Hundreds of members of the Jewish community attended a rally at the Holocaust Memorial Park in Brighton Beach over the weekend to mark 100 days since the terrorist group Hamas abducted 240 people in Gaza, of which 132 people remain unaccounted for.
Jewish associations in Brooklyn are calling on the United States government to put more pressure on Hamas to free the American and Israeli hostages. Meanwhile, community members say they have experienced harassment and backlash from human-rights activist groups demanding a complete ceasefire from the Israeli government in the Gaza Strip.
The Brighton Beach rally was hosted on Jan. 21 by Assembly Member Michael Novakhov, who represents District 45 in the New York State Assembly and who is a Russian-Jewish immigrant. Addressing the crowd on Sunday, he expressed disbelief at the anti-Semitism experienced by Russian Jews in America since the conflict between Palestine and Israel resurged at the end of last year.
“Israel must be supported,” Novakhov said. “It’s easy to say their military forces should stop while being here in New York, but people here don’t have the whole picture. Israel wants to stop Hamas and Palestinians don’t want Hamas to govern them.”
Israeli authorities believe at least 25 of the victims taken during the Oct. 7 attack are dead. On Jan. 15, Hamas released a video showing the bodies of the latest two dead reported victims — Yossi Sharabi, 53, and Itai Svirsky, 38.
During a six-day ceasefire deal between the Israeli government and the terrorist group at the end of November, 105 hostages were released by Hamas. More than 100 hostages have yet to be released.
At home in the Big Apple, the city’s Police Department has reported a spike in hate crimes targeting the Jewish community since last October. These incidents tripled in October, going from 22 reported in 2022 to 69 in the same month of 2023.
“When someone says something antisemitic, they don’t realize the damage they are doing,” Novakhov said in an interview with Brooklyn Paper. “I hadn’t seen such level of hatred and anti-Semitism here. I saw it when I was younger, growing up in the Soviet Union, but not in New York. The whole Jewish community has safety concerns.”
Since the Oct. 7 attack, more than 1,200 Israeli people have died. Meanwhile, the conflict has claimed the lives of over 25,000 Palestinians, with more than 62,000 sustaining injuries. More than 200 Israeli soldiers have died in total since October — 24 of them this week.
Speaking to Brooklyn Paper, Novakhov said he sympathizes with the Palestinian nationals who have also suffered through this war.
“I am sorry for the people that are being used as shields by Hamas,” he said. “I feel the pain of the Palestinian community. I understand, but they have to understand my pain.”