Communal Leaders Protest Assaults on Orthodox Jews

hate crimes protest
Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, Executive Vice President of the Agudath Israel of America  is shown speaking at the protest; City Councilman Chaim Deutsch is at left. (Alexander Rapaport)

A multi-ethnic group of communal leaders held a demonstration Wednesday morning to protest several assaults on Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn this week.

On Sunday, Farrukh Afzal, 37, a car-service driver from Staten Island, tried to mow down one Chassidic man in Boro Park before exiting his vehicle and viciously beating another. On Monday, Shervy Taylor, 18, of Brooklyn, hit a Chassidic man in Crown Heights with a tree branch.

“Here in New York City, so many of our followers and constituents came from the ashes of the Holocaust and rebuilt a vibrant Jewish community, in large part due to the tolerance and diversity of our great city,” said Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, executive vice president of Agudath Israel of America. “Therefore, these very troubling incidents directed at Orthodox Jews, whose distinctive dress makes them identifiably Jewish, along with an ongoing rise in other anti-Semitic occurrences, should concern … New Yorkers of all faiths and beliefs. We must be a society that thrives on our diversity.”

Taylor was charged with assault as a hate crime, menacing as a hate crime, and criminal possession of a weapon. Afzal was initially charged with a hate crime upon his arrest, but the District Attorney’s office declined to include that charge at the arraignment, ultimately charging him with assault, attempted assault, menacing and harassment.

“It’s hard to believe that a violent and unprovoked attack in broad daylight against someone who appeared obviously Jewish could be motivated by anything other than baseless hatred,” said Councilman Chaim Deutsch, organizer of the demonstration, held near NYPD headquarters at 1 Police Plaza. “I have yet to see any evidence that demonstrates an alternate motive for the assault in Boro Park.”

hate crimes protest
Councilman Chaim Deutsch presents awards to coordinators of Boro Park and Crown Heights Shomrim for apprehending the attackers this week. (Alexander Rapaport)

Others at Wednesday’s demonstration also called for Afzal to be charged with a hate crime.

“I represent one of the most diverse communities in the city of New York, where people from all faiths and parts of the world live together in peace and harmony,” said Councilman Barry Grodenchik. “That is what we expect, and that is what we will demand.

“We want to make sure that the DA, who has done an excellent job, understands that we take this very seriously – as we would for any group.”

Representatives of constituencies running the gamut of New York City’s diverse population participated in Wednesday’s protest.

Councilman Jumaane Williams said that bigotry of all forms must be condemned. “These crimes unfortunately are increasing more and more, and in my opinion the only way to push back on that is to call it out every time it happens no matter who it happens to, and do that collectively.”

Deutsch also announced his plan to introduce two new bills in the City Council. One would direct the NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force to initiate an educational unit, particularly to educate young people across the city about the impact of bigotry and hateful symbols. The other would require the city’s district attorneys to report to the Council on the motives of hate-crime perpetrators. “Access to information about the intent of these crimes would aid the city in better addressing the root of prejudice, instead of simply reacting to crimes after they occur,” said Deutsch.

“No religion teaches hate” said Imam Ahmed Ali Uzir of IQRA Masjid Brooklyn. “We must love each other for the sake of G-d. We must stand united against bigotry and racism, to offer a brighter future to our younger generations.”

On Wednesday afternoon, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo tweeted that he is directing the New York State Police Hate Crimes Unit “to monitor these anti-Semitic incidents as well as all acts of bias and work with local law enforcement to ensure those responsible are held to account.”

“Hate has no place in New York,” said the governor.

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