Yesterday’s Council of Jewish Organizations (COJO) annual legislative breakfast was its usual schmooze fest, but hanging over the political air were growing concerns of anti-Semitism incidents around the country – including the questionable toppling of Jewish gravestones at the Washington Cemetery just blocks from Kol Yaakov Hall on McDonald Avenue where the event took place.
But even the shadow of Anti-Semitism couldn’t untie the growing partisan disagreements among Jews in attendance – some of whom were clearly happy that Donald Trump is now president.
“We have seen anti-Semitism rear it’s ugly head throughout America in ways that we have not seen in a very long time. My message to you is this – whenever anti-Semitism rears it’s ugly head, we must slap it down,” said Brooklyn born and raised U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the Senate’s minority leader. “We have seen anti-Semitism on the left, but now we are seeing it on the right and we have an equal obligation to shut it down and condemn it on the right just as we do on the left.”
But Jeff Wiesenfeld, principal of Bernstein Private Wealth Mangagement, who has worked under several elected officials including former Republican U.S. Sen. Alfonse D’Amato, who Schumer defeated to get the Senate seat, took umbrage at Schumer’s strong stance against anti-Semitism.
In particular, Wiesenfeld was vexed that Schumer supported the recent unsuccessful bid of Congressman Keith Ellison (D-Minnesota) to become the new DNC (Democratic National Convention) chair. Some believe that Ellison, a Muslim, is trying to push an anti-Israel agenda while ostracizing the American Jewish community.
“He [Schumer] has no business being the saint, fighting anti-Semitism when he put up Keith Ellison. He told us eight years ago that [Senator] Barack Obama is the real deal and he gave us the Iran deal. He’s a hypocrite,” said Wiesenfeld.
The Iran deal was an agreement between the Iran the U.S. and five other world powers that would limit Iran’s nuclear programs but allow them to continue with their enrichment program or nuclear research.
The alleged toppling of Jewish headstones at the Washington Cemetary comes after several similar incidents occurred at Jewish cemeteries around the country in the past few weeks including cemeteries in St. Louis and Philadelphia as well as the Waad Hakolel Cemetery in upstate Rochester.
NYPD Commissioner James P. O’Neil, who was born and raised in Flatbush and attended the breakfast, stood strongly against the recent anti-semitic sentiments and promised to investigate the situation at the Washington Cemetery.
“This was reported to us last night around nine at night, we had our uniformed people respond. Our hate crimes unit is over there now conducting an investigation. We are working with the [Washington] cemetery who has a list of gravestones that have toppled over for various reasons and we actually have to compare that list to what actually happened,” he said.
Public Advocate Letitia James also condemned the desecration of the tombstones at the Jewish cemetery and called them “cowardly acts of hate”.
“We should all stand together – all of us here today should stand together with the Jewish community – and say we will not tolerate hate, we will not normalize hate. Hate is unacceptable, it is un-American, and inconsistent with our values and our principles. Everyone is welcomed here,” she said.
According to media reports, the NYPD Hate Crimes unit later determined the toppled headstones in Washington Cemetery was not A hate crime and the damage caused was due to age, neglect and harsh weather conditions.