On May 20, Scott Richman, Director of the New York/New Jersey region of ADL (the Anti-Defamation League), was the guest speaker at a virtual LIMBA (Long Island Metro Business Action) meeting. During the presentation, he spoke about the growing number of antisemitic incidents.
Mr. Richman said there is a “very disturbing trend.” According to the ADL’s annual Audit of Antisemitic Incidents, the number of antisemitic acts has risen in the past eight years nationwide, from 751 to 2,717. New York State had the most, with 416 incidents. “That comes more than one incident every single day just in New York,” he said, adding that the regions with the highest rates of antisemitism in the state are Long Island, New York City, Westchester and Rockland Counties.
He also pointed out that Hasidic Jews have been targeted. According to Mr. Richman, there were 88 assaults nationwide, 51 of which occurred in New York State. He broke down the numbers within the state even further, showing that 48 of the 51 assaults happened in New York City. Of those 48 assaults, 34 took place in Brooklyn.
One of the short-term reasons for the rise in these incidents, Mr. Richman said, was the recent conflict between Israel and Hamas in May. As a result, the number of antisemitic acts went up 148% when comparing May 2020 to May 2021. “Put simply, the Jewish people in this country were blamed for the War in Israel,” he said. Another reason was the “stressful environment” after the COVID lockdown and concerns about the economy, prompting people to look for a scapegoat, he said.
There were also long-term reasons, according to Mr. Richman, the main one being social media. He pointed out that those on social media will share hateful ideas with each other and will recruit others to join their groups. He noted that Payton Gendron, who murdered 10 Black people at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York back in May, was “radicalized” by social media.
“Social media is an enormous driver of hate, but it could also be an enormous force for good,” he said. The problem with social media, he said, is that it is not regulated. There is no liability for what is posted. The mainstream social media companies have put in place policies to help curb this, but it is not enough and not enforced well enough. Then, there are sites, such as Telegram, Gab and Discord, which have no content moderation policies.
Mr. Richman also said that society has become more polarized. “We live in a very divided time,” he said. “People take sides, which makes it very hard to control hate.”
Lastly, he pointed out that there has been a general emboldening of extremists on both the left and the right. For example, the ADL has been keeping track of white supremacist propaganda. In 2017, when the ADL started tracking such acts by white supremacists, there were 20 such incidents in New York State. In five years, those instances of white supremacist propaganda in New York State grew tenfold.
The ADL has monitored right-wing groups such as The Proud Boys, whom Mr. Richman said are the subject of a civil lawsuit related to their alleged role in the January 6th insurrection. ADL is serving as co-counsel on that lawsuit. They also follow left left-wing groups such as Antifa and the Nation of Islam.
Prior to joining the ADL, Mr. Richman was the Regional Director of the American Jewish Committee for Westchester (NY) and Fairfield (CT) Counties. In that role, he was responsible for directing the day-to-day operations of this top regional office dedicated to advocacy on key issues impacting the American Jewish community.
In addition, he spent 10 years at the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, where he assisted in the rebirth of Jewish life in the former Soviet Union. He also served as the Founding Director of Dor Chadash, a nonprofit startup which engaged young professionals in the New York area. Originally from Jericho, he is currently a resident of Westchester.
For more information about upcoming LIMBA programs, visit https://limba.net/.
Since 1968, LIMBA (Long Island Metro Business Action) has been Long Island’s catalyst for economic investment and improvement, sponsoring lively breakfast forums featuring Long Island business activists and government officials. Its mission is to promote and address issues that affect the quality of life on Long Island. For more information, call (631) 757-1698 or visit www.limba.net.