A report released by the state Division of Criminal Justice Services concluded that hate crimes increased 14% in 2009, led by an increase in attacks on Jews and Jewish institutions.
Six hundred and eighty-three hate crimes were reported to authorities across New York State in 2009, compared with 599 in 2008. Anti-Semitic incidents rose from 219 in 2008 to 251 in 2009, comprising 37% of reported incidents.
Ironically, the same day the report was released, a threatening letter was sent to an Upper West Side synagogue threatening to blow it up on New Year's Eve, according to the New York Post. The note was discovered in the late afternoon on December 30, at the Congregation Ohab Zedek synagogue on 95th Street near Columbus Avenue, said Rabbi Allen Schwartz.
"We have reasons to believe someone wants to spread fear," Schwartz told The Post. He speculated that a similar letter was sent to at least 10 other synagogues, however authorities declined to comment due to an investigation. Police evacuated the synagogue building, combing it for explosives, but found nothing suspicious.
According to the Justice Services report, New York City accounted for 40% of all hate crimes in 2009. A 6% increase was seen, from 259 in 2008 to 275 in 2009.
"A hate crime is an offense not only against a specific individual, but against an entire community," said Sean Byrne, acting commissioner of the Division of Criminal Justice Services. He referred to it as "form of domestic terrorism".
Anti-black hate crimes accounted for 21% of the total, anti-gay sentiments for 12%, and anti-Hispanic hate crimes for 6%.
Data for 2010 is not yet available.
Reprinted with permission from Shalom Life