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Thousands March In N.Y. After Anti-Semitic Attacks

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This is what it sounded like on the Brooklyn Bridge this afternoon as thousands of New Yorkers marched to protest anti-Semitism.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Singing in Hebrew).

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting) Stop the hate now. Stop the hate now.

(SOUNDBITE OF SHOFAR BLAST)

MARTIN: That's Evan Cohen (ph) from Teaneck, N.J., blowing his shofar - a ram's horn blown like a trumpet in certain Jewish religious ceremonies. North Country Public Radio's Brian Mann was there today, and he joins me live from Manhattan.

Brian, thanks so much for joining us.

BRIAN MANN, BYLINE: Thanks, Michel.

MARTIN: It sounds like quite a crowd. What did people there tell you about why they came?

MARTIN: Yeah. It was a huge crowd, really diverse, but a serious reason for being there. There's been this surge of anti-Semitic incidents - more than a dozen in New York in December alone, and also that deadly shooting at a kosher bakery in New Jersey and a similar rise in anti-Semitism around the U.S. So people here, Jews and non-Jews, told me they wanted to turn out in big numbers to show solidarity with the Jewish community. Jeffrey Clarke came from Brooklyn.

JEFFREY CLARKE: Hate is something that we should stop. And no matter - you know, all race, all creed, you know, religion, we should put an end to it.

MANN: Do you have an opinion about why this has happened?

CLARKE: It's coming - actually, it comes from the White House. Hate has just - it's been there all the time quietly under the surface. But now people just found it easier just to spew hate because there's no pushback against it. And it's a terrible thing.

MARTIN: Brian, did people that you talked to feel that officials in New York have done enough to protect their community? Are officials there feeling any heat about this?

MANN: Yeah, they really are. I mean, you heard there some heat being thrown at President Trump. But New York state and New York City have also passed a bunch of criminal justice reforms over the last two years, and a lot of people in the Jewish community think this has gone too far. They think it's allowed part of this spike in street crime and anti-Semitic harassment to happen. I talked to Gary Jacobs (ph), who came to the rally from Long Island.

GARY JACOBS: It's taken away consequences for actions, so people are now - can do whatever they want.

MANN: So you can hear there, Michel, a lot of debate about the reasons for why this rise in anti-Semitism is happening.

MARTIN: So, you know, this was supposed to be a show of unity, a show of unified support for the Jewish community. I was wondering if the organizers had any thoughts about the fact that there is this difference of opinion about what's causing these anti-Semitic attacks.

MANN: Yeah, that was interesting. I asked Eric Goldstein about this. He's head of the United Jewish Appeal of New York, one of the organizers of the march.

ERIC GOLDSTEIN: Look. It's complicated, but hate is hate is hate, and the purpose of this rally is to say, don't point at others. Focus on your own communities. Root out hate in them. And today, come together as one and say, hate in all its forms must be stamped out.

MANN: Yeah. And that, I think, really was clearly the big message for all these thousands and thousands of people from all over the U.S. and from as far away as Israel who were there on that bridge today. Everybody I talked to said, you know, whatever is causing this new hatred, they all stand with the Jewish community. They want this violence and harassment that have been on the upswing - they want it to stop.

MARTIN: OK. That's Brian Mann in New York for the march against anti-Semitism across the Brooklyn Bridge.

Brian, thanks so much.

MANN: Thank you, Michel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.