Photo Credit: Marc Gronich
Senator Bill Weber explains his passion to get the package of bills passed. Weber is sponsoring two of the 13 bills aimed at combating antisemitism.

Senate Republicans have unveiled a package of 13 bills aimed at combating antisemitism on several levels. These measures resulted from the efforts of a five-member task force that was developed after more than a year of community meetings and roundtable discussions. Five of the bills are labeled as priority.

The Senate Republican leader is now looking for support from the majority Democrat side of the chamber.


“There was a day when this would have been a very bipartisan thing. Unfortunately, that’s not today. There are members on the other side of the aisle who have stood with Hamas and stood with a terror network,” said Leader Rob Ortt (R – North Tonawanda, Niagara County).

“We have elected leaders who have stood with a terror network. We have elected leaders who have called the elected government of Israel to step down while allowing a terror network to remain in place. … It’s a growing threat. We have elected officials giving credence or giving shelter in their words or in their actions to a terror network that only emboldens antisemitism for those who would make antisemitic remarks or advocate for antisemitic legislation or policies.”

An apparent exception among the Democrats is Senator Simcha Felder.

“Senator Felder is a colleague. He’s a friend. He’s certainly someone who understands the topics we speak of here and the efforts we’re trying to move forward,” said Senator Jack Martins (R – Old Westbury, Nassau County). “I will not speak for Simcha. I’m happy to have these discussions with him as we go forward. We all know that Senator Felder is a staunch defender of the Jewish community and I’m sure, without speaking for him, that he also stands with us on these issues.”

A feature of the bills is a focus on combating antisemitism on college campuses.

“This is a real concrete step forward to protecting communities right here in New York who do not feel as safe as they should and as they once did. We have to combat that and do something about that,” Ortt said.

“There are Jewish students on college campuses who have openly said they do not feel safe on college campuses. When we talk about fear, it may not be in large Jewish communities where there are a number of like-minded people of the Jewish faith so that there is strength in numbers. When you are on a college campus and you may not be on a largely Jewish campus and may not suddenly feel so safe being the lone Jew in your class or in your dorm room, that’s where I think the fear is happening. The fact that it is happening on college campuses funded by millions and millions of taxpayer dollars, to me is a real problem that I do think needs to be addressed on the fear part.”

Education was another focus of the legislation. Rockland County, with the largest number of Jewish people per capita of any county in New York state, also has had its share of antisemitic acts.

“Hate is taught. We all have the responsibility to end the teaching of falsehoods of antisemitism,” said Senator Bill Weber (R – Montebello, Rockland County). “It is no secret that antisemitism has ramped up in New York state and across this country. When we had our roundtable on September 19 at the Clarkstown Town Hall, we heard testimony from various residents who gave personal experiences of cars swerving at them as they were walking to shul and objects being hurled out of the cars at them.

“We’ve seen the antisemitic activity on college campuses whether it’s at Cornell or a SUNY or CUNY university. We have residents who live in our county who attend those esteemed universities and they are fearful. They have talked to us about their firsthand experience about some of the events while they are on college campuses. It’s something we’ve heard, real-world firsthand experiences, and that’s why we want to address them in some of this legislative package.”

Weber went on to speak about the two measures he’s pushing.

Senator Bill Weber (R – Montebello, Rockland County); Senator Jack Martins (R – Old Westbury, Nassau County) at podium; Senator Rob Ortt, Republican Leader (R – North Tonawanda, Niagara County); Senator Patricia Canzoneri-Fitzpatrick (R – Malverne, Nassau County). Second row, left to right: Senator Steve Rhoads (R – Bellmore, Nassau County); Senator Alexis Weik (R – Sayville, Suffolk County); Senator Pamela Helming (R – Canandaigua, Ontario County); Senator Dan Stec (R – Queensbury, Warren County). Back row, left to right: Senator Dean Murray (R – East Patchogue, Suffolk County); Senator Andrew Lanza (R – Great Kills, Staten Island); Senator Rob Rolison (R – Poughkeepsie, Dutchess County); Senator Anthony Palumbo (R – Southold, Suffolk County).

“The two bills that I introduced as part of this legislative package are called the “Combating Campus Antisemitism Act.” This prohibits the granting of tuition assistance awards to any student who has knowingly engaged in promoting antisemitism in any manner that is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action – that constitutes two threats. I introduced this legislation due to the alarming increase in openly antisemitic incidents on college campuses.

