Queens residents remain on edge following the recent uptick of anti-Semitic attacks around the country and just across the Hudson River in Jersey City. More businesses, synagogues, yeshivos, and homeowners are considering expanding their video surveillance options to ensure a safer atmosphere. The term “caught on camera” has take on new meaning as closed-circuit television cameras continue to pop up on the corner of every stately structure.
This past week, footage surfaced of a suspicious youth taking photos of the Young Israel of Queens Valley in Kew Gardens Hills. From the vantage point of CCTV, it appeared that he may have been trying to capture an image of the shul’s schedule board. According to a statement from shul president Dr. Martin Braun, “Detective Little of the NYPD called to inform us that the individual observed on CCTV was an 18-year-old St. John’s college student, who is not a terrorist, but was simply carrying out a class assignment, according to his professor, to take pictures of neighborhood cultural institutions for class discussion. Moreover, the driver of the car was his very mother.”
In expressing its appreciation to the NYPD for its diligence and perseverance, the Queens Jewish Link was notified that “the police department takes seriously all provided information, and its intelligence officers will continue to monitor developments in the neighborhood.” The representative continued: “Locals will notice a rise in police presence, especially at houses of worship, and should be aware that unmarked NYPD cars are also patrolling the area.”
In a previous statement to Hamodia with regard to the incident at YIQV, Assemblymember Daniel Rosenthal mentioned: “It is disheartening that we need to have this sort of security outside a house of worship, but this video is the latest demonstration of why such precautions are sadly necessary.” This past week, the Assemblymember stood with the Simon Wiesenthal Center to highlight the top ten incidents of anti-Semitic hate across the world. There, he decried these atrocities and noted his continued vital work in Albany combating this bigotry.
Days ago, New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced a second round of funding for the Securing Communities Against Hate Crimes Grant Program. There is a $10 million allocation in financing to make enhancements in the security arrangements for non-public schools, religious-based institutions, and cultural centers. Earlier this year Governor Cuomo called threats to religious and cultural institutions a “cancer of hate and division” and later revealed an additional $25 million in the state budget to extend the grant program another year, demonstrating his resolve to address hate crimes and attacks. “The governor is not just talking the talk, but he’s walking the walk,” said Rabbi Yeruchim Silber, Agudath Israel’s Director of New York Government Relations. “As the recent tragic events in Jersey City demonstrated, the need for protection from horrible acts of hatred is now more than ever. We must appreciate his support and help.”
The allocated funds will be awarded to 207 projects that have applied for this specific grant funding. Up to $50,000 was provided for additional security training, cameras, door-hardening, improved lighting, state-of-the-art technology, and other related security upgrades at each eligible facility, for up to three facilities per organization.
The story of Chanukah tells of the many against the few, the mighty against the weak. The Chashmona’im could have stood on the side and thrown up their hands saying, “No, it is just too much; the Syrian-Greek army is just too big, too strong.” Instead, the Judeans collectively opted to stand up and do what is right and went out onto the battlefield. Whoever trusted in the Almighty then joined and fought for what they believed, leading to an ultimate and miraculous victory.
Then, in the Beis HaMikdash, they found a small jug of oil that did not just last eight days and nights, but still burns today wherever Jews around the world kindle their menorah. The light is the symbol of hope, showing that you can be living in a dark time, but a little bit of light pushes away a lot of darkness. Yes, there is no denying that we all have dark, tough times of struggle, often thinking, “How are we going to get by?” But the story of Chanukah tells us: Never give up! We must do what we can, and G-d tells us he will take over from there.
These episodes of suspected maliciousness bring an individual and a community to be more cautious and prudent in their daily actions. The city has long maintained red emergency boxes at many corners that enable passersby to speedily contact law enforcement. These stationary devices are always active and a wonderful addition to neighborhood security. A local Kew Gardens Hills resident, Cheryl S., used the callbox to reach the FDNY to remove a fallen tree limb blocking through-traffic on Main Street near 69th Avenue in Kew Gardens Hills a few weeks ago. The debate has recently been renewed for the city to install flashing blue-light deterrent surveillance cameras atop these call boxes to continually keep a watchful eye on our most active streets.
Do not forget to be diligent and attentive, and always report suspicious activities to law enforcement!
By Shabsie Saphirstein