“A girl told me I wasn’t allowed to play with her because I was Jewish,” Sofie Glassman, an East Meadow High School sophomore, said.
She and others shared their experiences with antisemitism at a public forum on May 12. The forum was held by the Nassau County Legislative Task Force to condemn threats of antisemitism across Long Island.
“Being here and sharing what has happened is a very important step,” said Avi Posnick, executive director of StandWithUs Northeast & New England, an international nonprofit Israel education organization.
Made up of six legislators, three from each political party, plus five members of the public and a representative from Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman’s office, the task force was assembled by Blakeman to combat antisemitism in 2021. Rabbi Eli Weinstock of the Jewish Center of Atlantic Beach chairs the task force.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, in 2022, New York had 580 antisemitic incidents, a record high since 1979 and the highest in the country.
Half of the 580 recorded incidents occurred in public spaces, 84 at Jewish institutions, 78 at private residences, 53 at non-Jewish K-12 institutions and 43 at business establishments.
Forty-two of them happened in Nassau County.
The list of threats has included flyers in Rockville Centre, Oceanside, Long Beach and Huntington promoting hate of Jewish people in heavily Jewish communities; students experiencing anti-Semitic bullying in their schools; and swastikas discovered in buildings and parks.
“Antisemitism is something that I have experienced since the age of five on the school playground,” Glassman said. “More recently, since the beginning of high school, antisemitism has been something that I’ve faced almost daily.”
She said that she has seen swastikas etched into a few of the stalls in the restrooms at school. In the cafeteria, she has heard students make antisemitic comments and has overheard loud videos containing jokes about Jewish people.
One experience, she testified, was when she was eating lunch in the cafeteria and overheard a group of students saying they wanted to throw things at her so they could “knock out (her) Judaism.”
Seeking help, Glassman informed her mother of what was happening and her mother proceeded to call the school demanding that the situation be addressed.
The punishment? Two days of in-school suspension.
“School is a place that I am supposed to feel safe in and feel supported by the administration,” Glassman said.
Lisa Shubin, an East Meadow resident and member of the elected executive committee and Board of Trustees of Temple B’nai Torah, a reformed congregation in Wantagh, was there in place of her rabbi, Daniel Bar-Nahum. She shared remarks on his behalf, including how he has helped people who have experienced antisemitism in Wantagh, Seaford or East Meadow.
“I’ve worked to be a resource for principals and teachers, and to be a support for my young congregants who don’t understand why this aid exists, and their parents who moved to these neighborhoods with the expectation that their kids will be able to live free from fear of being hated for being Jews,” Shubin said for Bar-Nahum. “Notwithstanding the above, I’ve never had to juggle as many issues of antisemitism at once as I am currently.”
Bar-Nahum wrote that he has heard of antisemitic incidents in Island Trees, Levittown and East Meadow.
“Words and actions that for decades were understood by our society to be beyond the pale of appropriateness, have now been given allowance and at the highest levels,” Shubin read. “As society evolves, so too does antisemitism.”
Many community members who attended the forum were unaware that the task force existed. The task force vowed to promote itself more in the next two to three weeks with more public forums scheduled at later dates.
“We’re in a terrible time,” said Patrick Pizzo, an East Meadow resident, who is also an administrator in the school district and a member of the task force. “But people need to stand up and not be quiet and wait for somebody else to speak up.”