Mayor Eric Adams gathered with faith leaders at City Hall on Friday to emphasize love and unity across the various religious groups that call New York City home amid a surge in hate crimes over the past couple of months spurred by the conflict between Israel and Hamas.
“In this moment of heightened tension around the globe, it is more important than ever that we stand together as one, united against the rising tide of hatred and religious intolerance,” Adams said during the Dec. 8 press conference in the City Hall Rotunda, which coincided with the start of Hanukkah the previous evening.
Imam Shamsi Ali, who joined the mayor Friday, said those of all faiths must see hate against any one group as their “shared enemy.”
“For me, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism or any anti to anyone or any group is our shared enemy,” Ali said. “And we can [all] be victims. And therefore my friends, we must speak up, because it is sufficient for the evil to thrive when the good people do or say nothing.”
Rabbi Chaim Steinmetz, who was also in attendance, said that while calling out those who perpetrate incidents of hate is necessary, it is also important to focus on what unites people of different religions.
“This morning, of course, is [about] finding light amidst darkness,” Steinmetz, a senior rabbi at Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun in Manhattan, said. “Darkness has to be taken on directly … but that alone is not enough. If we don’t bring light, darkness will always win.”
The event came not even 24 hours after a man fired a shotgun outside an Albany synagogue, an incident that sent the building into lockdown but did not result in any deaths or injuries. A suspect was quickly arrested on Thursday and law enforcement is investigating the occurance at Temple Israel, which took place on the first night of Hanukkah, as a hate crime.
The mayor’s gathering also followed the recent vandalism of menorahs in the Sunset Park section of Brooklyn.
Keeping holiday peace
In response to those incidents, Adams made it clear that those from every religion have the right to practice their faith peacefully in the five boroughs.
“These are the acts that an individual could do that can cascade throughout our entire city, our state and our country,” Adams said. “So I want you to be clear: everyone in our city, in this state, in this country, has a right to practice their faith in peace. Here in New York City we will ensure that right is protected.”
The mayor added there will be an increased NYPD presence around public menorahs and lighting ceremonies.
The recent spike in hate incidents followed the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas militants that killed 1,400 Israelis, and the ensuing Israeli bombing campaign and ground offensive in Gaza that has killed roughly 15,000 Palestinians — according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. Those hate crimes have involved both anti-Semetic and Islamophobic incidents.
Adams said those actions will not be tolerated in the city.
“While New Yorkers have every right to express their sorrow about the incidents that’s playing out on stage in the international arena, and events around the world through peaceful protest, that absolutely does not give anyone the right to harass others or to spread hate,” Adams said. “It does not give anyone the right to deface, target or harass religious institutions and businesses.”