BOROUGHWIDE — As police stepped up patrols in Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods following a series of shocking attacks on Jews in Brooklyn and elsewhere, residents reacted with shock and anger to the violence.
“I always look over my shoulder now. I never did that before,” said one woman walking on 18th Avenue near 48th Street in Borough Park told the Home Reporter on Thursday afternoon.
Residents of heavily populated Jewish communities such as Borough Park, Williamsburg and Crown Heights are seeing additional NYPD patrols on their streets
But the residents will also be seeing members of the Guardian Angels patrolling local streets.
Curtis Sliwa, founder of the civilian patrol group, announced that his members are organizing the patrols at the behest of religious and community leaders.
“We will return to Crown Heights and spread our patrols to Williamsburg and Borough Park,” a statement from the group read.
In a show of unity between the Orthodox Jewish and African-American communities, Rabbi Rachel Timoner of Congregation Beth Elohim in Brooklyn is expected to join the Rev. Dr. Robert Waterman at a prayer breakfast at Waterman’s church, Antioch Baptist Church, on Greene Avenue on Jan. 3.
The attacks have led to increased calls for stricter laws against suspects who commit hate crimes. There are also increasing calls for changes in the education system to provide more instruction on respect for others.
Elected officials vowed to do more to combat the anti-Semitic incidents.
A group of House members from New York City held a press conference on Thursday to denounce the attacks and to announce a plan of action.
U.S. Reps. Max Rose, Jerrold Nadler, Yvette Clarke, Eliot Engel, Hakeem Jeffries, Carolyn Maloney, Nita Lowey, Gregory Meeks, Grace Meng and Nydia Velázquez spoke at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Manhattan.
The lawmakers said a spending bill passed by Congress last month increased funding for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program to $90 million. The grants provide support to synagogues, mosques, churches and community centers to help the institutions improve security.
The House members also said they will be coordinating efforts to assist those in the community and will host grant workshops help organizations and institutions learn more about the grant program.
“We have all been horrified by the anti-Semitic attacks over the past few weeks and the rising trend of terrorist attacks on houses of worship. This cannot continue, because everyone should be able to worship and pray in peace,” the lawmakers said in a joint statement.
There have been at least 13 anti-Semitic attacks in New York City since the deadly Jersey City incident on Dec. 10, the New York Post reported. Three people were killed in the Jersey City incident, which took place in a kosher deli.
State and local lawmakers are also taking action to combat the hatred.
Assemblymember Simcha Eichenstein, a Democrat representing Borough Park, announced new legislation today that would include hate crimes as offenses that a judge can take into consideration when setting bail for criminal suspects.
“I fear that the trend of criminals who commit heinous, violent crimes being released onto the streets without bail could become the new normal in New York unless we rectify the law to consider perpetrators of hate crimes in a separate category, to be arraigned under the previous system of pretrial monetary bail or pending a judge’s discretion,” Eichenstein said.
State Sem. Simcha Felder worked with Eichenstein and Councilmembers Chaim Deutsch and Kalman Yeger to organize an NYPD active shooter drill for administrators from yeshivas.
The City Council’s Jewish Caucus, which has 13 members, called for city funding to allow religious institutions and schools to install more security cameras, door bolts and bollards if necessary, to protect their buildings.
Jack Kliger, president and CEO of the Museum of Jewish Heritage, said the community is grateful for the response of elected officials.
“With anti-Semitic violence on the rise, we are profoundly grateful to all those who have demonstrated a desire to learn from the past in order to meet this current moment with the knowledge, courage and resolve it requires,” he said.