Young Israel of Great Neck hosts panel to discuss antisemitism and how to combat it

Young Israel of Great Neck hosts panel to discuss antisemitism and how to combat it
Young Israel of Great Neck hosts a forum to discuss ways to combat antisemitism on Tuesday. (Photo by Robert Pelaez)

A crowd of approximately 100 people at Young Israel of Great Neck participated in a discussion on the prevalence of antisemitism and ways to combat it on Tuesday night.

Attendees were treated to a panel consisting of Nassau County Legislator Mazi Melesa Pilip, Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder, Jewish rights activist Rudy Rochman, Young Israel Rabbi Shmuel Ismach, Andrea Bolender from Voices4Truth and Avi Posnick from StandWithUs. Rochman said antisemitism becomes more exposed when the Jewish community strays from what their purpose and true identity is.

“If our people know who they are and are able to reconnect back to our roots and to our values and to actually achieve our aspirations, I can guarantee that antisemitism will go away,” Rochman said.

The 29-year-old uses social media to connect with an audience to not only fight antisemitism but to promote the Jewish community to celebrate everyone’s respected heritage and origins. Simply talking about antisemitism, he said, is not enough to combat it.

“It’s understanding how antisemitism is portrayed,” he said. “How it works and how to be able to stand up and not just make excuses because we talked about it that we feel good with things.”

Bolender said people disagreeing with Israeli politics has morphed into antisemitic rhetoric, with people equating a political debate with Jew-hatred. Properly educating students, she said, is one of the ways New York and more than half of the U.S. needs to improve to effectively combat antisemitism.

“What I would like to do is have a country-wide scoring system for [Holocaust education},” Bolender said. “As of right now, the only state in this entire country that has maybe an A- is New Jersey.”

Bolender said 30 states in the country do not have any requirements to have Holocaust instruction in their school systems. Long Island, she said, is the fourth-largest Jewish community in the country, yet has a high level of Holocaust illiteracy.

Ryder expounded on what Nassau Police have done and will continue to do to fight antisemitism in the county.

“Nobody in this county is more threatened than the Jewish community,” Ryder said. “Nobody needs more than the Jewish community.”

Ryder also said he believes a lot of the antisemitic incidents that occur throughout Nassau are unreported. Though antisemitism is not on the rise locally, he said, it is on the rise nationally. Social media, Ryder said, plays a large role in the ways people today can spread hate so easily.

“We have individuals in the police department that use social media all day long,” Ryder said. “They get on undercover accounts and they do exactly what the neo-Nazi, white supremacist groups do. They stoke the public to try and find something out and we monitor those sites.”

Parental engagement and reporting anything suspicious to the police, Ryder said, are ways to best combat antisemitism in 2023. Pilip echoed Ryder’s advice and urged the public to call the police and not be afraid of what may happen afterward.

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