To protest two recent anti-Semitic incidents in Sheepshead Bay, along with a hate-fueled outburst targeting Jews at Brooklyn College in February, local pols and hundreds of community members rallied at the neighborhood’s Holocaust Memorial Park on Sunday, March 13.
Hosted by District Leaders Ari and Margarita Kagan, the weekend rally – attended by several local electeds including Public Advocate Letitia James, Assemblymember Dov Hikind, Assemblymember Helene Weinstein, Councilmember Mark Treyger and Councilmember Chaim Deutsch – was held with the purpose of getting rally participants to sign a resolution “calling on authorities to do more to prevent and prosecute hate crimes,” according to Ari Kagan.
“It is our duty as members of a free society to speak out when we learn of anti-Semitic or similar acts of hatred,” he said. “An act of anti-Semitism anywhere is wrong, but to perpetrate such acts in this beautiful community, home to so many Holocaust survivors, is horrendous.”
Last month’s swastika incidents occurred less than a mile from Holocaust Memorial Park, Kagan said. One swastika, along with the letters “KKK,” were found in an elevator at an Avenue W building and another swastika, along with some hateful text, was drawn on a car owned by a Jewish man that was parked on East 19th Street, according to reports.
The February incident at Brooklyn College involved a student group chanting “Zionists out of CUNY” during a faculty council meeting. According to Hikind, the students singled out the council’s chairperson and called him a “Zionist pig.
“Many people want to pretend that everything is okay, they want to turn a blind eye to what is going on within our CUNY colleges,” Hikind said at the rally. “They want to pretend that if you’re quiet, the hate will subside. That does not work. Silence does not work. Period.”
Several other elected officials chimed in on the issue as well.
“Anti-Semitic acts, much like behavior targeting any racial, ethnic, religious, gender or sexual orientation group, should not just be seen as aimed at one group; these are acts against all of us,” said Councilmember Mark Treyger. “We cannot accept an environment where students feel uncomfortable at a public educational institution just because of their beliefs, the color of their skin or how they choose to live their life.
“Purim – a holiday commemorating the Jewish people’s victory over an oppressor – is less than two weeks away,” Margarita Kagan added. “It reminds us that we must take a stand against those who have evil intentions. Potential perpetrators of anti-Semitism must know that hate has no place in our neighborhood. Government leaders must know that we expect them to be proactive in preventing future hate crimes and aggressive in investigating and prosecuting when an act of hate does occur.”
Deutsch took to Facebook after the rally and said, “I [stress] how important it is for us to educate our children about the past, so they can be empowered to prevent history from repeating itself.
“Our CUNY colleges are a place for our children to grow and learn about acceptance, tolerance and other cultures,” he continued. “It is vital that we take action to address these reports of anti-Semitism, to send a message that any form of bias or hate is unacceptable.”