NEW YORK — The breakout of war in Gaza and Israel in October led to a surge in hate-filled incidents aimed at Jews, new NYPD crime data shows.
Bias crimes in the city increased by 124% in October compared to October 2022, according to the Police Department data released Wednesday. Police counted 101 bias incidents in New York City in October, up from 45 in October last year.
Leading that surge was a spike in anti-Jewish incidents, of which 69 were reported last month in the city compared to 22 in October 2022 — a 214% increase, officials said.
“We’re feeling it 100%,” Bob Moskovitz, executive coordinator of the Flatbush Shomrim Safety Patrol in Brooklyn, said of the uptick in hate crimes. “Our hotline, which the community utilizes to report any incident, has probably increased in this last month and a half by 300%. The phone is simply not stopping.”
In October, the same month highlighted by the NYPD’s crime stats, the Shomrim patrol received nearly 1,600 calls, Moscowitz said. A normal call volume is about 500 per month.
“The community is obviously anxious and stressed by everything that is going on overseas and here,” Moscowitz said. “We are out there 24/7. Keep in mind we are volunteers — we don’t get paid for this. We’re the eyes and ears for the Police Department because they are simply overwhelmed with 911 calls and running all over the place.”
He said many of the calls are from Jewish institutions, synagogues and yeshivas, asking them to post someone outside.
“Now it’s to the point where people are panicking,” Moscowitz said. “There’s a definite, definite high level, increased level of stress in the community. A lot of the stuff that would have been swept under the rug is now being reported.”
Moscowitz said most calls involve kids from middle school to high school, and others in cars driving through the neighborhood shouting at people on the streets and waving Palestinian flags. He said people also wake up to find the Israeli flags they put outside their homes stolen or destroyed.
“For the most part it’s the youth,” he said. “They’re just lashing out. They don’t even have an idea of what’s going on overseas.”
New York City is not alone in seeing a hate crime surge.
In recent weeks, researchers for the Southern Poverty Law Center “have tracked an increase in documented and reported incidents of antisemitic harassment of individuals and ‘fake’ bomb threats to Jewish institutions,” the center said in an email.
“In addition, antisemitic graffiti has also been reported and a large number of online activity that denigrates Jewish people using age-old tropes,” the SPLC said. “This increase in antisemitic activity has been coupled with an increase in anti-Muslim and anti-Arab activity as well.”
Institutes of higher education have seen outbreaks of anti-Jewish hate.
Jewish students at Columbia University, Cooper Union and other higher-education institutions have said they have felt particularly vulnerable as tensions from the war between Israel and Hamas spill over onto college campuses, where threats and antisemitic incidents have been reported.
Upstate, a Cornell University student was charged by federal authorities with making online threats “calling for the deaths of Jewish people.” He could face five years in prison.
The rise in bias crimes has sparked reaction among elected officials.
“It’s been well-known that the Jewish community makes up about 2% of the population but has long been the target of the majority of religiously motivated hate crimes,” Rep. Ritchie Torres, D-N.Y., told the Daily News.
“Antisemitism takes on a new intensity when a war breaks out in the Middle East,” Torres said. “It feels to me there are more incidents, not only more reporting of incidents, but incidents. Antisemitism is like a cancer that can go into remission but it resurfaces every so often.”
“It’s a global outbreak of antisemitism.”
Torres believes social media has a big role in fueling antisemitic rhetoric. “Social media enables antisemitism to spread at a pace and on a scale and to an extent never seen before.”
“I feel the Jewish community has been victimized and traumatized not only by October 7th (when Hamas terrorists unleashed a wave of kidnapping and killing in southern Israel) but by the antisemitism that has taken hold in its wake.”
Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg joined lawmakers on Monday to announce legislation that would expand the definition of hate crimes and close loopholes that protect perpetrators of bias crimes.
“If a group of people beat someone up because of their race, that gang assault, as the law calls it, cannot be charged as a hate crime. That needs to change,” Bragg said. “Hate crime does not discriminate. It has targeted all of our communities.”
Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has said he is pushing for $1 billion in federal funding to protect places of worship and religious schools that have been the target of antisemitism and Islamaphobia in New York City and across the nation.
“At-risk religious-based organizations across New York and the nation not only want more help — they desperately need it,” Schumer said.
“The persistent cascade of intolerance and even violence as the state of hate in America rises to a boiling point demands a much stronger federal response, because we are in a crisis. In many ways, the vulnerability and increased danger in houses of worship, academic institutions and not-for-profits has never been higher.”