As the number of reported anti-Semitic incidents on Long Island continues to increase, Nassau and Suffolk officials joined on Monday to mount a counterattack.
At the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County in Glen Cove — which was vandalized twice in two weeks — county executives said they were forming an island-wide anti-hate task force.
“We cannot look away from the fact that bigotry, anti-Semitism and other forms of hatred seek to divide us, and we will not be divided,” said Nassau County Executive Laura Curran.
The group will focus on educating the public, especially youth, about what symbols of hate mean and what intolerance can do unchallenged.
“It is the kids who are the next generation, and it is our job to make sure that they understand the history here,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said.
At Monday’s news conference, the Anti-Defamation League shared staggering statistics: 340 anti-Semitic incidents in New York last year, with a 55 percent increase in assaults.
“We teach that the Holocaust did not start with concentration camps,” Steven Markowitz, the Holocaust center’s chairman, told reporters. “In the beginning, it was bullying, name calling, discrimination in schools and the workplace, and, yes, graffiti.”
Police suspect those responsible for the drawing of swastikas last week are different from those who in late November left behind a racial slur at a memorial to 1.5 million children murdered in the Holocaust.
“The graffiti will be cleaned up, but much work needs to be done to make sure the perpetrators and others understand the significance of this desecration,” said Markowitz.
The Holocaust center said the latest graffiti was the first occurrence of anti-Semitic graffiti since it opened in the early 1990s.
In a statement, Long Beach state Senator Todd Kaminsky called for the passage of legislation he introducted that would require that all students in New York’s middle and high schools be educated about the “hateful and intollerant history of the swastika and noose.”
“The need for this legislation grows more evident by the day,” he said.