Brooklyn politicians denounce anti-Semitism after local cafe is vandalized

Very Juice owner Sharon Elkin was joined by southern Brooklyn politicians to denounce anti-Semitism.
Photo: Jessica Parks

A cadre of southern Brooklyn pols on Wednesday gathered outside a Gravesend cafe that had been vandalized with anti-Semitism graffiti to denounce the “vile” act of hate. 

“We are here collectively as a community to condemn this vile, hateful act and to condemn the vile, hateful rhetoric that we have tragically seen on the rise,” said state Sen. Andrew Gounardes, who represents a large swath of southern Brooklyn from Gerritsen Beach to Bay Ridge. 

The owner of Very Juice on Avenue P found the anti-Jewish message reading “Syrian Jew Wh—- F—- You” emblazoned on the front window of her shop while opening on Tuesday morning — the same day as mourners commemorated the second anniversary of the Tree of Life synagogue attack in Pittsburgh. 

“Yesterday morning as we opened up Very Juice, it was very sad and unpleasant to see the hateful words that somebody left in our window,” said Sharon Elkin. 

The politicians at Wednesday’s gathering laid blame for a rise in anti-Semitism on city and state officials who, they claim, have unfairly singled out Jewish communities as spreaders of COVID-19

“I can’t help but think this incident would not have happened were it not for the increase in very concerning rhetoric we’ve seen from those in government who have singled out and targeted people in the Jewish community,” Gounardes said. “This is not a Jewish virus, this is not a Chinese virus, this is not a Black virus, this is not a Greek virus.”

The Gravesend neighborhood where the attack occurred hosts large numbers of Syrian Jewish residents and business owners, who the elected officials commended for building up the area into the strong commercial district it is today.

“What is it about the Syrian community that came here with nothing and built up this beautiful neighborhood that I have the privilege to represent,” said Councilman Kalman Yeger, whose district includes parts of Borough Park, Gravesend and Kensington. “What is it about them that has offended people so much?”

State Sen. Simcha Felder further blamed the perceived increase in hate crimes against the city’s Jewish community on the city government allegedly blocking the NYPD from performing their duties.

“The issue is not allowing the police department to do what they have to do,” he said. “This is a culmination of the policy in the city of curtailing the ability of our cops to do what they have to do.” 

Jewish community members used the occasion to plead with politicians to ramp up police presence and surveillance in the area in response to anti-Semitic acts.

“I appeal to my elected official colleagues to stand with us as you have always done,” said Ronald Tawil, co-chair of the Sephardic Community Federation. ”We need increased police presence… we need cameras on all the commercial strips whether it be Avenue V, Avenue U, Kings Highways, this must happen now.” 

Congressman Max Rose, who represents Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and parts of Gravesend, said he will advocate for more federal money to fight anti-Semitism — specifically calling for an increase in spending on the president’s anti-Semitism czar and more funding for Jewish places of worship.

“This is a local problem, this is a domestic problem and this is a global problem,” Rose said. “We have to increase funds for Donald Trump’s anti-Semitism czar… we have to increase — triple — funding for our synagogues and our shuls so they can protect themselves.”

The NYPD is investigating the incident, pols said Wednesday.

This story first appeared on our sister publication brooklynpaper.com.