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Thousands Of Marchers Show Solidarity With New York's Jewish Community

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

It was a brazen attack. A man stabbed at least five people who had gathered for a Hanukkah celebration inside a New York rabbi's home. This was the latest in a series of anti-Semitic attacks against New York's Jewish community. Thousands of people marched across the Brooklyn Bridge yesterday to show solidarity. Here's North Country Public Radio's Brian Mann.

BRIAN MANN, BYLINE: People packed shoulder to shoulder carrying banners that read "No Hate, No Fear" and "Jewish Strength." As they wind through a windswept winter day across the Brooklyn Bridge, the March turns again and again into a celebration.

(SOUNDBITE OF MARCH)

UNIDENTIFIED MARCH ATTENDEES: (Singing in non-English language).

MANN: But this is a nervous time for many Jewish families. There've been high-profile acts of violence - a machete attack during Hanukkah in Monsey, just north of the city; a deadly shooting at a kosher bakery a couple weeks earlier in nearby New Jersey. People say they also face near daily acts of harassment and bullying.

YONATAN HERZFELD: One week ago, I was chased off the subway because I was wearing a kippa.

MANN: Yonatan Herzfeld is 20 years old from Westchester, N.Y. A kippa is a cap worn by many observant Jews.

HERZFELD: The man shouted at me - you little Jew, what's that you've got on your head? So we need to raise awareness that this is real. This is legitimate, and we are not standing for it. And that's why I came today.

MANN: Rabbi Michael Miller helped organize this march, which drew Jewish and non-Jewish groups from across the U.S.

MICHAEL MILLER: We in the Jewish community have been under assault.

MANN: Miller heads the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York. He says it was important to show solidarity and to mark this moment when many Jewish leaders feel things are changing for the worse.

MILLER: It's time for us to stand up and to speak out against hate and to show that we're not fearful. This is about our pride.

MANN: This moment is complicated by the fact that many New Yorkers, including many Jewish New Yorkers, don't agree on the causes of this surge in anti-Semitism. Some here point to President Donald Trump and his often divisive rhetoric. Others blame Democratic leaders who passed a series of progressive criminal justice reforms in New York state, which some Jewish leaders say have led to more street crime. Senator Charles Schumer, who lost family in Ukraine during the Holocaust, says whatever the cause, it's enough, on this day, to make it clear anti-Semitism won't be tolerated.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CHUCK SCHUMER: When there is bigotry of any kind, if you shrug your shoulders and say that's how the world is, it grows. It's a poison. If you fight it, if you stop it, if you do marches like this, you can snuff it out. America is a good place.

MANN: Local and state officials have already increased police patrols and surveillance in Jewish neighborhoods. Speaking at Sunday's march, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo committed another $45 million to boost security at religious schools and cultural centers.

(SOUNDBITE OF MARCH)

STEVEN HEVENSTONE: (Singing in Hebrew).

MANN: As the massive crowd marches from Manhattan to Brooklyn, Cantor Steven Hevenstone from the Dix Hills Jewish Center on Long Island gathers people to sing. One of the people standing nearby is Ofer Zhaba (ph). She's 20 years old, also from Long Island.

OFER ZHABA: I think there's something so beautiful about unity and - especially, though, with all this anti-Semitism, it's nice to know that, like, this is something that can bring us together despite all our differences.

MANN: Security for the march was intense, with special units from the NYPD counterterrorism unit posted along the route.

Brian Mann, NPR News, New York.

(SOUNDBITE OF STAN FOREBEE'S "INTROSPECTION") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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