Anti-Semitic Hate Crimes Are Up In NYC's Neighborhoods Of Orthodox Jews
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Anti-Semitic hate crimes in New York City are up 63% compared to 2018, according to the city's police department. Many are acts of vandalism, like swastikas scrawled on synagogues. But there seems to be a specific increase in violent crimes against Orthodox Jews in neighborhoods where they live, including Williamsburg and Crown Heights.
Bari Weiss, The New York Times opinion columnist, has a new book, "How To Fight Anti-Semitism." She joins us from New York. Thanks so much for being with us.
BARI WEISS: Thanks, Scott.
SIMON: First, these current attacks. Based on reporting, is there a particular source for attacks against Orthodox Jews?
WEISS: Well, it seems to be happening often from people who live in the neighborhood. We don't know that much about the perpetrators. What we do know is that people that live in Crown Heights don't tend to be white supremacists. And to judge from the footage of many of these attacks, at least some of the perpetrators seem to be young black men or teenagers. And perhaps that's one of the reasons that so many people want to avert their eyes from what's happening in places like Crown Heights.
SIMON: Are they street assaults and robberies or hate crimes? Where are the lines in something like this?
WEISS: Well, all we know is that the people that are being attacked are the most publicly, visibly Jewish people. And they're incredibly violent. Given that this has been happening in the city, there's been a sort of curious lack of interest on the part of New Yorkers, on the part of the mayor, on the part of the governor. Imagine if a spate of crimes had happened in a pattern like this against another minority - what the reaction would be.
SIMON: Has there also been a national increase in anti-Semitic crimes?
WEISS: Yes. So according to the FBI, since 1995, Jews have been the victim of more religiously motivated hate crimes than any other group. It's very clear that anti-Semitism and violent anti-Semitism has many sources right now in the country, not just white supremacists. Although white supremacists, of course, were responsible for the most violent attacks in the past two years, including at my own synagogue, Tree of Life in Pittsburgh, which was carried out by a white supremacist named Robert Bowers.
SIMON: As I don't have to tell you, you're controversial in some circles for focusing on anti-Semitism on the political left in this country as well as the right.
SIMON: Do you weigh them on an equal scale?
WEISS: They're different, and I sort of - you know, whenever I get that question, I always wonder about it because hate isn't a zero-sum game. To me, what matters is there are Jews being ostracized. There are Jews being attacked. And I care about both of those things.
If someone's going to walk into a synagogue, as they did in Tree of Life, and murder Jews at prayer, there's a good chance, you know, given gun violence in this country and who it's coming from in this particular moment, that that person's going to be a white supremacist. But that doesn't mean that I shouldn't worry about, for example, at the University of Virginia, Jewish students being prevented from joining a minority student coalition to fight white supremacy because they were smeared themselves as white supremacists for supporting the state of Israel. I'm worried about that, too.
SIMON: Are you conflating people who are opposed to Israeli policy towards Palestinians with anti-Semitism?
WEISS: I'm not. I myself am deeply opposed to the occupation of the Palestinian people. I believe that they have an indigenous right and claim to the land. And I'm on the record in many columns in the Times as being very opposed to various policies of the Netanyahu government, and I was cheered by the election this past week.
What I am opposed to is an ideological movement that insists that only one nation-state in the world doesn't have the right to exist, and that that nation-state is home to the largest Jewish community on planet Earth.
SIMON: Bari Weiss of The New York Times - her new book, "How To Fight Anti-Semitism" - thanks so much for being with us.
WEISS: Thank you so much.
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