On the posh Upper East Side of New York City, an older woman in her mid-seventies (G*) has been agonizing over whether or not to remove the mezuzah from her door.
Closer to home, an Israeli father to a child living in Midwood, Brooklyn, expressed similar concerns, adding that he told his child and all of his grandchildren never to step outside wearing a yarmulka or any other Jewish symbol.
Even though New York City is home to the largest Jewish population outside of the State of Israel, their number has not provided safety. Not anymore.
“Most of my Jewish neighbors have already done taken down mezuzahs,” G* told JewishPress.com in an interview conducted over the internet.
All interviews were conducted with an agreement for anonymity due to sincere fears of attacks by an anti-Semite.
“You wouldn’t believe how many people in my building has taken down their mezuzahs,” G* said.
“The situation here is grim. I have been paying top dollar to take taxicabs to my destinations, rather than risk a ride on the subway where at any time I might encounter someone who wants to kill me.
“Everyone I know is either taking off their necklaces with a Jewish Star, or at least hiding them under their shirts. It’s not safe to be a Jew in public anymore,” G* added.
“For years, I told my kids to wear hats instead of yarmulkas, and to keep their Magen Davids (Jewish Star) inside their shirts – or better still, not to wear it at all. It’s not safe,” L* insisted.
“Look at what’s happening – not only in New York, but in Los Angeles and in a dozen other cities if not more. All the haters who were waiting for their chance are out in the open now with members of Congress to validate and back them,” L* said.
A Jewish man in his thirties living in a largely Jewish neighborhood of Brooklyn, D* has taken similar advice to heart and said he always wears a hat when he leaves his house.
“When I was attending Brooklyn College, I saw dozens of rallies and demonstrations by pro-Palestinian groups on campus. Today a visibly Jewish student who steps on to that campus takes his life in his hands. And not just at Brooklyn College either – take a look at what is happening at Columbia University, and even at NYU (ed – New York University).
“I am glad I finished when I did.”
According to The Wall Street Journal, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) entered the scene in New York this month, talking about antisemitic crimes with Jewish community groups and meeting with community leaders in the wake of more than two dozen antisemitic hate crimes reported to the NYPD.
The FBI is also trying to convince the public to report such incidents to the NYPD and has distributed posters with instructions for reporting hate crimes in various languages, including Hebrew and Yiddish.
FBI assistant director in charge of the agency’s New York field office William Sweeney said the incidence of hate crimes against Jews rose during Israel’s recent Operation Guardian of the Walls military campaign against Hamas in Gaza.
But the FBI is only called in on police investigations – even of hate crimes – when the incident involves mass casualties or crosses into federal jurisdiction. In May, the FBI worked together with NYPD on two hate crime investigations, the WSJ reported, and yet the NYPD said 26 antisemitic hate crimes were reported between May 2 and May 23. In the previous year in the same period, just four such crimes were reported.
The NYPD has made 89 arrests from January 1 through May 23, as compared to 40 arrests during the same period one year ago.
Antisemitic attacks have been documented in Los Angeles, in Illinois and Florida, as well as in other areas.
According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) there were 222 anti-Jewish hate crimes reported to the ADL’s 25 regional offices during the two weeks of the Israel-Hamas mini-war earlier this month, up from 127 incidents in the two weeks prior.
President Joe Biden tweeted his disgust at the leap in antisemitic hate crimes, writing “The recent attacks on the Jewish community are despicable, and they must stop.”
“It took years before I was willing to put a mezuzah on my door,” recalled S*, who comes from a Holocaust background. “I was hiding, I guess. Now, nearly all of my Jewish neighbors are hiding.” So far, S* has not taken down the mezuzah.