The State of New York has the most Jews in the United States and the greatest number of anti-Semitic hate crimes.
Beyond the dense Jewish areas of New York City and Westchester County, lie more rural Rockland County and its neighbor to the north, Orange County. Many ultra-Orthodox (Hasidic) Jews live there in towns including Monsey (in Rockland), and Monroe and Kiryas Joel (in Orange).
Unfortunately, many of their neighbors do not like them, and the Jews are facing an increasing amount of anti-Semitic graffiti, attacks and insults.
- The Republican party in Rockland County posted a video warning of a “takeover” by the Hasidic community in August 2019.
- A man burst into a rabbi’s home in Monsey and stabbed several people, killing one, in December 2020.
- A playground at North Garnerville Elementary School was defaced with anti-Semitic graffiti in April 2021.
- A man in Haverstraw said that he would gladly run over Hasidic Jews at a town public meeting in November 2021.
Several of these blatantly anti-Semitic events were condemned by State Senator James Skoufis, which was appreciated by the Jews in his district. However, many of those Jews may not be aware of the anti-Semitic controversies surrounding Skoufis himself.
As detailed in a lawsuit, Wagschal v. Skoufis, the State Senator has been aggressively fighting the Hasidic community’s desire to expand. Skoufis posted on social media in August 2018 that Jews seeking to establish a new hamlet was “nothing but a revenge-fueled attempt to inflict harm on the people of Monroe and Orange County,” and a “complete lack of regard for the broader community” as he promised to “fight every step of the way to stop this disgraceful, offensive proposal.” His post drew many cheers from anti-Semites who posted that the Hasidic community was a “CURSE,” a “cult,” “cancer,” and “bigoted“; with one user writing that new laws “need to be enacted [to] limit how many children [the Hasidim] actually have.”
Wagschal asked Skoufis to repudiate the vile posts on his Facebook page, which Skoufis did not do. Instead, he blocked Wagschal, which, in turn, led Wagschal to sue his State Senator. Skoufis did subsequently allow Wagschal to post on his page again.
Skoufis’s fighting the Hasidic community in his district would continue.
The Town of Chester in Orange County in Skouflis’s 39th district, had approved the development of a 117-acre site for residential development but then thwarted the project when the site was acquired by Jews. New York Attorney General Letitia James fought against the housing discrimination and won her case in June 2021. After the loss, Skoufis said “There is no place for discrimination — regardless of race, religion, national origin, sex, or otherwise — in our communities,” yet he would go on to fight Jews elsewhere in his district.
Skoufis sponsored a bill about “community preservation funds for the town of Blooming Grove” which sought to enable a town abutting the Jewish community to develop a conservation fund. New York Governor Kathy Hochul vetoed the bill saying that “there have been well-documented tensions in Orange County between local elected officials and members of the Hasidic community. Similar tensions in the nearby Town of Chester resulted in litigation. It would be inappropriate to sign this legislation at this juncture, while facts are still being gathered about the situation.” Skoufis said the veto was “extremely disappointing” and will bring the bill forward again in 2022.
The move of blocking Jews is not confined to Skouflis’s district. Just outside of the 39th district is the town of Airmont which has also been accused of discriminating against Hasidic Jews in zoning laws. Over the state border is Mahwah, NJ which gathered over 1,000 signatures in an online petition called “PROTECT THE QUALITY OF OUR COMMUNITY IN MAHWAH.” The comments on the petition would have made the infamous Nazi Joseph Geobbels blush.
The outright anti-Semites and blatant anti-Semitic acts are easily decried by public officials. But knowing their constituents’ prejudices, those same elected officials are pushing to change laws to block Jews from moving into neighborhoods. They know that if it can be blessed by such liberal icons as Barack Obama on a national level against the Jews in Jerusalem, it can certainly be accomplished by local politicians in New York.