The New York City area has seen a startling rise in alleged anti-Semitic hate crimes. Even though this isn’t limited to the immediate environs of Gotham — federal statistics and the deadly synagogue shootings in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Poway, California, are evidence enough of that — the incidents in the nation’s largest metropolitan area have been both frequent and worrying of late.
The most dramatic of these incidents was the shooting earlier this month at a kosher supermarket in Jersey City, New Jersey. However, several other anti-Semitic offenses have occurred around the city, with eight alone reported last week, according to the New York Post.
Here’s the truly frightening thing: Hours before a machete attack at a Hanukkah event at a rabbi’s home in a New York City suburb on Saturday night, one of the suspects in an anti-Semitic crime was released on her own recognizance. She’s not the only one, either — and law enforcement sources are blaming the administration of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and a soon-to-be-enacted New York state law involving bail reform.
The details about the machete attack were sketchy as of Sunday morning. What is known, according to The New York Times, is that a man attacked the home of Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg in the Rockland County suburb of Monsey, New York, northwest of the city. Rockland County is known for a large Jewish population, much of which consists of Hasidic families who moved there after being priced out of New York City’s Orthodox enclaves.
Authorities say the attack happened shortly after 10 p.m.
“I was praying for my life,” Aron Kohn, who was in the home at time of the attack, told The Times. “He started attacking people right away as soon as he came in the door. We didn’t have time to react at all.”
“We saw him pull a knife out of a case,” Kohn added. “It was about the size of a broomstick.”
— Chris Eberhart (@ChrisEberhart2) December 29, 2019
Five people were wounded in the attack. Kohn told The Times that the suspect then left the house and ran over to a next-door synagogue Rabbi Rottenberg leads, Congregation Netzach Yisroel. However, those inside the synagogue had heard the screams from the rabbi’s house and had locked the door.
According to Fox News, another Jewish man on his way to morning prayers in Monsey was beaten and stabbed last month.
The suspect in Saturday’s attack was later arrested 30 miles away in Harlem. Police hadn’t released his name or any details about his arrest. They also declined to say whether the attack was anti-Semitic in nature.
On the morning of the attack, Tiffany Harris was in a Brooklyn courtroom. She’s the suspect in a beating incident in the Crown Heights neighborhood, an area of the borough known for a large Hasidic population.
Harris is accused of attacking three Hasidic women between the ages of 22 and 31 on Friday, all while yelling “f— you, Jews!”
This account of events apparently isn’t under much dispute: “Yeah, I was there,” Harris told NYPD officers when questioned about the incident, according to the New York Post. “Yes, I slapped them. I cursed them out. I said ‘F-U, Jews.’”
She didn’t seriously injure any of them, however — and in New York state, thanks to new bail reform laws, it’s almost impossible to hold anyone who didn’t cause injury to the subject of an assault even if that assault was part of a hate crime.
However, those of you familiar with the new laws will also be asking why they needed to be set free now, given that the laws only take effect on Jan. 1. Apparently, even though a wave of hate crimes against Jews has been reported during Hanukkah in New York City, Mayor de Blasio still went ahead with a plan to get the ball rolling early on implementing the new laws.
That’s why prosecutors didn’t even request bail Saturday morning.
“The de Blasio administration has made it clear that we all need to get into compliance with bail reform now,” a source in law enforcement told the New York Post. “If prosecutors had asked for bail, corrections would release them immediately” or on Jan. 1.
That was a fact Brooklyn Criminal Court Judge Laura Johnson cited as she let Harris free.
“So I’m releasing her on consent and also because it will be required under the statute in just a few days,” she said during Saturday morning’s hearing, the New York Post reported.
“Ms. Harris, you’re being released on your own recognizance.”
And she isn’t the only one. On Friday, another suspect in a similar incident was set free. Ayana Logan, a 43-year-old who stands accused of swinging a handbag at an Orthodox Jewish mother in the Gravesend area of Brooklyn.
Logan also allegedly spewed anti-Semitic bile before the attack: “You f—ing Jew, the end is coming for you!” she allegedly told the mother.
In Logan’s case, she was ordered to undergo twice-monthly mental health sessions while she is on release.
Harris and Logan are two of only three suspects in the series of anti-Semitic assaults that police have been able to arrest. A third, 28-year-old Steven Jorge, remains behind bars as he injured his alleged victim, a 65-year-old Jewish man. (In case you needed to know, he purportedly yelled out “F— you, Jew bastard!” during the assault, according to the New York Post.)
If it actually needed pointing out, neither Harris nor Logan fits the description of the suspect in Saturday’s attack in Monsey, since neither is male. However, at a time of profound danger for the Jewish community — in particular Orthodox communities — individuals being accused of hate crimes are being let go under the state’s new bail laws, all of which are being proactively (or needlessly, depending on your perspective) being applied by the de Blasio administration.
This didn’t sit well with Jewish residents of New York City.
“We’re scared to walk at night in the street,” Steve Benjamin, a 30-year-old resident of Borough Park in Brooklyn, told the Post.
“There is a lot of hate here and I don’t know why. People in the community are scared. It’s very dangerous. It’s just like remembering the days before World War II. I don’t let my kids out alone.”
“It should be more justice — they arrest them, but they let them out of jail a day later.”
If there is to be a justification for hate crime laws, it’s this:
Those who commit a crime because of a racial, religious or ethnic animus are significantly more dangerous than those who commit crimes for other reasons. An assault on someone because of the victim’s race or religion evinces a more hazardous breed of criminal than one who assaults victims because they won’t give them their wallet, the same way that a swastika spray-painted on the side of a synagogue evinces a graver threat than a graffito on the side of a random car.
However, if we acknowledge the additional danger, it makes no sense letting suspects in hate crimes out without bail. These attacks prove that New York’s new laws need to be revisited and revised. Beyond that, one questions the sensibilities of a mayor whose administration decided to go ahead with it early, particularly after a 2019 where a dramatic rise in anti-Semitic hate crimes was an issue in New York City.
This is nothing short of dereliction of de Blasio’s duty to the Jewish community.
The political leadership in New York isn’t doing nearly enough to protect its Jewish citizens. This has become a daily occurrence in NY. These attacks might not be a convenient talking point for those on the left, but they still need to speak out. https://t.co/1W9y6pyVl3
— RJC (@RJC) December 29, 2019
“The political leadersip in New York isn’t doing nearly enough to protect its Jewish citizens,” the Republican Jewish Coalition tweeted after the attack. “This has become a daily occurence in NY. These attacks might not be a convenient talking point for those on the left, but they still need to speak out.”
Even if they do, will Mayor de Blasio, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and other Democrats speak out about the bail reform package they passed and what it’s meant for these alleged attackers? I doubt it.
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