Since she was a five-year-old on her school’s playground, Sofie Glassman has been encountering antisemitism.
“A girl told me I wasn’t allowed to play with her because I was Jewish,” the East Meadow High School sophomore told the Legislative Task Force to Combat Antisemitism in Nassau County.
The panel, meeting last week in Mineola, heard testimony on the prevalence of antisemitism across Long Island.
As Glassman moved on to high school, the Jew-haters moved with her, she said.
While eating lunch in the school cafeteria, she overheard a group of students saying they wanted to throw things at her so they could “knock out my Judaism,” she testified.
Seeking help, Glassman informed her mother of what was happening and her mother called the school demanding that the situation to be addressed.
The school’s action? Two days of in-school suspension for the offenders.
Recently, Glassman was informed that swastikas were found in a boys’ bathroom in the school.
Another student, Caroline Kronenfeld, a senior at John F. Kennedy High School in Plainview-Old Bethpage, said that the Holocaust is taught in schools but very little is discussed about the racism Jewish students face at school and on social media.
Kronenfeld shared that while in her school library, she overheard a group of students saying that “Kanye was right,” a reference to rapper Ye (Kanye West) who spread antisemitic statements across his social media platforms, threatening violence against Jews.
“We learn about the Holocaust and the severity of that,” Kronenfeld said. “We don’t learn about the severity of casual antisemitism.”
“School is a place that I am supposed to feel safe in and feel supportive by the administration,” Glassman concluded.
In the Five Towns, the Hewlett-Woodmere School District has dealt with antisemitic incidents.
In response to finding swastikas in a Woodmere Middle School’s boys’ bathroom, students were assembled to hear Holocaust survivor Marion Blumenthal Lazan and police officers from Hewlett’s 4th Precinct.
“Being here and sharing what has happened is a very important step,” Avi Posnick, executive director of StandWithUs Northeast and New England, told the task force, made up of six legislators (three Democrats, three Republicans), five members of the public and a representative of Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman. The panel was formed by Blakeman in 2021.
“We hear about it, we read about it and some of us may be experiencing it,” the task force chair, Rabbi Eli Weinstock of the Jewish Center of Atlantic Beach, said. “It could not be ignored without trying to take some action.”
In 2022, New York experienced 580 antisemitic incidents, a record high since data was collected beginning in 1979 and the highest in the country, according to the Anti-Defamation League, Half of the recorded incidents occurred in public spaces, 84 at Jewish institutions, 78 at private residences, 53 at non-Jewish K-12 institutions and 43 at business establishments.
Forty-two of them happened in Nassau.
The list of Long Island threats includes of flyers in Rockville Centre, Oceanside, Long Beach and Huntington promoting hatred toward Jewish in heavily Jewish communities, students experiencing anti-Semitic bullying in their schools, and swastikas in buildings and parks.
“Anyone in our community, I’m sure, is concerned about antisemitism,” said task force member Michele Justic of Lawrence. “If there’s any way we can bring a resolution to it in our own small way, of course that’s something we’d want to do.”
“We’ve gotten reports throughout the year from [Nassau Police Commissioner] Patrick Ryder and from different representatives of organizations. But to hear it from a real person experiencing it was eye-opening,” she said.
The task force said additional public forums would be held.