By Mica Soffer – Publisher, COLlive.com
An impressive crowd of 25,000 people took to the streets of New York City on Sunday, marching across the Brooklyn Bridge in a dramatic show of solidarity after a string of anti-Semitic attacks in the New York area.
The protesters, hailing from many backgrounds and of all ages, came from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and other locations in the US, gathered at Foley Square in Lower Manhattan surrounded by a heavy police presence.
The march began at Foley Square without any sort of communication with the crowd, who milled about uncertainly for about an hour. Police leading the elected officials moved the march forward across the Brooklyn Bridge, ending at a rally at Cadman Plaza in Brooklyn.
The multicultural crowd included New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio, Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, Congress members Jerrold Nadler, Yvette Clarke and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a contingent from Ohio and a bishop from Brooklyn.
In conversations along the march and in remarks during the rally that followed, a wide condemnation was expressed against the rash of anti-Semitic attacks against Jews in neighborhoods such as Crown Heights, Williamsburg and Boro Park, along with deadly and violent attacks at a kosher grocery store in Jersey City and a Chanukah celebration in Monsey.
Devorah Halberstam, whose son Ari Halberstam was one of the first victims of anti-Semitic terror in the United States, spoke at the event. Rabbi Eli Cohen and Rabbi Chanina Sperlin of the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council (CHJCC), as well as Brooklyn Heights Shliach Rabbi Ari Raskin, shared remarks and recited “Shema Yisroel” with the crowd.
Despite these speakers being invited, absent from the “No hate, no fear” march were members of the Orthodox Jewish community, the prime targets of the anti-Semitic violence.
“The event was notable for having apparently few marchers from the Hasidic community, despite Hasidic Jews being the victims of most of the recent attacks,” Ben Sales reported for the JTA news agency.
Jake Turx, Senior White House Correspondent for Ami Magazine, tweeted: “The #NoHateNoFear rally against anti-Semitism had everything… except for a presence of Orthodox Jews. Is anybody asking why the same Jews who are being beaten in the streets are now made to feel marginalized at a rally that’s supposedly in recognition of their suffering??”
Citing no real effort “to include our community,” Crown Heights activist Yaacov Behrman said he “decided that I would rather miss the event and possibly regret that, than go and possibly regret being a part of it.”
“The march is worthless,” State Senator Simcha Felder said in a radio interview about the march organized by the UJA-Federation of New York, Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, Anti-Defamation League, American Jewish Committee and the New York Board of Rabbis.
“These marches are entirely symbolic by the organizations that run them,” Felder criticized. “New Yorkers are very smart and they don’t swallow the fact that some organizations that are out to prove that there’s some reason for their existence organize a march and say ‘we have to do this, we have to do that.'”
Felder, who represents Midwood and Boro Park, suggested: “Instead of marching and wasting time and wasting money, they should rather do something substantive which is not what they like doing – call out the mayor and call out every other elected official for what they are not doing.”
Echoing these sentiments was Assemblyman Simcha Eichenstein, who represents Boro Park and Midwood as well. Responding to Cuomo’s announcement at the march that New York will provide $45 million in additional funding to protect religious-based institutions & non-public schools, he wrote: “Fool me once…”
Eichenstein said that Cuomo “announced this same funding over and over as if it’s new. This is the same $45 million that we passed in the budget last year. We need additional security funding for schools and houses of worship.”
Another Orthodox Jewish elected official who stayed away was Councilman Kalman Yeger who represents Boro Park and Midwood.
“Many good people of all faiths gathered today to stand against antisemitism. I’m grateful to them all,” he noted.
“Unfortunately, as many feared, today was marred by the participation of those who happily sail their ships in the blood of the Jewish people. I will never sail with them.”
Yeger wasn’t available for comment on who he was referring to. But Rockland County Legislator Aron Wieder was more specific. “No Hate Solidarity March – then why Yaffed?”
YAFFED – Young Advocates for Fair Education, an organization that actively lobbies against the Yeshiva and the Orthodox Jewish school system, was listed as a co-organizer of the march.
“Many people believe that Yaffed plays a large role in the vilification of Orthodox Jews,” one Crown Heights resident told COLlive.com. “With all the concerns now about Orthodox Jews being under attack, I know many people who said they would not attend an event with their name attached to it,” they said.