UPPER EAST SIDE, Manhattan (PIX11) — With just two days until the start of Hanukkah, the New York Jewish community is preparing to celebrate this eight-day festival of lights with gifts, songs and food. But because of a rise in antisemitic attacks, there is concern and caution.
“We have vaccines for all kinds of diseases, but we don’t have one for antisemitism,” Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, the vice president of the New York Board of Rabbis, told PIX11 News.
With Hanukkah celebrations starting Sunday night, there is a beefed-up police presence at synagogues and Jewish centers across the area after two recent antisemitic attacks, one of which took place Wednesday night.
Police are looking for a man they said spewed anti-jewish hatred and knocked a 63-year-old man to the ground, chipping his tooth and breaking his hand. It happened inside Central Park, close to the East 72nd Street entrance. The attacker’s bicycle had a sign that read hungry and disabled, police said.
“It’s sad, terrible,” Andrew Morgan, a New Yorker walking through Central Park, told PIX11 News. “New York is known for being such a melting pot, a welcoming place. It’s bad.”
Police are also looking for at least six teenagers who threatened to use a stun gun on an 18-year-old in Midwood, Brooklyn, while spewing more anti-Jewish venom on Dec. 10 just after midnight.
Why this increase in antisemitic violence?
“The oldest form of hatred in the world,” Rabbi Potasnik told PIX11 News. “The internet is a blessing and a curse.”
“There is a sense of alertness and caution,” Jason Shames, the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey CEO, told PIX11 News. “But we’re not going to stop doing the things we value and believe in doing.”
At the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey, which serves more than 125,000 Jewish members, recent courses have included run, hide, fight, active shooter, stop the bleed and cyber security training.
“Thank God, we going to light the candles Sunday and celebrate what happens to be one of the more upbeat Jewish holidays,” Shames told PIX11 News.