JERSEY CITY, N.J. —The hope was that the terrible loss would teach a lesson. But three years after two shooters killed four people at a Jersey City kosher supermarket, those who gathered to commemorate the dead Thursday evening lamented that antisemitic incidents are on the rise.
“I wish that I could say that it was a wake-up call,” said Scott Richman, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League of New York and New Jersey. “Unfortunately, antisemitism has gotten worse since 2019.”
Richman spoke Thursday evening outside City Hall to a crowd of about 200 outside that included representatives of other Jewish groups, law enforcement, local politicians and members of the community.
The ADL reports a 60% rise in antisemitism from 2020 to 2021, and Richman said that 2022 showed no abatement.
“I can tell you that my staff is literally overwhelmed as we speak, responding to multiple antisemitic incidents every day of the week in New York and in New Jersey,” he said.
Antisemitism is emanating from a diversity of people and places. Last month law enforcement arrested a teenager who threatened New Jersey synagogues. For weeks hip-hop artist Kanye West has been broadcasting antisemitic rants. And on Twitter, antisemitic hate speech has spiked 61% since its acquisition by billionaire Elon Musk.
Jersey City students showed support at the event with signs encouraging love and denouncing hate. Photo by Jake Wasserman
But speakers at the event said there is reason for hope when people, especially the young, band together to fight intolerance. A group of Jersey City students in the crowd held signs that read “Choose love, not hate,” and “Love first.”
“If 2022 has taught us a lesson, it is this,” said New Jersey’s first lady Tammy Murphy. “Our success and well-being depend on the strength and unity of our communities. When we come together, there is nothing we are unable to achieve — and that includes creating a culture of love, respect and peace.”
The Jersey City killings made international headlines.
On Dec. 10, 2019, David Anderson and Francine Graham killed Detective Joseph Seals before driving to the JC Kosher Market in the Greenville neighborhood where they shot and killed store owner Mindy Ferencz, employee Douglas Miguel Rodriguez, and customer Moshe Deutsch. Three other people were injured. After a shootout with police, both assailants were killed.
Police later found a pipe bomb in the van driven by Anderson and Graham, which federal officials said would have been enough to kill or wound people in an area as large as five football fields.
One of the shooters, Anderson, was associated with the Hebrew Israelite movement, which includes some groups that posit, fallaciously, that Black people are the only true descendants of the biblical Israelites and that white Jews are impostors. The movement gained attention in recent weeks after Brooklyn Nets basketball star Kyrie Irving shared an antisemitic movie espousing the ideas, and Hebrew Israelites gathered outside of the Barclays Center in Brooklyn in his defense.
Law enforcement who worked to limit the casualties that day were singled out Thursday for their bravery.
“They put their lives on the line along with other law enforcement officers and agents, so that this city could move on, survive, and not let this happen again,” former FBI Special Agent in Charge Greg Ehrie said of the Jersey City Police Department.
Public officials and community members lit candles in remembrance of the four shooting victims. A fifth candle appeared for Michael Rumberger, who was killed by the shooters the weekend prior to the attack. Photo by Jake Wasserman
Rabbi Moshe Shapiro of the Chabad of Hoboken and Jersey City led the event in the mourner’s Kaddish and recited from the Mishnah, translating for the crowd who do not understand Hebrew.
“God says the ultimate blessing is if we have peace,” he said. “We may look alike, we may act alike, we may vote different, we may think different. The success of our blessings is if we know how to do so in peace.”
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