Once again, the New York Times grapples with the reality of what anti-Semitic hate crimes actually look like.
There were 55 hate crimes reported in New York City this year as of Feb. 17, an increase of 72 percent over the same period last year, the police said. Anti-Semitic crimes made up almost two-thirds of that, for a total of 36 crimes reported so far this year, compared with 21 last year.
The steep rise comes after a year when hate crimes were already increasing. Anti-Semitic crimes in 2018 were up 22 percent compared with 2017.
But in Crown Heights, the increase in hate crimes has been more shocking because it has been marked by violent, seemingly unprovoked attacks on men and women in Jewish garb, many of which have been caught on surveillance video, and then widely viewed online. In many cases, there is no robbery, only the random attack.
Since October, there have been 15 violent, anti-Semitic incidents directed against ultra-Orthodox Jews in the neighborhood, according to an Israeli organization that tracks anti-Semitic incidents. Devorah Halberstam, the community liaison to the 71st Precinct, which covers Crown Heights, said she believes there have been even more than that.
In January alone, several Orthodox Jews were punched, seemingly unprovoked, in broad daylight on Kingston Avenue, the main Jewish thoroughfare in Crown Heights. In late January, a 22-year-old Yeshiva student was beaten on the street while calling his parents on the phone in Australia. A few hours later, a 51-year-old man was beaten so badly by the same assailants that he was hospitalized.
And the truly problematic part lies in the identity of the perpetrators.
Rabbi Eli Cohen, the executive director of the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council, has begun visiting nearby public schools with Geoffrey Davis, an African-American community leader, to try to understand what may be driving the attacks, as many of the assailants arrested by the police have been young men of color.
What’s driving the attacks? Some combination of hate, malice and boredom. The knock out game isn’t new. Crime is rising, despite the statistics, because pro-crime politicians have gotten their way locally and nationally.
The inevitable rise can be delayed and it can be whitewashed with statistics, but it must come.
Much of the violence targets Orthodox Jews because they’re physically there. The Crown Heights Orthodox community was one of the few to remain when others fled. The hipsters who have come in since will also feel the pinch, but Chabad is more visually obvious.
And more vulnerable.
But when we talk about violent anti-Semitic attacks, this is what many of them look like.
Brooklyn will account for much of the attacks. The targets will frequently be Orthodox Jews. And the perpetrators, black. This isn’t new. It’s just the difficult reality that much of the media, community leaders and the political establishment would like to ignore.