Combating Anti-Semitism

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LIU Post hosts community leaders

A panel joins the discussion against anti-semitism at LIU Post. (Photos by Chris Boyle)

In the last few months, anti-Semitism has reached a fever pitch in many communities across the country—even Long Island itself has not been immune and the issue was recently addressed at a special conference held at LIU Post.

The State of Anti-Semitism Local and Global was a conference held on Sept. 13 on racism against the Jewish people, its impact on both the Long Island region and globally and how it can be addressed head-on through action groups and advocacy. The event was hosted by former Democratic Congressman Steve Israel for the Global Institute at Long Island University, a platform for understanding an increasingly complex world by bringing world leaders, thinkers and analysts to the campus to prepare students to change the world with new models of innovation and social entrepreneurship.

Israel, the Global Institute’s current chairman, was to able to acquire an impressive array of speakers for the anti-Semitism conference, including Israeli Ambassador Dani Dayan, Evan Bernstein from the New York chapter of the Anti-Defamation League, Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas, Nassau County Acting Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder and numerous others.

Former Congressman Steve Israel leads the conference.

“Jewish people are known as the chosen ones, but what are we chosen for? We were chosen to uphold a certain moral commitment, we were chosen to uphold justice and fairness and liberty—and if you follow the history of dictatorship and tyranny, if those people want to advance their aims, they have to go through those people who are putting up a barrier against them,” Israel said in his opening comments at the conference. “It’s been the Jewish people that put up that barrier. Jewish history teaches us that there is evil in the world and when there is evil we must confront it. We must act, and that’s what this conference is all about.”

In August of 2016, Dani Dayan officially assumed the post of Consul General of Israel in New York and represents the state of Israel to communities throughout New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Delaware. Dayan commented on the recent march of white supremacists in Charlottesville, VA, many of whom carried Nazi flags and shouted racist and anti-Semitic slogans while protesting the proposed removal of Civil War-era statues depicting Confederate leaders.

“Nazism is the most evil ideology that mankind ever knew on the face of the Earth. So when Nazi flags were displayed in the city of an American town, there are no considerations about what could be worse,” he said. “This ideology, which brought about the massacre of six million Jews, is so abhorrent, so repugnant and so dangerous that when we see it displayed, be it in Charlottesville or other places around the globe, the supreme command is first and foremost to combat it. Nazism and white supremacy cannot have a place on the face of the Earth.”

Evan Bernstein, the New York regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, spoke about the huge spike in cases that his organization has been handling in recent months, signifying a growing trend of racism directed towards Jews—a trend he said the public needs to take a united stand against.

“Right now in our country’s history, business for us is at an all-time high, unfortunately,” he said. “The work that we’ve had to do, not only fighting against anti-Semitism, but securing justice and fair treatment for all, is taking up so much of our time because of the intensity of these incidents. There has been a rise in activity on Long Island in recent months, including swastikas being spray painted on schools and homes and elderly couples being assaulted. You can’t let it go, the police and community leaders have to know because it’s the only way they’re going to be able to protect you and others from these kinds of things happening.”

District Attorney Madeline Singas was also present at the conference and spoke about her creation of a hate crime-specific unit in the county’s police department this year and about the history of hate crime legislation passed in Nassau in 2000 and the effect it’s had on bias crime.

“People have asked me, do we really need hate crimes legislation? Is it really necessary? Can’t you just prosecute an assault against one person the same way we would prosecute assault against another person?” she said. “And the answer is an overwhelming ‘yes’…it is absolutely necessary, because hate crimes not only target an individual, but it targets an entire community. Hate-driven crimes are despicable and we will work together to make sure that we prevent them from happening, and that we prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law when they do happen.”

Nassau County Acting Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder agreed with Singas and described the tireless work officers under his command take on as far as enforcement and community engagement goes, emphasizing that he’s driven to keep everyone safe under his watch, regardless of race, color or religion.

“Hate crimes have no place in our society,” he said. “Whenever a race-related incident occurs, we work hand-in-hand with the district attorney. We’ve come a long way in how we handle bias incidents, but we always handle it and for the police department it’s a top priority.”

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