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Religious Communities Fight Back Against Hate Crimes

HOST INTRO: There has been a “recent uptick” in hate crimes against Muslims, Jews, and Hindus, according to the Manhattan District Attorney’s office. The New York Police Department reported hate crimes are up more than 40 percent from last year. Everything from drawing a Swastika on the side of a building to removing a hijab from a woman’s head without her consent. Lindsey Kortyka looks at how victimized religious communities are fighting back.

KORTYKA 1: Devorah Halberstam, is an Orthodox Jew. And she’s no stranger to hate crimes. In 1994, her 16 year old son, Ari was attacked by a Lebanese terrorist while driving across the Brooklyn Bridge –  for being Jewish

Halberstam: He shot up the van with over 40 rounds of ammunition, using an uzi machine gun, a glock pistol,, .380 and  my son ari was fatally wounded. KORTYKA 2:  In response to the murder of her son, Halberstam built the Jewish Children’s museum in Brooklyn. She says its mission is to encourage tolerance, but almost three decades later she’s facing hate  again. Earlier this month, the museum received an anonymous email.It said there were 3 pipe bombs planted in the building.

Halberstam: Because we are jewish. [It’s an act of hatred.] It send shivers.It just reminded us once again that we have a lot of work to do.

KORTYKA 3: And working against hate is what religious groups around the city are trying to do. They’re fighting back – using education. Cheikh Ahmed Mbarek is Executive Director of the Islamic Leadership Council of NY.  He says after every election there’s been a problem with hate crime, but since Trump’s ban it’s gotten worse –

ME: Have there been any recent threats to your community?

Mbarek: Of course! the Muslim community has been portrayed as an enemy to the United States. And as vermion and a bad guy and that’s what you expect. That’s what happened to the Jews in Germany.

Kortyka 5:  .So Mbarek says the Islamic Leadership Council has started offering workshops lawyers teach participants  to contact the district attorney to report a hate crime and what a hate crime is – legally. That’s what’s being discussed at the latest workshop he’s planned – called  Know Your Rights. Jeanne Olivo, a lawyer with the district attorney’s office  is standing  in front of a large echoey/high school auditorium on the upper west side, reading the hate crime  statute to the  crowd of concerned citizens. It’s complicated. It’s legal. It’s long.

OLIVO: Intentionally commits the act in whole or substantial part

Let tape post – for a beat or two

It’s also hard to hear, but Olivio explains  what a hate crime is. Name calling or telling someone to go back to their country -nope that’s free speech, but telling someone to go back to their country and then punching them – that’s a hate crime. Across town, on the East Side, The Temple Israel of the City of New York is hosting a discussion on anti-semitism. Natan Sharansky, an activist, says before Jews can fight hate, they need to learn to work together.

VOICEOVER Sharansky: It is important that people who voted for Trump and who are proud republicans they will fight the  anti-semitism on the right. KORTYKA 9: The Southern Poverty Law Center, a non-profit, works to combat hate crimes. It says that the best way to combat these types of crimes is to be vocal about it. It also says people from different groups need to work together. Chris Fiji is a board member Sah-Dah-Nah Coalition of Progressive Hindus. He agrees.

FIJI (phonetic):  We do reach out to Indians, but our version of Hindu  is much more expansive. We are trying to be of service of justice to Anyone who’s vulnerable. KORYTKA 9: As for Halberstam, the founder of the Jewish Children’s Museum in Brooklyn, she says she’s going to continue going to work every day at The Museum to focus on combating hate. Lindsey Kortyka, Columbia Radio News.


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