long island

Great Neck rallies against anti-Semitism and hatred


Long Islanders rallied against anti-Semitism and hatred on Sunday. Despite drenching rain, residents from Great Neck and surrounding communities gathered on the Great Neck Village Green, joined by political leaders including Democratic Reps. Tom Suozzi and Kathleen Rice.

Several speakers condemned the trio of freshman congresswomen who have spouted anti-Semitic canards: Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Rep. Rashinda Tlaib (D-MI) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY).

When some speakers obliquely referenced Omar and Tlaib without mentioning their names, the crowd yelled: “Say the names!” When the three were named, the crowd loudly booed.

Suozzi and Rice were praised for publicly condemning Omar by name. Republican Rep. Peter King sent greetings and a strong message condemning anti-Semitism.

Nassau County Legislator Ellen Birnbaum noted that it was unfortunate to have to protest anti-Semitism instead of spending Sunday on enjoyable pursuits, such as music. Birnbaum is a flautist.

Other elected officials who attended the rally were Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth, and Councilmember Veronica Lurvey.

Several rabbis spoke about the importance of community unity.

Rabbi Yaakov Lerner of the Young Israel of Great Neck recounted how Queen Esther asked the Jewish community to unite for a day of fasting prior to her approaching the king, and as a result they were saved. Rabbi Meir Feldman of Temple Beth El spoke about how baseless hatred among Jews caused the downfall of the Second Temple.

Rabbi Yosef Bitton of Great Neck’s Mashadi Shaare Rachamim Synagogue spoke about his emigration from Argentina, where 85 Jews were murdered in the bombing of the Jewish Center in 1994 by terrorists tied to Hezbollah and Iran, and how anti-Semitic statements breed anti-Jewish violence.

Steve Markowitz, chairman of the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County, said his center receives daily calls about hateful incidents.

Local activist Jeff Wiesenfeld demanded that Jews be treated with the same dignity as any other group, noting that if someone were to make statements about any other minority group similar to those made by Omar and Tlaib, it would not have been tolerated.

He asserted that although neo-Nazis are hateful and must be fought, the major problem is with far-left Islamists. A leftist-Islamist alliance is damaging the polity and torturing Jewish students on every college campus in the country, he said.

Wiesenfeld pointed out that Congresswoman Omar is from Somalia, where there are no Jews and no Christians, and where Muslims are killing other Muslims, but instead of being grateful to America and joining with moderates to advocate for freedom in the Muslim world, she allied herself with the hateful radical Islamists and condemned Israel.

Representing millennials, Great Neck native Dana A. Brody spoke of her efforts to bring in pro-Israel speakers as a student at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, after she noticed that numerous anti-Israel speakers had been invited to speak on campus. She co-founded the Penn Law Students for Israel Club with Peter Fishkind, who was also present at the rally.

“This was my wake-up call,” said Brody. “It is vital for the next generation of young leaders to get involved in combating hate and anti-Semitism. Whether we are ready for it or not, we must realize that it is our obligation and our duty.”

Liz Berney, one of the rally organizers, urged passage by Congress of an anti-BDS law “with real teeth” and said that “Congress should come together to throw vicious anti-Semites like Omar and Tlaib off of their committees.”

Dr. Paul Brody, another organizer, said that when composing the ad announcing the rally, with Dr. Alan Mazurek, he included these sentences from Megillat Esther 5:14,16 at the top of the page: “Go assemble all the Jews...” and “For if you persist in being silent at this time...”

Brody praised the crowd for having gathered in unity, even in a drenching rain, and directed the words of the Megillah to the elected officials, who themselves could fight hate and anti-Semitism, legislatively, by not being silent.

Source: Liz Berney, ZOA director of special projects