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Zeldin Demands Answers Following Rise In Anti-Semitism Across Nation

March 6, 2017
In The News

As a Jewish man growing up in culturally diverse New York, U.S. Representative Lee Zeldin said he has never once been the victim of anti-Semitism.

But the recent rise in reported bomb threats targeting Jewish centers across the country, and increased incidents of vandalism at Jewish cemeteries and houses of worship nationwide, have prompted Mr. Zeldin—one of two Republicans now serving in the House of Representatives who are Jewish—to take action.

Last week, Mr. Zeldin, co-chair of the House Republican Israel Caucus, penned a letter to FBI Director James Comey, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions seeking an update on steps their organizations are taking to identify and prosecute those who are targeting American-Jewish communities, going as far as calling the incidents acts of “psychological terrorism.”

“I went through kindergarten to 12th grade, college, law school and four years of active duty without experiencing anti-Semitism at all—not once,” said Mr. Zeldin, an Army veteran and a major in the Army Reserves, when reached on Monday.

“I had hoped that this was going to be the first of many generations where our entire religion wasn’t going to be the subject of anti-Semitism,” continued Mr. Zeldin, the only Jewish Republican serving in the House before U.S. Representative David Kustoff of Tennessee was sworn in this January. “But what we have seen over the last few years is a rising tide of anti-Semitism all around the world, including the United States.”

Though the South Fork’s Jewish houses of worship, including the Jewish Center of the Hamptons in East Hampton, Temple Adas Israel in Sag Harbor and the Hampton Synagogue in Westhampton Beach, have thus far been spared, incidents of anti-Semitism across the country have left many locals on edge, according to Rabbi Levi Welton, a former rabbi at the Hampton Synagogue who remains an active member of the East End Jewish community.

“A lot of my parishioners and friends that I speak to on the East End get the feeling that this anti-Semitism is like a canary in the coal mine,” he said. “This type of bigotry and hatred really scares the American-Jewish community.”

Over the past several weeks there have been several incidents of vandalism and threats against Jewish centers, synagogues and cemeteries throughout the country. On Sunday, more than 100 gravestones were destroyed in a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia and that occurred just one week after 150 markers were destroyed at a graveyard in St. Louis. Then on Monday, Jewish centers in at least nine states, including New York, reported receiving bomb threats, including facilities on Staten Island and in Tarrytown, New Rochelle and Plainview.

While some have attributed the sudden spike in incidents targeting Jewish facilities to the start of Donald Trump’s presidency, pointing to his polarizing anti-immigration stance and travel ban targeting mostly Muslim countries, Rabbi Welton commended the president for condemning the anti-Semitic events last week.

However, he did stress that the White House could be more proactive in tracking down those responsible and send a message to those who are considering committing similar crimes.

“This is an opportunity for the White House to come out strong against this form of bigotry and hatred, and take the stand that America is a country where people should feel free to practice any religion they choose without fear,” Rabbi Welton said. “We should come together, whether Christian, Muslim or Jewish, and come out and fight not just in rhetoric but with action.”