Divisive language, social media at fault

Jewish elected officials speak out on rise of antisemitism


In the past decade, the tranquil communities along the North Shore of Nassau County have been rattled by a disturbing surge in antisemitic incidents. Prominent Jewish political figures from both sides of the aisle, including Chuck Lavine, a Democrat New York state assemblyman, Jake Blumencranz, a Republican state assemblyman, Marsha Silverman, a Glen Cove City councilwoman, and Josh Lafazan, a Nassau County legislator, have shed light on the escalating issue in their communities.

Lavine, president of the New York chapter of the National Association of Jewish Legislators, pointed to the influence of political leadership in exacerbating antisemitism. He attributed the rise, in part, to former President Donald Trump’s statements following the tragedy in Charlottesville, marking a turning point that emboldened extremists. The interconnected fate of Jewish Americans and the broader population was a focal point Lavine said, stressing the need for unity against hatred.

“I’m sorry to say that with the election of Donald Trump, people who thrive on hatred were enabled and encouraged,” Lavine said. “President Trump’s statement after the tragedy in Charlottesville, that there ‘are good people on both sides’ of the Nazi and non-Nazi equation, really enabled those who don’t need that much encouragement to hate.”

Blumencranz expressed concerns about the divisive rhetoric within pro-Palestine protest movements. He added that the proliferation of social media and its use by antisemitic groups has played a key role in spreading misinformation, contributing to rising numbers of antisemitic hate crimes.

The Republican assemblyman expressed shock at the statements made about Israel, its supporters, and Jews in general during pro-Palestine protests since the beginning of the Israel-Hamas war. He also detailed legislative efforts to support Israel, including proposed amendments to business laws in the state that would facilitate the supplying of protective gear like bulletproof vests and small firearms to allies like Israel during times of conflict.

“On a university level, I think that the groups such as Hamas have a really sophisticated PR machine, and the proliferation of new technologies allow for false or half-truth information to be released to the public in ways that can change the narrative,” Blumencranz said. “That is definitely deeply troubling and something we need to be aware of as we look at legislation surrounding false information spreading on social media.”

The surge of antisemitism also hits close to home for Silverman, who highlighted the localized impact of this wave of hatred.

She attributed the rise to societal divisiveness, and like Blumencranz, said she believes it has been further fueled by the amplifying effect of social media. Silverman acknowledged incidents in the area, including swastika graffiti near the Holocaust Memorial & Tolerance Center, underscoring the need for swift and thorough police responses.

Actively involved with the American Jewish Committee, a nonprofit Jewish advocacy group, Silverman detailed the recent adoption of a resolution in Glen Cove that states the city is standing unequivocally with Israel. She also shed light on ongoing discussions within the AJC regarding collaborations with superintendents to develop educational programming in schools.

“It’s definitely disheartening that that type of activity is on the rise,” Silverman said. She added that the resolution that Glen Cove stands with Israel also “shows the public that Glen Cove will not tolerate hate.”

Lafazan said that as antisemitism becomes more widespread, it is incumbent that residents of the North Shore do their part to speak out against this hatred in their own communities. While he said that the county is doing an admirably bipartisan job of condemning acts of antisemitism, such as with its hate crimes hotline, the entire population has to work together to defeat this age-old prejudice.

He said people can do this by speaking out when they hear others make antisemitic remarks, and to not be afraid to reach out to law enforcement and elected officials about such remarks in their communities. Lafazan added that an important aspect of arresting the rise in antisemitism was promoting education amongst young people, many of whom he claims have little to no understanding of the horrors of the Holocaust and the language that led to it.

“More than anything, it’s about stamping out hatred in our own individual communities,” Lafazan said. “When we don’t do a good enough job of teaching history, we’re doomed to repeat it.”

As the North Shore communities navigate the complexities of legislative responses and local initiatives, the overarching goal remains clear: to foster an environment where diversity is embraced, and hatred has no place. The community’s collective voice and actions will be instrumental in creating a future where antisemitism is unequivocally rejected and replaced by a culture of respect and acceptance.