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Griffo bill would make anti-Semitic attacks a hate crime

Governor Andrew Cuomo's office
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Sen. Charles Schumer were joined by thousands who marched over the Brooklyn Bridge against anti-Semitism on Sunday.

More anti-Semitic incidents happened in New York City over the weekend. This comes after a stabbing at a Hanukkah party in Monsey, New York, injured five people in December. Gov. Andrew Cuomo called it a hate crime and terrorism. He said he’s going to encourage the legislature to pass a domestic terrorism law. Central and northern New York State Sen. Joe Griffo introduced a bill last spring that would make anti-Semitic attacks a hate crime. 

Griffo said there are protected segments of society based on sexual orientation and race, but his bill would amend the state’s human rights law to include protections against anti-Semitism.

“I think that is so unacceptable and we need to not only send a message, but have a consequence for this type of activity,” Griffo said.

The consequence is that if it were determined an attack was motivated by hatred, that person could be charged with a crime, one category higher. A second degree assault would be bumped up to a first degree. The series of recent attacks against Jewish people in New York City have included assaults, along with yelling of anti-Semitic slurs and threats. 

Credit Tom Magnarelli / WRVO Public Media
WRVO Public Media
State Sen. Joe Griffo, center, speaking in Utica, Friday.

“The assault was for a purpose," Griffo said. "It was because this individual doesn’t like this person because of their faith. That’s where this bill comes in.”

Griffo introduced the bill last spring, after a wave of anti-Semitic attacks happened across the country, including a shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue that killed 11 people.

After the attack in Monsey, some Democrats blamed President Donald Trump for stoking anti-Semitism, although the president condemned the attack. Griffo said finger-pointing doesn’t accomplish anything.

Speaking in New York City Monday, Governor Cuomo said anti-Semitism, and in a broader sense, hate, anger and division, is the most frightening issue that keeps him up at night.

“I think the political system nationwide is fueling the anger, the polarization, the demonization,” Cuomo said.

The governor said he'll propose a domestic terrorism law. Griffo said he's not sure what that will be. But he recognizes there will be, potentially, other proposals besides his bill to address the issue. And he said there is consensus to do something.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.