“I also introduced S7040, which expands the criteria for hate crimes, including trespassing committed at houses of worship. This is a crucial step in protecting the religious communities in our state from being the victims of hate crimes and safeguarding our citizens’ right of religious freedom under the constitution.”

Another member of the task force wants to take away money given by the Tuition Assistance Program to antisemites.

“The attacks and the antisemitic hate that convenes on our college campuses must end. Our youth, our teenagers, our most impressionable young adults are being inundated with antisemitic views and policies. That is why I propose the bill S7773, entitled the “Dismantling Student Antisemitism Act,” said Patricia Canzoneri-Fitzpatrick (R – Malverne, Nassau County).

“This is critical because what we would do is require CUNY and SUNY campuses to put into place policies to prevent what is going on and, quite simply, if they don’t, their funding will not be provided through state aid. How else do you get somebody to really think about this other than to look at their funding and know that they won’t be able to continue without state support if they don’t in fact do what we’re asking them to do.

“This should have bipartisan support because all we’re asking is for antisemitic hate to be given the same weight as any other hate crime. If it was any other minority group, we would simply not stand for it, so why is it allowed against Jews? Why is it that a student or a professor on a CUNY or SUNY campus has to wonder if they will be safe on the day they are on campus and among their colleagues and other students.”

Martins spoke to The Jewish Press about his position on safety for Jews in public spaces.

“I don’t want to claim that there are people in Great Neck taking off their yarmulkes just because they are concerned about their safety in communities like Great Neck,” said Martins. “What I spoke to was children going into New York City, adults going to work into New York City on the subway, taking mass transit being in a different environment and feeling compelled to hide who they are because of fear of people being violent towards them. That may not have been your experience, but I can tell you that having met with families, sat with community leaders, gone to synagogues and heard these accounts firsthand, this is what’s happening out there.”

Front row, left to right: Senators Mario Mattera (R – St. James, Suffolk County); Joseph Griffo (R – Utica, Oneida County); Jack Martins (R – Old Westbury, Nassau County); Bill Weber (R – Montebello, Rockland County) at podium; Rob Ortt, Republican Leader (R – North Tonawanda, Niagara County); Patricia Canzoneri-Fitzpatrick (R – Malverne, Nassau County); Peter Oberacker (R – Schenevus, Otsego County). Second row, left to right: Senators Tom O’Mara (R – Big Flats, Chemung County); Ramapo Police Chief Martin Reilly of Rockland County; senators Steve Rhoads (R – Bellmore, Nassau County); Alexis Weik (R – Sayville, Suffolk County); Pamela Helming (R – Canandaigua, Ontario County); Dan Stec (R – Queensbury, Warren County). Back row, left to right: Senators Dean Murray (R – East Patchogue, Suffolk County); Andrew Lanza (R – Great Kills, Staten Island); Rob Rolison (R – Poughkeepsie, Dutchess County); Anthony Palumbo (R – Southold, Suffolk County).

Law enforcement was also present when the 19-page task force report was unveiled on March 27 in Albany.

“In our society there should be zero tolerance for antisemitism,” said Ramapo Police Chief Martin Reilly of Rockland County. “Police departments across New York state stand resolute in our dedication to ensuring our safety and security of every individual regardless of their race, religion or background. We will investigate and pursue charges in any incidents of antisemitism. Collaborating with our political leaders and community partners, your police officers are committed to providing a safe environment for all.”

The Senate Republicans are urging their Democratic colleagues, who are in the majority, to break with partisan politics in an election and give a win to the GOP.

“This doesn’t end here for us. This is really the beginning. We’re going to continue to advocate for this legislation. We’re going to continue to speak out against antisemitism,” Ortt said. “We’re going to continue to speak up for Jewish New Yorkers and Jews across the world and certainly the nation of Israel.”

At least one of the task force leaders was more optimistic.

“We’re hoping to get this package of bills passed within three days if the majority in this chamber puts it on the floor and puts it up for a vote,” Martins said. “If they put it up for a vote, it will pass. The question is having it placed on the floor and allowing it to pass in real time sends a message that we’re going to do what we need to do to protect the Jewish communities across New York state.”

If the measure did pass the Senate, it would still need support from the majority Democrats in the Assembly.

This poster shows the package of 13 bills proposed by Senate Republicans with the hope of getting green-lighted by Senate Democrats for passage in the upper house. (Provided by the Senate Republican Communications Office)


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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 [email protected].