Mayor Adams vs Antisemitism — Zero Tolerance for Hate

As the “world’s oldest hatred” is on the rise worldwide, New York City Mayor Eric Adams, at the helm of the city with the largest Jewish population — 1.8 million — outside Israel, appeared and delivered a speech at the Mayors’ Summit Against Antisemitism in Athens, Greece.

A group of Jewish organizations called CAM (the Combat Antisemitism Movement) and other groups held the summit, the second of its kind, last week, drawing over 50 mayors from 23 countries to discuss how to deal with the scourge of Jew hatred.

As antisemitic incidents increase month after month, year after year, Jews and their personal and communal properties, shuls, yeshivos, and cemeteries are targeted regularly. The perpetrators often escape justice.

Adams explained what he believes are the driving forces of antisemitism, and steps the international community can take to curb it.

The mayor spoke with Hamodia before his speech, discussing his meetings with other mayors and his reaction to current events involving Jews and antisemitism

New York City Mayor Erik Adams speaks during the 2022 Mayors Summit Against Antisemitism in Athens, on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

Editorial: Thank you, Mr. Mayor

By Ruth Lichtenstein, Publisher

In less than two weeks, Jews throughout the world will light Chanukah menoros and celebrate a miraculous victory our ancestors merited in a battle against brutal anti-religious persecution by the ancient Greeks.

This month, we will also mark the third anniversary of two vicious antisemitic attacks that left the Jewish community reeling. Mindel Ferencz, a 31-year-old mother of three young children, 24-year-old Moshe Deutsch, along with Douglas Miguel Rodriguez, 49, were killed by a pair of heinous shooters in a terror rampage in the JC Kosher Supermarket in Jersey City, New Jersey. Less than three weeks later, a machete-wielding madman attacked Jews gathered at a Chanukah event in Forshay, New York, and brutally stabbed five men. One of them, Reb Yehosef Neumann, later passed away from his wounds.

As these words are being written, we are experiencing a significant and alarming increase in antisemitic attacks right here in the United States. The news that more than 50 mayors representing cities from countries across the world gathered this past weekend — ironically in Athens, Greece — to attend an international summit to address antisemitism is something that we all should welcome.

Particularly newsworthy is the decision of New York City Mayor Eric Adams to travel to Greece and participate in the summit. New York is the most populous city in the United States — and has more inhabitants than over 100 countries. It is far too early to tell what, if anything, was accomplished at this gathering. But the fact that Mayor Adams prioritized this event and carved the time out of his schedule to travel abroad to attend it was more than a step in the right direction — it was a powerful statement and a much-appreciated gesture that shows how strongly he cares about this vital issue.

The fact that he has taken his fight against hate to the world stage shows his understanding of just how urgent it is. May he be granted success.

As someone who spent two decades in law enforcement and who served as Brooklyn Borough President, the Mayor knows all too well about the danger posed by unchecked hate. And he has repeatedly expressed his determination to do what he can to fight it. The Jewish community is grateful for his leadership, his friendship, and for his eagerness to build bridges between New York communities.

Thank you, Mr. Mayor.

New York City Mayor Erik Adams listens Mayor of Athens Kostas Bakoyannis, right, during their meeting in the city hall of Athens, on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022. The two mayors signed an agreement to twin the cities of New York and Athens. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

Interview: The Thing is to Fix the Problem

By Reuvain Borchardt

We saw your speeches at the conference, but can you tell us about some discussions you had, either at breakout sessions or privately with other mayors, about antisemitism?

The focus is really threefold. One, to build out a pipeline of young people. The Black-Jewish relationships have not fractured. The problem is that many who have started those great relationships have transitioned, and those of us who are still here, we have an obligation to build out a new pipeline. When you look at some of the encounters between the Jewish community and the Black community, it’s involving a lot of young people, and that is because we have not successfully built out that pipeline, and we want to refocus on doing that through education, through meetings, through sports, through other activities.

The second is social media. We feel we must collaborate together to have a pathway through legislation where our federal government is going to look at social media the way they’re doing so in Europe now. And we also want to sit down with the social-media giants and tell them they must use algorithms to stop hate, and they must have a more forward thinking, community corporate response to this issue of how social media is assisting in harboring hate, collaborating hate, and recruiting people to use their pain to carry out hateful acts.

And lastly, public safety. Those who commit these crimes, they must be held fully accountable. We should not be plea-bargaining down these cases. Prosecutors across the country should be treating these cases of antisemitism and hate in a very real way.

So on that note, Congressman Ritchie Torres sent a letter to the Department of Justice recently asking it to investigate allegations in a Tablet article that hardly any perpetrators of antisemitic crimes in New York have gone to jail. What do you think of this? Have prosecutors and judges been doing a good job in this area, and if not, should the Department of Justice get involved?

I think the DOJ should. They should do a deep dive to make a determination on why that is so that those who inflict hate crimes on the Jewish community, and as well as any other community, are not being held accountable. That sends the wrong message.

I believe there should be a no-plea bargaining rule for someone who participated in a hate crime. We should not allow them to plead down to harassment; we should not allow them to go free without being held accountable. It sends the wrong message.

I remember one case in Manhattan where the person came out of jail smiling and said they would do it again. That is because the criminal justice system is not sending a strong message about hate crimes.

Donald Trump recently met with Kanye West and Nick Fuentes, though he said he didn’t know who Fuentes was. While Republicans have criticized Trump, they’ve also taken the opportunity to say Democrats have an antisemitism problem also, whether with the Democratic Socialists of America, or with Obama having met Farrakhan. Do you think both political sides have antisemitism problems?

