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NYC synagogues planning extra security for Passover amid tension over Israel-Hamas war

NYC synagogues preparing for Passover with stepped up security
NYC synagogues preparing for Passover with stepped up security 03:02

NEW YORK -- Passover begins next week, and the NYPD says it will increase security at Jewish institutions as the war rages in the Middle East.

Antisemitic hate crimes are skyrocketing nationwide, and New York and New Jersey are both hotspots. The NYPD reports at 45 percent increase year-to-date.

Kehilath Jeshurun, on the Upper East Side, will be among the synagogues working with police to step up patrols for Passover. Last August, Rabbi Chaim Steinmetz had to scrub away a hateful message that was scrawled onto its display board.

"Many people felt violated," he said.

The congregation has doubled its security budget since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel.

"Passover is a holiday that is the festival of freedom, and it's one in which we have to show that we're worthy of freedom," Steinmetz said. "We have people here that are watching and guarding all the time. We have various technology that comes and watches over us, and it's tragic."

A new report from the Anti-Defamation League found New York has the second-highest number of antisemitic incidents in the country. Last Passover, someone threw a concrete slab through a woman's Pelham Parkway window, where an Israeli flag was displayed outside. 

"I actually just froze for a split second and stood there, because there were shards of glass on my sweatshirt," the woman told CBS New York at the time. 

The ADL says 8,873 antisemitic incidents were reported nationwide last year, which is a 140 percent increase from 2022.

"2020, 2021, 2022 -- these were record-setting years, the highest years we'd ever seen for antisemitism. And if you combine 2020, 2021 and 2022, you still will not come up to the number of incidents that we have calculated for 2023," said ADL Regional Director Scott Richman. 

Those incidents include bomb threats, harassment, vandalism and White Supremacist propaganda. 

"In New York state, in 2017 when we began tracking this, we tracked 20 incidents of White Supremacist propaganda. In New York state in 2023, that number has exploded to well over 300," Richman said. 

Richman said even without the Oct. 7 attack, 2023 would have likely been the highest year on record for antisemitic incidents. 

"People have to be safe when they come to synagogue, and they have to feel safe when they come to synagogue," said Steinmetz.

The ADL is calling on Congress to pass the Countering Antisemitism Act, which would create a taskforce to fight all forms of Jewish hate and promote Holocaust education. The nonprofit is also asking states to pass their own legislation to keep antisemitism in check.

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