Thousands of people marched in solidarity on Sunday, January 5, to protest anti-Semitism and demonstrate support for Jewish neighbors affected by recent incidents of anti-Semitic violence.
A sea of winter hats, hoods, and yarmulkes flooded Foley Square around 11 a.m. in lower Manhattan before swelling towards the Brooklyn Bridge. The demonstration culminated in a rally at Cadman Plaza in downtown Brooklyn, where various community leaders urged confronting Jewish hatred as a united front.
“The whole purpose of the march is saying that an attack against all Jews is an attack against all New Yorkers, and we can’t stand idly by without condemning this and all forms of hatred,” Eric Goldstein, CEO of the UJA-Federation of New York, told Bklyner over the phone before the march.
Hate crimes are up nation-wide and anti-Semitic violence has spiked in New York City over the past few months. NYPD statistics showed that violence against Jewish people accounted for 60 percent of total hate crimes in June. The spike prompted Mayor de Blasio to call for a stronger police presence in Borough Park, Crown Heights, and Williamsburg — all neighborhoods with dense populations of Orthodox and Ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities.
“Increased policing won’t solve social problems. It never has. It doesn’t solve other social problems and it won’t certainly solve anti-Semitism,” said Sharona Chava, an organizer with Outlive Them NYC, a group of Jewish social justice organizers that came together in 2018 after the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting.
Chava and other Outlive Them NYC members stood on the outskirts of the rally and handed out flyers that advocated for a vision of Jewish safety without increased police presence.
“There is a contingent of New York Jews who think that our safety will only come in active solidarity with other marginalized communities,” she said.
Chezky Kohn, 23, has seen how the uptick in violence has rattled his Jewish community in Far Rockaway, Queens. Kohn studies in Crown Heights and says that the increased police presence there makes him feel safer, but that he doesn’t think it will cure anti-Semitism.
“It would be better if we trained children when they are young to not hate,” he said. When asked about the interfaith show of solidarity, he remarked, “the people here who are not Jewish–that’s amazing.”
“You’ve got people working hard to be in unity who disagree with each other about the things most important to them,” Council Member Brad Lander told Bklyner reporter at the rally. “But today, people felt it was important to be here because anti-Semitism does not distinguish between politics.”
“There’s no way that we can’t show up today,” said Ariel Tidhar, 25, a Brooklyn resident and jewelry designer who says she incorporates her Judaism into her designs and is proud of her heritage. “I tell everyone I am Jewish.”
“I want to represent members of my community going to church today, who couldn’t be here,” said Reggie Dorsay, 70, a retired cab driver who grew up in Bed-Stuy, on behalf of his Christian community.
“God put us on this earth to love each other. That’s why I made this sign,” he said, sitting on a bench while throngs of people inched towards the bridge.
“Social justice is a part of every faith. We are just trying to exercise it,” said Manni Lee, 48, who showed up with her pastor and fellow members from her Chinatown church. “We are united, and we stand in respect for one another.”
The demonstration didn’t have many people from the Hasidic community, which has borne the brunt of the recent anti-Jewish attacks.
“We don’t usually attend events where men and women aren’t segregated,” said Jacob Desser, 25, a Hasidic Jew attending the march. Desser said that the recent string of assaults on his community motivated him to attend the demonstration.
“It can put anybody in these communities in a challenging situation of men mixing with women and women mixing with men,” said Rabbi Daniel Gropper, 51, who leads a reform congregation in Westchester County, of why so few Haredim attended the rally.
Vicki Rovere, a resident from the Lower East Side, wore an apron over her winter jacket, decked out with buttons decrying war, racism, and islamophobia. She held up a button that read “JEW. You?”
“That’s why I have this one, to identify myself,” she said. “I’m a secular Jew, I’m not as visible. The people being targeted are the most visibly Jewish, and I don’t want to leave them out there alone. This is an opportunity to connect with folks who are more religious, and to stand up for all of us.”