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Torres Hosts Press Conference on Antisemitism at SAR

NYC Councilman Eric Dinowitz addressing the audience at SAR, as Michal Cotler Wunsh and Ritchie Torres listen.

On May 24, Congressman Ritchie Torres ((D-N.Y.), together with Israel’s Special Envoy for Combating Antisemitism Michal Cotler-Wunsh, held a press conference at SAR Academy denouncing antisemitism and anti-Zionism.

SAR Principal Rabbi Binyamin Krauss highlighted journalist Bret Stephens’ three-pronged strategy on antisemitism. Stephens suggested living Jewish lives with pride—probably the most potent way to fight antisemitism. When you experience antisemitism, know the people who represent your district and your country are aware and will take risks on their own to fight and to call it out. Third, know that we have a strong state of Israel.

Congressman Ritchie Torres

Krauss recalled his conversation with Rep. Torres in arranging this event: “You come to a place where kids are proud to be Jewish, in a place where local leaders at every level are there. They were here on October 13, when some called for an International Jihad Day. Some schools had to close. Our leaders said ‘Don’t close; we will show up and make it clear you guys will be safe. We are here with a representative of Medinat Yisrael, that place where we can decide today we are going to fly tomorrow night and become citizens on Sunday. There was a time in history, not so long ago, when that state didn’t exist. That’s one of the reasons why antisemitism was able to flourish.”

Reiterating his pride in representing Riverdale, Torres stated: “One need not be Jewish to combat antisemitism. Post-October 7 did not change the state of antisemitism in America. It revealed a lot of antisemitism that’s been deepening on social-media platforms and college campuses. The American media has been gaslighting the American people, leading you to believe there’s nothing antisemitic happening on college campuses and the encampment movement.

SAR Principal Rabbi Binyamin Krauss

“There’s a difference between the story the media tells and reality,” Torres continued. “If you are advocating not for the creation of a Palestinian state, but for the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state, you are not pro-peace and antiwar. You are anti-peace and pro-war. The organizations behind the encampment movement openly and unapologetically advocate for the violent destruction of Israel as a Jewish state. There is nothing accidental about the antisemitism of the encampment movement; antisemitism is the point.

“We as a society must come to recognize that anti-Zionism is a modern mutation in the ancient DNA of antisemitism. … One of those mutations is October 7 denial. There has been a deeply troubling pattern of politicians and activists downplaying, even outright denying atrocities that Hamas perpetrated on October 7. As far as I’m concerned, October 7 denial is no different from Holocaust denial. … We must confront those lies with the truth about the barbarism and terrorism of Hamas. We must tell the truth about Israel’s right to defend itself amidst the deadliest day for Jews since the Holocaust.”

Looking around the room, Cotler-Wunsh said: “ The Jewish nation-state is a prototypical indigenous people that speak the same language (Hebrew), read the same book (the Bible), traverse the same land (Israel), practicing the same customs and rituals for thousands of years. That’s what indigeneity means.”

JCRC-NY CEO Mark Treyger

Cotler-Wunsh continued: “In the wake of the worst massacre of Jews, war crimes … are not only met with silence, but … denial, justification, support for genocidal terror proxies, calling for the death of Jews around the world, including right here in the United States. There is a moment, some may think if we just shed a pound of our identity, we will not be loathed, we will not be hated. But … Zionism … is our understanding of our identity. Nobody gets to tell you who you are.”

City Councilman Eric Dinowitz said: “Post-October 7, I can say that I feel safer as a Jew in America, knowing that Congressman Torres is in the Capitol fighting for us.” He detailed the city budget allocating over $250,000 for combating hate, pushing CUNY to invest more for bias-reporting infrastructure and funding every public-school eighth grader’s visit to the Museum of Jewish Heritage.

JCRC-NY CEO Mark Treyger stated that the long-term answer is education. City schools will implement a Jewish identity curriculum, “to teach a million public school kids about our story. Our story is more than October 7, more than the Holocaust.”

SAR eighth graders Ruby Borenstein and Revi Shiller expressed gratitude for Torres’ legislative work. “This legislation will help eliminate hate speech and violence on college campuses, and institute additional methods to fight rising antisemitism and anti-Zionism. When we arrive on a college campus, we’ll have confidence in our safety, thanks to your efforts. We should never feel we aren’t as safe as anyone else because of who we are.”

 

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