A prominent Jewish leader in Los Angeles called on President Donald Trump on Monday to use federal resources to fight the “the cancer of anti-semitism” after a recent attack at a Hanukkah celebration in New York left the community shaken.
“We are now in an emergency situation,” Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center said.
Standing before the media at the Museum of Tolerance, the rabbi urged the president to form a task force to counteract the attacks against Jewish communities across the country.
“We call on the American people, Democrats and Republicans, to stand together against the cancer of hate, bigotry and anti-semitism,” Hier said. “The Simon Wiesenthal Center calls upon President Trump to create a task force of the FBI to exclusively combat the cancer of anti-semitism.”
The rabbi said that there are community members who are too afraid to eat at Kosher restaurants or take their children to synagogues because they’re worried about a lack of appropriate security.
Monday’s calls for action came after L.A. officials announced that police have stepped up patrols around Jewish communities and synagogues “out of an abundance of caution” following the stabbings in New York.
Five people were injured when the suspect entered a rabbi’s home with a machete and began attacking people who were celebrating the seventh night of Hanukkah on Saturday, according to the Associated Press.
Investigators found handwritten journals containing references to Jews and anti-Semitism, and the suspect was charged with federal hate crimes.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center and the museum have had armed guards and security cameras since 1999, when a white supremacist scoped out the location as a possible target before opening fire at the North Valley Jewish Community Center in the San Fernando Valley, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The New York attack followed fatal shootings at a kosher grocery store in New Jersey, the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburg and the Chabad of Poway synagogue.
Leaders of the Poway synagogue said they sought a $150,000 federal grant to install gates and more secure doors, but it took nearly a year for the application to be approved, and they hadn’t had a chance to start using the funds before a gunman walked in during a service on the last day of Passover, AP reported.
“It’s not going to get better just by saying we took note of it,” Rabbi Hier said as he called for more federal resources to address the attacks.
After the stabbing in New York, Trump called the attack “horrific.”
“We must all come together to fight, confront, and eradicate the evil scourge of anti-Semitism,” the president tweeted.
Los Angeles County hate crimes increased in 2018, and though religious crimes declined slightly, anti-Jewish crimes rose 14% and constituted 83% of all religion-motived crimes, according to a Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations report.
That same year, there were 1,879 anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. recorded by the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish non-governmental organization. The incidents included harassment, vandalism and violent attacks.
“The tragic attacks on faith communities in New York & Texas seek to make us afraid in our homes & sanctuaries, the places where we should feel safest. But we refuse to live in fear” L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti tweeted.” We will respond to anti-semitism & all forms of hate & violence with courage, solidarity & love.”