By: Commentator Staff  | 

State Senator Adriano Espaillat, Local Leaders and YU Denounce Anti-Semitism and Unite in Response to Incident at Local Dunkin Donuts

In response to the anti-semitic conduct earlier this week directed at two Yeshiva University students, New York State Senator Adriano Espaillat convened a press conference this afternoon in front of the Dunkin’ Donuts on the corner of West 185th St and Audubon Ave in order to denounce hate. Senator Espaillat was joined by City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, other elected officials, community leaders, YU leaders and local residents in uniting against hate of any kind. Representing YU were Vice President for University and Community Life Rabbi Kenneth Brander, Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Torah Studies and member of Community Board 12 (which represents the neighborhood of Washington Heights) Rabbi Yosef Kalinsky, Director of Security Paul Murtha, Executive Director of Communications Dr. Paul Oestreicher and several students. Representatives from CBS New York, NBC New York, and several other local news outlets were on hand to cover the press conference.

This episode of anti-semitism took place this past Monday inside the Dunkin’ Donuts just off of the Wilf campus when two YU students were approached by another patron in the store and told their “religion is a lie” and to remove their yarmulkes. Though it is unclear exactly when, the perpetrators at one point ordered the students to come outside and fight them, but the YU students refused. The NYPD Hate Crimes Unit is actively investigating this incident. While there have been five attacks or attempted attacks this school year on YU students or the campus which have triggered a “Security Advisory” email, this is the first incident in which the perpetrators expressly displayed anti-semitic language.

At the press conference, Senator Espaillat emphatically declared, “Our city and this neighborhood prides itself on our diversity and we will not tolerate anyone being discriminated or threatened for any reason.” Councilman Rodriguez vowed to “support the (NYPD’s) efforts to bring the perpetrator to justice however I can.” Echoing the councilman’s sentiment for swift action, Herman D. Farrell, Assembly Member of District 71 (which includes the Washington Heights neighborhood) added, “We must always respond immediately to this kind of unacceptable behavior, because if we don’t, it will never be stopped.” Rabbi Kalinsky thanked all those who came out to offer their support. “We deeply value our community relationships and are grateful for the show of support by our neighbors and community leaders,” Kalinsky said.

Espaillat and Rodriguez, both of Dominican descent, did not limit the gathering to an appeal against anti-semitism but also included a greater call for acceptance of diversity in our Washington Heights neighborhood, which features a considerable Dominican and Jewish population. “This is no different than someone going up to your grandmother and ripping the rosary off her neck or stripping the bible away from a Pentecostal preacher,” Espaillat said. Seeking to put the incident in perspective, the senator continued that, “Asking two students to take off their yarmulkes is an assault on what we all believe in: religious freedom.” Rodriguez, for his part, hoped that what happened here would send a message to our national leaders not to propagate messages of hatred.    

The handful of YU students in attendance had mixed reactions. Third year Sy Syms student Etan Neiman believes, “While the press conference is a nice first step, I will be more at peace once the perpetrators are brought to justice and tangible actions have been taken to keep our community safe from both hate and violence of any type.”

In the meantime, YU has recently been in the process of revamping its security procedures, requiring ID at entrances to all buildings and strategically deploying security personnel. With this immediate response to, and unified stance against, hate, political leaders, YU and members of all the groups that call Washington Heights their home demonstrated that intolerance will not be tolerated in this community.