N.Y. Lawmaker Calls For Federal Task Force To Handle Anti-Semitic Hate Crimes

TENAFLY, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — New Jersey political leaders showed their support for the Jewish community, condemning the rise of anti-Semitic threats and incidents.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has ordered increased police patrols at religious facilities and said the state attorney general’s office is offering a $10,000 reward for tips that lead to convictions in bias crime cases.

“Anyone in this state who commits that type of crime will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and sent to prison,” the governor said.

Christie was joined at the Kaplen Jewish Community Center on the Palisades by several other officials, including Democratic Sens. Cory Booker and Bob Menendez, who said he has asked Homeland Security to double the money available for non-profit security.

The center was the target of a bomb threat on Monday, the third it has fielded this year.

Booker urged members to speak out against hate.

“Some coward in the darkness on a telephone who wants to launch threats to us, we must show our united courage that we will match those jangling discordant tones with our chorus of conviction and love,” he said.

As CBS2’s Lou Young reported, it wasn’t the specific crime, but the context for it that has alarmed Jews from coast to coast.

“This is not a Jewish problem, sister faiths and communities as well,” Rabbi Jordan Shenker, Kaplen JCC on the Palisades said.

Bomb threats have been called in to nearly 100 Jewish institutions in 30 states and Canada since January. Jewish community centers and schools in at least a dozen states were also targets of bomb threats this past week.

A solidarity rally in Tenafly, called to enlist soldiers in a fight against bigotry.

“I am just so sickened by what’s going on,” Audrey Horn said.

“What alarms me is the widespread activities that are going on all over the country,” Dr. Manny Haber added.

There were hundreds at the rally, with some parking blocks away to walk through concentric circles of security.

“When people say hateful things, and they say things that are the opposite of inclusion, well sometimes other people, weak people act on that,” Mark Zinna, Tenafly Council President said.

There is an undercurrent of politics — some blame the national political mood, others suggesting hate is merely more visible at this point in time.

A Missouri man was charged Friday in at least eight of the bomb threats. The feds call 31-year-old Juan Thompson a copycat and not the source of the majority of bomb threats, 1010 WINS’ Al Jones reported.

Jordan Shenker, executive director of the JCC on the Palisades, calls the arrest progress.

“We’re thrilled to see that someone has been arrested and we’re hopful that they’ll continue to identify anybody else that’s involved and bring those to justice,” Shenker said. “I think when they come forward and say this is the guy who is responsible for all of them and we feel like it’s done, I think then we’ll have a sense of relief.”

Menendez praised the FBI for prioritizing the investigation.

“I am confident, as evidenced in today’s arrest in Missouri, that we will find and we will prosecute those who have committed these acts of hatred,” Menendez said.

Meanwhile, as WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb reported, calls have also mounted among New York politicians for the federal government to create a special task force to handle anti-Semitic hate crimes.

The NYPD has reported anti-Semitic hate crimes are up 94 percent in the first two months of 2017. U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) has called on the Department of Justice to institute an anti-Semitism task force.

“The federal government should be leading the way and use all the resources at its disposal to confront unreasoning hatred wherever it rears its ugly head,” Maloney said.

Maloney has also called for a doubling of funds for the Urban Area Security Initiative. It is a grant program which, among other things, provides synagogues and community centers with federal money for security upgrades.

(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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