Watch CBS News

Jewish Leaders Implore NYPD To Take Precautions Ahead Of Passover Holiday

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- With another sharp increase in anti-Semitic incidents, police Commissioner James O'Neill promises stepped-up security for the Passover holiday.

As CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reported, O'Neill also heard an impassioned plea for police not to let their guard down.

"I know in the last few months, you have been – I don't want to say worn down – by all the threats that have come our way," Devorah Halberstam told O'Neill. "It may be a distraction."

Halberstam spoke to O'Neill from the heart and from personal experience. She is the director of the Jewish Children's Museum of Brooklyn, which was evacuated a few weeks ago because someone emailed a bomb threat.

"I'm just telling you, we don't like it. It disrupts our way of life too, and I'm sorry – please don't let it wear you down," Halberstam said.

She was just one of dozens of Jewish leaders who met with police officials to discuss security concerns with the approach Jewish holiday of Passover. From their point of view, there is plenty to worry about.

Anti-Semitic incidents – including bomb threats, swastikas on doors and subways, and threatening phone calls and emails continue to skyrocket.

The latest NYPD statistics show a 177 percent increase in anti-Semitic hate crimes – 72 so far this year compared to 26 for the same period in 2016.

Jewish leaders said the Passover holiday is a special concern.

"They know that everybody goes more to the synagogues; that the synagogues are full. The kids are out of school. There's more population together in certain buildings, so it could be a scare," said Philip Schoenberger of Kew Gardens, Queens. "It is a worry."

"There's a rise now, and everyone should be worried about a rise now during the holidays," said Meir Weill of Flatbush, Brooklyn. "That would be an opportune time for anyone to take advantage."

O'Neill said the NYPD will not condone any attack based on someone's faith. He said the NYPD will increase the police presence at all Jewish institutions in the city.

"I can tell you right now it's not a time for fear," O'Neill said, "It's a time for vigilance."

Police sources said that so far, few of the anti-Semitic incidents have been one-on-one physical attacks. They have been property crimes such as scrawled swastikas and cemetery stones being overturned, and harassment crimes such as bomb threats, phone calls, and emails.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.