Photo Credit: Marc Gronich
Yael Eisenstadt, a former high-ranking FaceBook employee and now vice president of the Center for Technology and Society with the Anti-Defamation League, participates in a discussion about how social media contributes to online hate messaging.

Antisemitism is growing in New York state, and the scourge has prompted Governor Kathy Hochul to create a task force to put a halt to the rising endemic issues surrounding the rise in hate crimes. The governor said she wants to be proactive, but the horses are already out of the barn and running rampant throughout the state. The governor has put Lt. Governor Antonio Delgado in charge of the effort to put the toothpaste back in the tube.

“The new development is that in the Division of Human Rights there is a new unit called the Hate, Bias and Prevention unit,” Delgado told The Jewish Press after lighting a public menorah in his hometown of Rhinebeck, Dutchess County. “This unit is going to be more proactive going to communities, engaging with folks on the ground, and making sure we’re not just reacting to the emergence of hate crimes. We will be acting proactively and programmatically doing what we can to bring folks together to talk about community, talk about unity, and to make sure we’re having real, thoughtful, honest conversation.”


Hochul admitted recently that the rampant number of antisemitic incidents has gone too far.

“Well, we’ve lost some ground, my friends, but it is time to [cede] that ground back,” Hochul said at a recent news conference. “This is who we are as New Yorkers. We embrace everyone. And when you attack one of us, anyone that is picking a fight with 20 million other New Yorkers is starting with your governor. Words and images can be painful, and people carry that within them, and that’s why we have to let it out. We have to let people know what is happening to this community, be public about it, rise up in a sense. And also, to realize that when we do not rise up and speak with a strong voice, calling out the perpetrators of hate speech and hate crimes, then we become complacent and complicit. And we saw the effects that just in the last century, as someone who has visited the camps and spoken to family members. And you have to ask the question, where were the people? Why? Where were their voices? Did they not see what was going on? Where was their spine? Where was their courage?”

After alluding to the Holocaust, Hochul spoke directly about it.

“I’ve had the privilege to sit down with Holocaust survivors, sit down with 10 women who talked about how, in their elder years, they still felt that they lost their childhood because their family had been dragged to a concentration camp or they lost the relatives that they never had the privilege of growing up with,” Hochul said. “They felt diminished after all these years, something that happened to them when they were children. One of them had this chilling statement to me. She says, ‘I’m feeling the same as when it happened in my country. I’m feeling those same voices of evil and hatred are rising up, and where are the people stopping it?’”

Lt. Governor Antonio Delgado attends menorah lighting before speaking to The Jewish Press about a new task force combating hate speech.

Delgado said he didn’t know what to expect to hear from New Yorkers as he goes around the state next year holding community forums.

“It’s just about creating an environment where people feel heard. Oftentimes people don’t feel heard so it’s incumbent upon [us to create] an environment where everybody can be heard and we can build bridges and get beyond sometimes the siloed ways in which we are going about our lives.”

The Anti-Defamation League has a different take on antisemitism. For them it’s all about controlling the hate spewed all over social media – TikTok, Facebook, Twitter – all used by elected officials to get out their message quickly.

“It took Twitter seven years to build a reporting button that was integrated in the platform,” said Viktorya Vilk, director for digital safety and free expression at PEN America, which has a campaign, “No Excuse for Abuse.”

“The entire human rights team is gone at Twitter. Many of the people who worked on transparency and elections issues are gone. Meta laid off 11,000 people last month. The people I’m used to escalating issues to are not there anymore. I’m not sure what’s going to happen. This will require a change in strategy. With Twitter we’re going to have to change tactics. We’re going to have to lean heavily on public pressure, storytelling, the toxic Twitter campaign that’s being pushed by several organizations in terms of having advertisers pull back because they don’t want to have their ads next to hate content.”

Social media companies have one Achilles heel – advertisers.

“We all know at the end of the day advertisers are what fuel this business model. Advertisers, in general, do not want their ad next to hateful content for pure brand safety purposes, for pure return on investment purposes. For us, that is a very strong lever we don’t take lightly,” said Yael Eisenstadt, a former high-ranking FaceBook employee and now vice president of the center for technology and society with the Anti-Defamation League. “FaceBook would say you find it [hate content] and then let us know. Then we will look at it. That’s the company saying we’re not going to proactively look for this ourselves. There are reasons why these companies don’t want to overly proactively do this. I worked with incredible people when I worked at FaceBook who wanted to do the right thing and many of us were pushed out for wanting to do the right thing.”

At the “Never is Now” conference last month in Manhattan, the mental health aspects of being targeted online were discussed as a big concern.

“If you’re a Black, Jewish women or a nonbinary person you are going to be attacked from all sides on all facets of your identity. On top of that, people are attacked for their professions,” said Kat Lo, research affiliate at the University of California – Irvine, the Steckler Center for Responsible, Ethical and Accessible Technology (CREATE). “We know that women, people of color, LGBTQ folks, members of religious and ethnic minorities are disproportionately targeted for abuse online. That abuse by nature is identity-based compared to everyone else. This can cause PTSD for folks who have been in serious targeted harassment campaigns. It can cause stress, anxiety, depression, sleeplessness, that’s the mental health impact aspect of all this.”

Maybe the Governor and Lt. Governor will hear additional comments when the task force takes shape and sets up forums in all “62 counties to educate and also be an early warning system,” Hochul continued. “You see something your child is doing on social media and it concerns you. We can be in the prevention business as well by educating people as to what the signs are. This is not just a New York City phenomenon; this is going to penetrate throughout the entire state of New York. That’s how we change people’s hearts and minds. And I’m going to make sure that this newly founded organization, renouncing it today, right here, is actually an effective vehicle, an effective instrument for change,” Hochul concluded.


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Marc Gronich is the owner and news director of Statewide News Service. He has been covering government and politics for 44 years, since the administration of Hugh Carey. He is an award-winning journalist. His Albany Beat column appears monthly in The Jewish Press and his coverage about how Jewish life intersects with the happenings at the state Capitol appear weekly in the newspaper. You can reach Mr. Gronich at