NY governor rejects anti-Israel party members in 1st address to Jewish community

Governor Kathy Hochul calls for boosting trade and technology with Jewish state, vows support and protection for New York Jewish communities

Luke Tress is a JTA reporter and a former editor and reporter in New York for The Times of Israel.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul speaks during an event in New York, Nov. 10, 2021. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
New York Governor Kathy Hochul speaks during an event in New York, Nov. 10, 2021. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

New York Governor Kathy Hochul, in her first public address to the state’s Jewish community on Wednesday, said she opposes moves by members of her party against Israel.

“As a member of Congress a decade ago, I stood firm with Israel when they were under assault, and even more recently as a Democrat now I reject the individuals in my party who are making this an issue and questioning our commitment to Israel,” Hochul said in an address at a virtual meeting for the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York.

She called for boosting trade and technological ties between New York and Israel, including in the health care field, and said she planned on leading a trade mission to Israel.

Hochul said she had planned a family trip to Israel for the Thanksgiving holiday at the end of the month but postponed the visit when she became governor.

She vowed support and security for New York’s Jewish community during Wednesday’s talk, amid a rise in antisemitism.

“For so long this community has been under assault. We talk about the rise in hate crimes against individuals who should never have that fear in their hearts,” she said.

“I’m conscious of what is going on, very much so, and working very hard to make sure the resources are there from the state government to fund security programs,” she said.

Hochul mentioned the anniversary of the 1938 German Kristallnacht pogrom this week, and recounted a recent trip to a Jewish religious school, where a boy expressed fear to her over wearing a kippah, or Jewish skullcap, in public.

“I said, ‘Young man, you wear that proudly. This is a sign of the strength and resilience that is part of your DNA,'” she said. “You always fought back, the Jewish people have always had to fight back but it makes them stronger.”

She called for more vaccinations during the address, asking “faith communities” and “trusted voices” to speak out in favor of vaccines, without singling out Jewish leaders.

Hochul became New York’s first female governor in August when Andrew Cuomo stepped down rather than face an impeachment battle after a report concluded he had sexually harassed 11 women.

Progressive members of the Democratic party, including New York Congresswoman Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez, have opposed or questioned some US support for Israel, including American funding for the Iron Dome missile defense system. Congress still overwhelmingly supports aid for the Jewish state, however.

Jews are the most targeted religious group for hate crimes in New York City, where most of the state’s Jewish population resides. As of last month, the NYPD had already reported 371 hate-related incidents in New York City, across the Jewish, Asian, Black and LGBTQ communities.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s 2020 Hate Crime Statistics report showed that overall hate crimes were rising, and that antisemitic hate crimes made up 57 percent of all religious bias crimes. The NYPD Hate Crimes dashboard has reported that nearly 35% of hate crimes this year have been antisemitic, the highest portion against any group. Antisemitic hate crimes in New York City have risen 50% compared to the same period in 2020.

Earlier this month, Hochul signed legislation that banned the selling or displaying of hate symbols on public property and taxpayer-funded equipment. Last month, speaking at a Jewish museum in New York City, she announced $25 million in grants to boost security at nonprofits threatened by hate crimes.

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