Beware: A new wave of anti-Semitism is sweeping New York City

As New York enters a post-pandemic new normal, a perfect storm has been brewing — involving rising anti-Semitic incidents and growing anti-Israel movements — that will have devastating consequences for the city’s Jewish community.

It’s clear the Jewish population is already in danger, given the citywide increase in hate crimes targeting Jews, the anti-Israel crusade on campuses like New York University and City University of New York and the success of efforts to delegitimize the Jewish state at the highest levels of these institutions.

Put another way, these events — individually and collectively — signify a new wave of anti-Semitism that is sweeping the city as never before.

Strikingly, anti-Semitic hate crimes in New York City were up by nearly 100% in March compared with March 2021, per NYPD data. That followed an even more disturbing 400% hike in February and a 300% hike in January.

The upsurge in anti-Semitic attacks in the city is driving a statewide crisis: Anti-Jewish violence here is at an all-time high, the Anti-Defamation League’s annual report released last month found — with the state leading the nation in such incidents.

Anti-Semitic incidents in the state rose 24% last year, with 416 recorded cases, including 51 assaults — the most physical attacks the ADL has recorded since it began collecting data more than 40 years ago. Attacks on Jewish institutions like synagogues and schools were up 41%.

Serial vandals are throwing rocks and breaking windows at synagogues.

“We had Jews beaten and brutalized in broad daylight in Midtown Manhattan, in Brooklyn, in the Diamond District. What was remarkable about it was people acted with impunity,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, ADL chief executive. “These were Jewish people wearing a kipa or who were visibly Orthodox being assaulted for being Jews, and that is brand-new.”

The report specifically notes several incidents that occurred during or shortly after the May 2021 Israel-Hamas conflict, which led to a series of attacks on Jewish people and institutions across the United States, including in major cities like Los Angeles and New York City.

There is a documented and inextricable link between the prevalence of anti-Israel attitudes in the public sphere — most of which are not grounded in fact — and the victimization of Jewish individuals and institutions.

Pro-Palestine supporters confront NYPD officers during a march in Midtown Manhattan on May 18, 2021.
Stephen Yang

Concerningly, this trend has already infiltrated New York City’s colleges and universities. Movements that demonize and unfairly criticize Israel — and often cross the line to victimizing the Jewish community — have grown rapidly at these institutions among both students and faculty.

Last week, CUNY law school faculty voted to endorse an anti-Israel student-government resolution demanding the university cut ties with Israel by ending student-exchange programs and joining the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. The resolution falsely accuses Israel of “military occupation,” “settler colonialism” and perpetrating “genocide, apartheid and war crimes against the Palestinian people.”

Extremists who seek Israel’s complete destruction use these patently false claims of “settler colonialism” and “apartheid” as a rallying cry. This language plays into a vile and historically inaccurate anti-Semitic stereotype that the Jewish state — and by extension the Jewish people — is the oppressor, not the oppressed.

CUNY Law School, an institution supported by New York City taxpayers, openly supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.
Michael Hicks

Outrageously, the grotesque canard of BDS is only aimed at Israel, one of the few functioning democracies remaining in an increasingly autocratic world. Not one other nation among the world’s nearly 200 receives any such defamatory condemnation and not — even more absurdly — Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, both of which suppress and suffocate all dissent in their ranks even as Israel includes Palestinians in its government and Knesset. It is hard to know whether Jew-hatred or sheer ignorance, or both, is responsible for the despicable and hypocritical BDS movement.

In the same vein, following an April 7 terror attack in Tel Aviv in which a Palestinian gunman killed three people, a pro-Palestine NYU student group sent out emails erroneously stating the violence was “a direct result of the Israeli occupation” and justified the targeting of Jewish civilians in the name of Palestinian resistance.

The email reiterated false accusations that is Israel an “apartheid regime” and echoed a common anti-Semitic trope by alleging that “the Zionist grip on the media is omnipresent” in reference to press reporting on the attack.

Over the last several years, there have been a number of recorded occurrences of anti-Semitism at NYU, most recently in February, when buildings were vandalized with images of swastikas — which also happened in 2020 and 2021.

Regrettably, these NYU and CUNY incidents are not isolated and cannot be separated from the dramatic rise in hate crimes targeting Jews across the city — indeed, all are characteristic of a post-pandemic wave of anti-Semitism and anti-Israel hatred in New York City.

Nationally, a similar trend involves intensifying anti-Semitic incidents and an increase in the number of prominent colleges and universities endorsing BDS or anti-Israel positions.

This is a frightening moment for New York City’s Jewish community, the country’s largest.

But make no mistake: This crisis is just taking shape, and we have yet to experience the worst of it. We cannot afford to ignore it any longer.

Douglas Schoen is founder and partner in Schoen Cooperman Research, a polling and consulting firm, whose past clients include President Bill Clinton and former Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Andrew Stein is a former New York City Council president.