Former New York Police Department Commissioner Raymond Kelly warned Jewish communities of heightened antisemitism in a new era of hate.
As part of a conversation series with Limmud FSU, Kelly spoke about today’s climate of increased hatred against the Jewish people, warning, “We are in a dangerous place in history.” The challenges brought by the COVID-19 lockdown as well as the waves of violent protests have created what the former NYPD commissioner calls “the perfect storm.”
This current situation also has an impact on law enforcement’s ability to protect and serve. Kelly noted that the police now maneuver with greater cautions, which “makes them act slower.” He added, “They don’t engage as they once would have done. The result is increased violence, and I don’t see us getting out of this situation any time soon.”
Kelly also spoke about the current New York policy requiring officers to stand down as a de-escalation measure, a policy with which he disagrees. He noted that the anti-crime units which the city once had were effective in reducing crime. Now, he says, more people are willing to challenge the police, which puts the most vulnerable faith group, the Jewish community, at high risk.
As Clarion has reported, the rise in open antisemitic hate has almost become a branch of popular culture in some “influencer” circles, moving hate from the dark web to stochastic attacks and further into mainstream behavior.
The former NYPD commissioner offered Jewish communities the following guidelines for how to protect themselves during these uncertain times:
- Establish protective measures and protocols in synagogues.
Budget cuts due to lockdowns as well as the push for policy changes will mean slower response time from law enforcement. Moreover, it’s unlikely law enforcement will have the same funding and tools they once had even just a year ago to fight crime.
- Understand how the face of antisemitism changes in response to regional attitudes.
Antisemitism can vary based on geography. While antisemitism is centralized online, it comes from different sources on the political spectrum, which can be reflected geographically.
- Greater awareness over who is entering premises.
American Jewish communities need to follow the practices of European communities who have put strict security measures in place. Synagogues and Jewish community centers cannot be fully open environments anymore.
As Kelly notes, the rising number of attacks on synagogues in the United States, including the 2018 Pittsburgh Tree of Life attack that killed 11 people, should have made these principles clear.
Raymond Kelly was the longest serving police commissioner, holding two non-consecutive tenures across a 47-year career with the New York Police Department. During this time with the force, Kelly brought in officers who were originally from over a hundred different countries.
As part of his current position as head of the Anti-Semitism Accountability Project, Kelly meets government and faith leaders in Europe to compare antisemitism across our two continents.