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New York Republican lawmakers unveil plan to combat antisemitism ahead of budget vote


A group of  GOP lawmakers are calling on New York legislative leaders to include a suite of measures to address antisemitism in the state’s budget, now being negotiated but without their participation in the Democratic-dominated state legislature.

The Republican proposals, to boost funding for security and educational programs, and strengthen hate crimes legislation, will be unveiled at a noon press conference Wednesday at the state capitol in Albany. 

Gov. Kathy Hochul and state Senate and Assembly leaders, all Democrats, are hammering out a state spending plan ahead of a an April 1 deadline.

Republicans, in the minority in both chambers, have generally been excluded from the talks. 

“In an effort to address and reverse the rising trend of antisemitism, we must work together to ensure resources are provided,” the five Republican State Senators wrote in a letter dated Tuesday to Hochul, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. 

The Republicans, including Sen. Jack Martins, who represents a sizable Jewish population in Great Neck; and Sen. Bill Weber, of the heavily Orthodox town of Ramapo in Rockland County, are part of a working group established last year to engage with Jewish community leaders and develop ways to counter the recent rise in antisemitic incidents. New York had the most recorded antisemitic incidents among states – 395 – in 2022, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

And antisemitism has spiked since the Oct. 7 Hamas terror attack and subsequent Israeli military campaign in Gaza, with numerous incidents of physical assaults, death threats and verbal harassment reported in Jewish neighborhoods and on college campuses. A recent ADL report found that 356 incidents of white supremacist propaganda were documented in the state last year, including 24 antisemitic incidents.

The release of the GOP group’s report Wednesday follows hearings in Rockland and Nassau Counties last fall. It recommends the enactment of five bills sponsored by Republican legislators. Those bills would incorporate a definition of antisemitism that defines certain antisemitic actions as hate crimes into the state’s human rights law, expand the definition of harassment to cover the use of Nazi symbols, criminalize the vandalism of pro-Israel materials and revoke tuition assistance for students engaged in antisemitic behavior.

“We need the governor and the state legislature to lock arms with us and lead the way,” the Republican group wrote in the report, shared with the Forward. 

Hochul has taken steps to address antisemitism in recent years.

In Dec. 2022, she announced the formation of a hate and bias prevention unit within the Department of Human Rights. Earlier this year, Hochul proposed a $10 million increase in grant funding for hate crime prevention and a combined $60 million to fight antisemitism and other bigotry in this and next year’s budgets. The governor has also pledged to pass legislation to make it easier to prosecute incidents as hate crimes.

In a recent speech, Hochul said she is not deterred by opposition to adding graffiti to a list of additional 31 misdemeanors that district attorneys would be able to prosecute as hate crimes. “I don’t care one bit,” she told leaders of the UJA-Federation of New York last month.  “I’ll try to get that through.” 

A spokesperson for the Senate Republican Conference didn’t immediately respond to an inquiry about whether Democrats were invited to participate in the working group.

The post New York Republican lawmakers unveil plan to combat antisemitism ahead of budget vote appeared first on The Forward.