FARMINGDALE, Long Island (WABC) — A shocking display of hate on Long Island is just another example of the rise in anti-Semitic incidents nationwide, according to the Anti-Defamation League.
For most people, a bumper sticker reading “Proud Anti-Semite” would be disturbing. But one driver in Farmingdale had no problem proclaiming his stance, after a woman snapped a photo while driving her children home from a Girls Scout event on Route 110.
Police say they are aware of who the driver is, but that there is often a fine line between hate speech and free speech.
The ADL reports a dramatic rise in anti-Semitic incidents this year, and New York state now leads the nation with 267 “events” in 2017. That is a whopping 96 percent increase over the 199 incidents reported all last year across the state.
Most of these “events” involve vandalism and harassment, and on Long Island, District Attorney Madeline Singas has launched an innovative new program in which suspects are counseled by Holocaust survivors.
Eyewitness News spoke with 90-year-old Werner Reich, a survivor of Auschwitz, who so far has counseled two suspects about why it is wrong to scrawl swastikas on property. Reich knows the power of hate all too well.
“I ask them, ‘Do you know the meaning of a swastika?,'” he said. “And they look at me as if I’m an idiot. And they say no.”
Reich also goes around lecturing about his experiences to high school children and really anybody who will listen.
“It’s really eye-opening,” Singas said. “Because once they’re educated to that, they’re ashamed and embarrassed.”
Thursday marks the 79th anniversary of Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass, in which Jews throughout Nazi Germany were rounded up and murdered in 1938. The windows of Jewish-owned stores and synagogues were smashed, leaving the streets littered with shards of glass.
“All the different horrors he talked about, they don’t teach us the different horrors in school,” one Manhasset student said.
The anniversary makes Reich’s words that much more meaningful, and the statistics are powerful to say the least. Reich is just hoping to somehow make a difference.