‘Some People Find It Easy to Present Orthodox Jews as the Source of All Their Problems’

Any attack on the Jewish community in New York is “an attack on our entire state,” says New York State Attorney General Letitia James in an interview with Haaretz.

Following the recent wave of anti-Semitic attacks in different parts of the state, James says the problem needs to be tackled with a strategy that involves legal action, security measures, educational work and improvements in the mental health field.

“It’s definitely a crisis, nobody can deny that,” says James, speaking to Haaretz in a phone interview. “When over a short period of time you have so many attacks against the Jewish community, we have to take action,” she adds.

The conversation with the state attorney general, commonly referred to as Tish James, took place 48 hours before she participated in Sunday’s “No Hate. No Fear” march against anti-Semitism, which drew about 25,000 protesters to the streets of Manhattan and Brooklyn.

James spent Friday morning at a joint gathering of black clergy leaders in Brooklyn, which also included several Jewish participants and was focused on the anti-Semitic incidents of the past two weeks. “It was a wonderful meeting, with a powerful message that all of us are standing in solidarity with the Jewish community,” she recounts. “But we also had discussions that weren’t easy.”

James tells Haaretz the data in New York shows that a majority of the recent attacks against Jewish residents were committed by “young people of color,” a fact she says she finds disturbing. “We can’t shy away from obstacles and we can’t shy away from the facts,” she says. “We talked about these stats during the meeting. We have to face this challenge.”

New York State Attorney General Letitia James pictured at a press conference, November 19, 2019.Lucas Jackson/REUTERS

Last week, following the stabbing attack in Monsey that left five Jewish people injured, one critically, James visited the community and met with Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg, who lives in the house where the December 28 attack took place. During the visit to Rockland County, James announced the creation of a new Hate Crimes Unit in her office, which, per a press release, is “specifically designed to investigate and prosecute hate crimes.” She also launched a new hotline at the Attorney General’s Office for the public to report hate crimes.