A string of New York City progressive activists, Jewish advocacy groups and political candidates echoed on Monday calls to scale back the increased police protection of Jewish sites instituted after a series of violent assaults.
In the latest in a series of attacks against Jewish institutions in the Bronx borough of New York, the Riverdale Jewish Center (RJC) was targeted by a stone-throwing assailant in the early hours of Monday morning, sustaining damage to windows.
The attack was the seventh incident in recent days — following similar incidents at nearby Jewish institutions, including Chabad of Riverdale, Young Israel of Riverdale and the Conservative Synagogue Adath Israel of Riverdale — and the third time the RJC itself was targeted, despite an increased police presence in the area.
The RJC was first targeted by the assailant on Thursday night, when thrown rocks smashed the synagogue’s glass doors, and then again on Saturday night along with the three other Jewish institutions.
In response to the increased police protection of Jewish sites in the area, Sasha Parsley Kesler, the Special Projects Manager to the Chief of Staff at NYC Department of Social Services, issued a lengthy Twitter thread that questioned the use of enhanced security for the Jewish community.
While she says she was was pained by the violence and noted the long history of attacks on Jewish institutions, she said, “I am also [imagining] another way to respond to this violence, one that does not invite further militarized policing of our streets & communities.”
“I understand the gut reaction in white Jewish communities to look to police as our protectors,” she went on. “And we all know that more policing does not make us ALL safer. Riverdale is a diverse community — I do not want the attempts to secure my safety to threaten that of others.”
“I’m dreaming of a world with community-based rapid response, restorative justice & anti-hate education,” Kesler wrote. “Where we join our neighbors across NYC who are afraid because who they are makes them a target of hate & violence.”
“Jewish safety & dignity are intertwined with that of all communities,” she continued. “My fellow Jews — here is a moment for us to do something different. To radically reimagine who protects us. Our neighbors protect us. We protect us. Join me?”
The advocacy group Jews for Racial and Economic Justice — which calls itself “Home to NY’s Jewish Left” — described Kesler’s thread as “powerful.”
Jaslin Kaur, a candidate for New York City Council District 23, called it “a beautiful, inspiring response.”
Aaron Ghitelman — the press secretary for progressive State Senator Brad Hoylman, who is now running for Manhattan borough president — commented, “Sasha summing it up perfectly. My heart is hurting right now for the Jewish community I grew up in and all those who live in Riverdale who will be needlessly hassled by the police in the name of safety.”
The thread was also shared by Tahanie Aboushi, a candidate for Manhattan District Attorney, who responded, “Our communities have been here too many times. We must continue to stand against hate in all forms and support the work of community leaders and organization to eradicate its root causes.”