By COLlive reporter
Photos: Aharon Gellis/COLlive
Jewish community officials and activists from across New York City attended the annual Chanukah party and Menorah lighting at Gracie Mansion, the official residence of Mayor Eric Adams, in a sign of standing up to growing anti-Jewish hate.
“We’re going to stamp out hate,” he promised. “We are going to demand that social media stop spreading the poison of hate. We are going to demand that those who are arrested for hate crimes are not allowed to plea bargain, but will serve time for doing the crimes.
“We have to be forward-facing in fighting hate,” he said. “I’m ready for this assignment. I’m ready for this task. That’s why we went to Greece, because we wanted mayors from all over the globe to understand that there’s something unique about the Tel Aviv of America, which is called New York City.”
“More Jews live in New York than anywhere else outside of Israel,” Adams said proudly. “I’m really concerned about the hate we’re seeing. So today, the symbolism of lighting the menorah should be what we will actualize and lighting the light in all of us. You know more than anyone the importance of moving away darkness with the light. And we want to continue to do so in a very real way.
Asaf Zamir, Consul General of Israel in New York, pointed out in his remarks how “the Greeks that invaded Judea didn’t want us out of Israel. They said, “You can stay. Just don’t show you’re Jewish. Become Greek, live as Greeks, not as Jews.”
“And there’s not one person in this room that hasn’t felt in the past few years that he has something that defines him or her that they should shush about, that they shouldn’t talk about, that they should hide.
“It can be a belief, it can be a heritage, it can be a yarmulke. And it doesn’t have to be amongst Jews, it’s amongst everyone. So the group of people that’s here tonight is united around the universal idea that everyone should have the ability to live the way they want. And everyone should have the ability to believe in what they want.”
Before lighting the Menorah, Mayor Adams invited Devorah Halberstam, Chair of the NYPD Hate Crime Review Panel and co-founder of the Jewish Children’s Museum in Crown Heights to address the gathering.
“No one personifies the energy and spirit of bringing light to darkness, turning pain into purpose more than my good friend Devorah,” Adams said. “During a very terrible moment when she lost her son, she turned towards her faith and she has been a shining light for all of us as we deal with fighting and pushing back against antisemitism.”
Halberstam reported that in the next two weeks, there will be a summit with the Department of Education of New York City. “All the superintendents are going to be coming to our museum, and we are going to bring 1 million school children to the museum so they can learn about Jewish culture and history, which is what you wanted,” she said.
She reminded that it was on Chanukah that the terrorist who killed her son Ari Halberstam and attempted to murder 15 others on the Brooklyn Bridge, was convicted of 141 and two-third years in prison.
Joining the Menorah lighting were Rabbi Joseph Potasnik of the New York Board of Rabbis, Eric Goldstein of UJA CEO, David Greenfield of Met Council, and Benzi Lebovits of Central Hatzalah, who were the sponsors of the event.
Emceeing the evening was Joel Eisdorfer, Senior Advisor to the Mayor, and livening the crowd with Chanukah melodies was the popular Jewish singer from Crown Heights, Eli Marcus. Participants then went on to enjoy a kosher meal.
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