New York City Governor Andrew Cuomo was set to arrive in Israel on Sunday for a visit that he has described as a gesture of solidarity spurred by acts of anti-Semitism at Jewish cemeteries, college campuses and community centers across the United States.
Cuomo announced the trip Wednesday during a speech to Orthodox Jewish students, parents and teachers advocating at the state capitol for increased funding for religious schools.
“I want to say to the people of Israel and I want to say to the Jewish community in New York, you are not alone, and every person in the state of New York with any decency and understanding of what it means to be a New Yorker stands with you at this moment,” he said.
Cuomo denounced local and national incidents of vandalism and threats as “repugnant,” echoing a speech he had given earlier in the day at the Sidney Albert Albany Jewish Community Center.
Speaking to The News York Times on Friday, Cuomo said showing support to the local Jewish community was not enough to tackle the growing phenomenon.
I'm on my way to #Israel to strengthen our economic ties and reaffirm our support.
“The undercurrent is this: There has been a wave of anti-Semitism, and it has been very disturbing to members of the Jewish community,” he said. “Yeah, you could go down the block to a temple, but if you’re really sincere, you do more, you act more boldly. And the actions should be commensurate to the grievances.”
New York has the largest Jewish population of any city outside of Israel. Cuomo, who last visited Israel in 2014, said this visit will focus on economic development, technology and security collaboration with Israeli leaders. The expedition is paid for with state funds through a 2015 initiative for trade missions to Mexico, Canada, Italy, China, and Cuba.
During his visit, the governor is slated to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin, the latter of whom will accompany Cuomo on a visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum.
Welcome to Israel
In addition, the governor will stop at the Western Wall and meet with Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, who will be accompanied by a group of business leaders.
The under-24-hour stop comes just days after the New York police announced that anti-Semitic incidents were up 94 percent in New York City over the same time last year.
The figure is part of a 55% increase overall in the number of hate crimes in the city as compared to the same time last year.
Through the first two months of 2017 and as of last week, 35 anti-Semitic incidents were reported, compared to 18 through February 2016.
New York police announced early Sunday they were investigating a report of vandalism at a predominantly Jewish Brooklyn cemetery.
An NYPD spokesman said that the department’s hate crimes division had been notified of headstones found toppled over at Washington Cemetery in Brooklyn.
It would be the second Jewish burial ground in New York state to be defaced in the past week after five headstones were found toppled at a Rochester cemetery on Thursday morning.
Then, Cuomo released a statement expressing “zero tolerance” for such attacks.
JTA contributed to this report.