During the past few years, Jewish media outlets have reported a disturbing increase in physical attacks on visibly religious Jews in urban areas. For the most part, the perpetrators are young African American men and the victims are Ḥasidim. According to a recent study by an advocacy group, 118 adults have been arrested for anti-Semitic hate crimes in New York City since 2018; of these, only one has been convicted and imprisoned. Armin Rosen observes:
In New York, street harassment, minor assaults, and even full-on beatings of visible Jews are almost a banality now, too frequent over too long of a period to be considered an active crisis, even in the communities most affected. The city reported a 76-percent year-over-year rise in hate crimes during the first three months of 2022—attacks on Jews more than tripled, accounting for much of the spike. When reached for comment by email, the NYPD’s public information office stated that the Hate Crimes Task Force has made 44 arrests related to attacks on Jews so far in 2022 compared to 33 in all of 2021.
Some unknowable number of the 118 anti-Jewish hate-crime suspects whose cases showed up in the state’s WebCrims database since 2018 were sent to state psychiatric institutions for an unknown period of time, instead of being criminally charged. . . . Fifteen took plea deals, although the study found no evidence that any of these agreements involved jail time. In 23 cases, the charges were dropped. The only conviction was for a relatively high-profile incident, in which the suspect choked and beat a visibly Jewish man in his mid-50s while he walked home from Shabbat daytime services in Crown Heights.
The growing sense of chaos, of which the failure to punish anti-Semitic attacks is a possible symptom, exposes a tension within the current governing project in New York and beyond. Criminal-justice reform is aimed at correcting real and longstanding inequities; at the same time, rising crime denies large numbers of law-abiding citizens, most of them women or members of minority groups, of their basic right to safety.