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Amid Season Of Peace, Attacks Targeting Jewish People Across NYC Grow

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - The NYPD continues to investigate a rash of hate crimes against Jewish people after violence in Williamsburg, Crown Heights and Midtown all within a four-day period.

The Chabad World Headquarters in Crown Heights was the site of a threat Friday morning. A man reportedly walked in and threatened to kill Jews.

Mayor Bill de Blasio visited the headquarters later that day.

"I feel pained that in this society, a place that is supposed of respect for everybody, a season when we're supposed to be respecting everybody, we see hate rearing its very ugly head here in Brooklyn," he said.

The NYPD is investigating at least seven more incidents this week.

Police say 30-year-old Tiffany Harris, of Brooklyn, slapped three women in the head and shouted anti-Semitic statements at them. All three victims were dressed in traditional Jewish clothing.

Harris was arrested nearby around 1:20 a.m. She is facing charges of assault and harassment as a hate crime.

The fifth incident happened Thursday in Gravesend and also lead to an arrest.

Police charged a 42-year-old homeless woman with a hate crime after police say she yelled anti-Semitic slurs and hit a 34-year-old Jewish woman in the face with a grocery bag full of unknown items. The victim was with a 3-year-old child at the time of the attack.

Alida Musumeci works in a market near the scene of the attack and saw part of the incident Thursday.

"We're almost in 2020. Let it go. Regardless the color, religion. We're all human beings. Everybody should be together," she said.

An arrest has been made in an incident that happened Monday in Midtown Manhattan when police say a 28-year-old Florida man punched, kicked and yelled anti-Semitic slurs at a 65-year-old man walking down the street wearing a yarmulke.

The NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force is looking to question the man seen in a surveillance video following an incident in Crown Heights early Tuesday morning.

Police say a 25-year-old man was walking on Kingston Avenue when a group started cursing and yelling hateful slurs at him from across the street.

When the targeted man took out his cell phone to record the group, police say one of them threw an unknown liquid at him and took off.

That very same day in the same neighborhood, surveillance cameras captured what police believe is another anti-Semitic attack.

A 56-year-old Orthodox Jewish man seen walking down the sidewalk is jumped from behind by a group of at least four people.

Police are also still looking for a group of teens in Williamsburg who witnesses say hit 6- and 7-year-old boys in the lobby of a residential building Monday before running off.

The Anti-Defamation League is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to arrests in any of these incidents.

De Blasio promised justice for those responsible for the violence.

"Anyone who commits a hate crime, we will find them and we will prosecute them. No exceptions," he said.

The mayor also promised more vigilance against further attacks and harassment.

"In addition to heightened visibility, there will be increased visits to houses of worship and other critical areas in the community," de Blasio said in a tweet. "Anti-Semitism is an attack on the values of our city - and we will confront it head-on."

NYPD Chief of Detectives Rodney Harrison said the number of hate crimes is alarming.

"We treat them very seriously and we make sure our investigators do their best to do what we can to bring these individuals to justice that commit these crimes," he said.

The ADL has been working with the NYPD as it investigates the anti-Semitic incidents from this week of Chanukah celebrations.

"Certainly the sheer number of incidents we're seeing, the rise of anti-Semitic hate crimes in New York are making, especially openly Orthodox New Yorkers, take pause," said ADL Regional Director Evan Bernstein.

"Our people know what it's like to contribute to a society and we know what it's like to be oppressed," said Mendel Rosner of Crown Heights. "America is a story of freedom, Chanukah is a story of freedom. A Jew should be proud like everyone else should be proud - everyone should be proud to walk down the street, that's the message."

The ADL told CBS2 that the surge in violence against Jews during Chanukah is alarming.

"We have to be very aware that there's a face and individuals that are affected by these acts of hate that are now happening, unfortunately, almost on a daily basis," Bernstein said.

The string of hate crimes spurred one mother who lost her son to anti-Semitic violence years ago to send a message.

It was 25 years ago that a terrorist fired on a van full of Jewish students on the Brooklyn Bridge. It's a day Devorah Halberstam will never forget.

"He shot up the van with over 40 rounds of ammunition, murdering my son, Ari, who was the first one murdered, with a Uzi machine gun and wounding others," she said.

Halberstam has since devoted her life to activism, and she worries that the recent string of attacks will only get worse.

"I know what the taste of hatred is. I know what the taste of death is, unfortunately, and I know what begins with a swastika doesn't end with a swastika. It's getting more and more egregious," she said.

She's calling on New York City police, district attorneys and judges to be aggressive about hate crime cases.

"That means zero tolerance for hate crimes. No plea deals," she said.

The NYPD says reported anti-Semitic hate crimes are up nearly 20 percent compared to this time last year. Overall, religion-based hate crimes are up 88 percent in New York City this year.

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