In what seems to be the never-ending battle against hate, the public shared their stories of antisemitism with the Special Legislative Task Force to Combat Antisemitism in Nassau County.
“Being here and sharing what has happened is a very important step,” Avi Posnick, executive director of StandWithUs Northeast & New England said at the May 11 meeting. StandWithUs is an international nonprofit education organization.
Made up of six legislators, three from each political party and five members of the public and a representative from County Executive Bruce Blakeman’s office, the task force was assembled in 2021 to combat antisemitism.
Rabbi Eli Weinstock of the Jewish Center of Atlantic Beach chairs the task force.
“The idea was in response to the rise in antisemitism,” Weinstock said about the force. “We hear about it, we read about it and some of us may be experiencing it. It could not be ignored without trying to take some action.”
In 2022, New York state had 580 antisemitic incidents, a record high since 1979 and was the highest in the country, according to the Anti-Defamation League. Half of the incidents occurred in public spaces, 84 at Jewish institutions, 78 at private residences, 53 at non-Jewish k to 12 institutions, 43 at business establishments, and 42 in Nassau County.
The list includes flyers in Rockville Centre, Oceanside, Long Beach and Huntington promoting Jewish hate in Jewish communities, students experiencing verbal antisemitic bullying in their schools or finding swastikas in buildings and parks.
Cedarhurst Mayor Benjamin Weinstock and Lawrence resident Michele Justic are part of the task force.
“Anyone generally in our community, I’m sure, is concerned about antisemitism,” Justic said. “If there’s any way that we can bring a resolution to it in our own small way, of course that’s something we’d want to do.”
“We’ve been meeting for years, like once a month and we’ve gotten reports throughout the year from Patrick Ryder and from different representatives of organizations. But to hear it from a real person experiencing it was eye-opening,” she said. Ryder is the county police commissioner.
Students across the county came forward to share their stories.
East Meadow High School sophomore Sofie Glassman has experienced antisemitism since she was five.
“Antisemitism is something that I have experienced since the age of five on the school playground,” she said. “A girl told me I wasn’t allowed to play with her because I was Jewish.”
As she moved on to high school, the rise of hate has not declined.
One experience she testified was eating lunch in the school cafeteria when she overheard a group of students saying they wanted to throw things at her so they could, “Knock out my Judaism.”
Seeking help, Glassman informed her mother of what was happening and her mother proceeded to call the school demanding for the situation to be addressed.
The punishment? Two days of in-school suspension.
Most recently, Glassman was informed that swastikas were found in the school’s boys’ bathroom.
The Hewlett-Woodmere school district has had three separate incidents of swastikas being found in a boys’ bathroom in Woodmere Middle School in the past few months.
In response, school officials held assemblies for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders with Holocaust survivor, Marion Blumenthal Lazan and police officers from the 4th Precinct to understand the meaning behind a swastika and the seriousness of these actions.
Many community members who attended the forum were unaware that the task force existed. The task force vowed to promote the force more in the next two to three weeks with more public forums scheduled in the future.