Attorney General William Barr meets with Brooklyn religious leaders amid spike in anti-Semitism

Attorney General William Barr speaks to Jewish leaders in Borough Park.
Photo by Todd Maisel

United States Attorney General William Barr traveled to Borough Park on Tuesday to meet with Jewish community members and discuss ways that the Justice Department could combat the recent nationwide surge in anti-Semitism. 

Speaking at the Boro Park Jewish Community Council on 46th Street and 13th Avenue, Donald Trump’s handpicked prosecutor highlighted the recent spat of hateful attacks across the metropolitan area in recent months — including a string of assults in Brooklyn during Hanukkah and New Years, and a stabbing at a rabbi’s home upstate, and a Kosher supermarket shootout in New Jersey. 

Barr, a New York City native, told the Kings County religious leaders that the federal Justice Department is pressing charges against one woman accused of an anti-Semitic hate crime in Brooklyn, where the suspect slapped three men of Orthodox Jewish faith. 

The nation’s top cop highlighted the day, which was the anniversary of the end of the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz, as he reaffirmed his commitment to religious-based hatred.

“It’s appropriate after the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz that to really commit this department to having zero tolerance for these kinds of violence,” Barr said. “It strikes at the very core of this country and it is very pernicious because it effects not just ethnic but religious practices.”

Barr was warmly received by the gathering of religious Jewish leaders from throughout the borough, most welcoming his overtures. The meeting was more than 90 minutes, with rabbis from Borough Park, Crown Heights and Williamsburg expressing their concerns that violent anti-Semitism must be dealt with harshly.

Barr told the gathering he was sending out directives immediately that would require US Attorney offices to “initiate or reinvigorate their relationships with the Jewish communities in their districts and to provide a point of contact for reporting anti-Semitic crimes and establish protocols for keeping in touch with contacts on these matters and whether these matters should be addressed federally or let the states handle it and then keep tabs to see if the matters are being handled effectively.” He added that the FBI will also be looped in on these incidents to use their law enforcement and investigative capabilities to seek out hate crime suspects.”

He said one of the first steps will be to create federal “intake” of complaints and to lower the level of tolerance of Jewish communities. Also, he said that while people still have a First Amendment right to their views, he said their threshold is being lowered and they look at some insightments of violence including cross burnings targeting African Amercians that he said they now view as symbols of hatred and threat of violence.