I don’t think that you fix the problem by pointing and saying, “Well, what about what they’re doing?” The thing is to fix the problem. And so for the Republicans or the Democrats or anyone to point and say, “Well, they are doing the same thing,” that is not an answer to the problem. We need to stop antisemitism and stop the hate that we’re seeing grow in our country and across the globe. And that was why these 53 mayors came today [from] all over the globe, to talk about how do we collaborate to end that hate.

Some people say that antisemitism now often takes the form of criticism of Israel. Do you agree with this, and if so, what sort of criticism of Israel is legitimate and what sort of criticism of Israel is antisemitism?

We should critique each other all the time. We critique America, we critique Israel, we critique everyone. To have healthy debates and conversations about a country or what’s happening within a country should not demonize every member of that country or should not demonize that entire country. And I think that anyone who does that is doing it with the attitude of really trying to be harmful, in a subliminal way, to the Jewish people on the whole.

There’s not one policy everyone agrees with any country [on], but to try to demonize the entire country and all the people of that country because of something one disagrees with, I think, is unfair and unjust.

Some on the right and the moderate left have argued that Democrats have not called out the Democratic Socialists of America forcefully enough for promulgating antisemitism. What do you think of this?

I think that any time and any way that they bring up antisemitic views, we should be strong to condemn it. And that is something that I’ve always felt and believe and will continue to do, and I think the congressional delegation, they will make sure their house is in order. I know the new leader there, particularly on the Democratic side of the aisle [incoming House Minority Leader Rep. Hakeem Jeffries], has always been a supporter of Israel and has always stood up against antisemitism and other acts of hate. And I look forward to his leadership in the upcoming year.

New York City Mayor Erik Adams, left, and Mayor of Athens Kostas Bakoyannis, sign a twinning agreement in the city hall of Athens, on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022. The two mayors signed an agreement to twin the cities of New York and Athens. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

Analysis: ‘Extinguishing the Flames That Fuel Hatred’

By Matis Glenn

A frog placed in hot water will immediately jump to safety. But if placed in comfortable water, the frog will not leap if the temperature is slowly, steadily increased, until it’s too late. The frog tolerates the heat until he is cooked.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams gave this science lesson to the mayors’ conference on antisemitism in Athens, Greece, November 30, as a parable to explain the normalization of and desensitization to antisemitism that is plaguing the world.

The conference drew mayors from over 50 cities in countries across the world. As mayor of the city with the largest Jewish population outside of Israel, Adams delivered an address outlining how he plans to tackle antisemitism and what can be done worldwide to address it.

Adams put a particular focus on the role of social media as a driving force of antisemitism.

“The temperature is just increasing so slightly, that we’ve allowed it to normalize in every part of our lives, we’ve become accustomed to it. It’s become popular,” Adams said in his speech. “And the degrees change, not only in how we verbalize and interact with each other, but social media is the flame that continues to fuel the hatred that you are seeing … those who hate no longer isolated in the corners of their bedrooms or homes or in their clubs; they have now combined together to create the hate that we are experiencing.”

Adams pointed to the role social media plays in the offline world, noting that the recently thwarted attempt to attack Manhattan synagogues was planned online by two extremist young men.

He then connected the incident — which was a deciding factor in the mayor’s decision to attend the conference — to his next point, about building connections between communities.

“What many people missed … it was due to a Jewish organization that was monitoring social media channels and chatter. They were able to give an early warning sign to connect with the law enforcement community, and we were able to span out and to not only get the firearm but get to two individuals who were involved.”

“That’s the coalition and coordination that we need, and why we can’t remain silent,” Adams continued. “We have to be front and center in our organizing. It means those who are partners against defeating this hate. We have to meet it head on.”

The mayor, when advocating for a combined effort between government, community organizations, and media giants such as Meta and Twitter said that those who are perpetrating hatred online “should not have 5 million followers on social media … and those of us who are standing up for what’s right only have 100,000.”

“Going into our schools, so we don’t continue to have pipelines to hate but learn to have our children learn how to come together and use academics. So our children are not only academically smart, but they’re emotionally intelligent, and they all learn the beauty of diversity and how we can use and teach each other why someone wears a yarmulke, a kufi, or a hijab.”

He gave his “Breaking Bread Building Bonds” program, which he ran as county executive prior to becoming mayor, as an example of how to “go into the crevices of our community and become creative in how we do it.” He planned dinners between people of different backgrounds to have discussions, which he said used the “lubricating value” of food to facilitate conversations.

Speaking about building connections between communities, Adams said, “We’re hardwired to believe to only coalesce among those that look like us, talk like us, eat the same food, do the same things, speak the same language. It’s time to break free of that. If we’re going to defeat hate, we must come together and unify together and lean into the discomfort of knowing something and someone new, and appreciate what diversity has to bring and has to offer.”

Jewish community leaders reacted positively to the mayor’s appearance.

“Mayor Adams is at the forefront of combating hate and antisemitism,” Rabbi David Niederman, head of the United Jewish Organizations, told Hamodia. “He has spent countless hours strategizing on how to prevent hate attacks, fostering understanding and protecting the Jewish community and all NYC communities. With his trip to Athens, the mayor took his mission to combat hate internationally. … The mayor speaking out for the Jewish community speaks volumes, and the Jewish communities across the world are grateful for the mayor for his standing with us and doing all he can to stop antisemitism.”

Adams was presented with an award by CAM for his work in fighting antisemitism.

“We have never had so many local and municipal leaders in one place, sharing best practices and learning from each other how to fight Jew-hatred,” CAM CEO Sacha Roytman Dratwa said in a press release.

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