Jewish cemetery in Rochester, N.Y. The Brooklyn cemetery is the fourth Jewish cemetery to be targeted in two weeks across the country. In much larger incidents, about 100 headstones at a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia were overturned at the end of February. Just a week earlier, about 150 headstones were vandalized at a Jewish cemetery in Missouri.
Standing alongside the governor, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said, “Jews must be safe wherever they are, wherever they are in the world, especially and specifically in the United States. Let us see none of this again.
“The government will not let anti-Semitism win,” Rivlin said.
Cuomo has been adamant on combating hate crimes. In November he announced a three-part initiative that includes “the creation of a State Police unit to investigate reports of hate crimes, an expansion of the state’s human rights law to protect all students, and the establishment of a new emergency legal defense fund for immigrants.”
He unveiled his plan at New York City’s Abyssinian Baptist Church.
“The ugly political discourse of the election did not end on Election Day,” he told the congregation. “In many ways it has gotten worse, [growing] into a social crisis that now challenges our identity as a state and as a nation and our people.”
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump has been largely criticized for what many believe has been a slow response to condemn the anti-Semitism. When asked at a gathering of state attorneys general to comment on the rise in anti-Semitism he said last week “sometimes it’s the reverse,” Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro reported to BuzzFeed news.
Shapiro, who reported being confused by the president’s remarks, said, “He just said, ‘Sometimes it’s the reverse, to make people — or to make others — look bad,’ and he used the word ‘reverse’ I would say two to three times in his comments.”
“He did correctly say at the top that it was reprehensible,” Shapiro added.