NY bill would define anti-semitism as a hate crime qualifier

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UTICA, NY (WUTR-TV) — Drafted state legislation would amend the state hate crimes law, and define that rhetoric leading to or the action of antisemitism would be a qualifier of a hate crime.

“We have laws that prevent discrimination, but in this particular case it would elevate this to a hate crime under the state human rights law. That’s essentially what this statue, this piece of legislation would do,” said State Senator Joe Griffo (R-Rome), who sponsors the bill.

Over the weekend a man entered a Rockland County rabbi’s home, stabbing multiple people who were celebrating Hanukkah. Now, the feds are pursuing hate crime charges against the alleged perpetrator.

Griffo says he is aware Governor Andrew Cuomo “is talking about wanting to do something and i think this is a good start for everybody to look at because, we’re all on the same page on this because we can’t allow this to take place in our society.”

Rabbi Peter Schaktman of Temple Emanu-El in Utica, says Griffo’s bill is well-intentioned, but he believes the bill doesn’t effectively reach the root of the antisemitism issue.

“To address this is not necessarily through arresting people, but it’s through leadership…’ “…the bill would outlaw people saying things, expressing their opinions about certain things that, again would be distasteful, things that Jews might strongly disagree with and take issue with. But, Jews are Americans too and we are strong defenders of the constitution and the first amendment. And we believe that if the constitution is not strong, our lives are not safe,” Rabbi Peter Schaktman said.

The bill was introduced late last spring, toward the end of the 2019 legislative session. It currently sits in committee and he says his hope is that it will gain momentum in 2020.

Griffo, the Senate deputy minority leader, says he is “always willing and ready to revisit it and revise if necessary.”

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