Anti-semitic hate mail sent to Jewish, refugee state senator

Robert Traverso for Long Island Herald

July 08, 2021

Originally published in Long Island Herald on July 08, 2021.

New York State Senator Anna Kaplan, who fled anti-Semitic violence in her home country of Iran in 1978, received a “vile piece of hate mail using well-known white supremacist, anti-Semitic hate speech” on June 22, according to a statement released by the legislator’s office.

The mail, which originally contained about Covid-19 vaccinations and was sent by Kaplan’s office to constituents, was sent back to senator’s office bearing a phrase commonly used by white supremacist and anti-Semitic groups “109 soon 110.” The phrase alludes to the anti-Semitic claim that Jewish people have been expelled from 109 countries and that the United States or another nation may soon expel Jewish people.

"This incident is a sad reminder that Nassau County is not immune to hatred and white supremacy, and it's our responsibility as a community to forcefully reject this evil whenever it reveals itself among us," Kaplan, the first refugee to serve in the state’s senate, said.

Kaplan, who represents New York State’s 7th District, which encompasses parts of Franklin Square and Elmont as well as Floral Park, said she never imagined that anti-Semitism could take hold in the United States, which she called a “beacon of freedom across the world.”

But Kaplan said she was not taken aback by the message.

“The insurrection in Washington this past January however revealed to us all that we're not immune from the sickness of violent extremism… I'm sad to say that I'm not surprised to have hate land on my doorstep in this way,” Kaplan said.

The message was sent to Kaplan amid a rise in anti-Semitic threats and violence statewide.

According to the Anti-Defamation League, an organization that works to counter anti-Semitism, anti-Semitic incidents rose 26% during 2020, a trend that has continued into this year.

“We've seen an alarming rise in anti-Semitic hate crimes here in New York, and that should concern every single New Yorker,” Kaplan said.

Sen. Todd Kaminsky of Long Beach has also spoken out against the rise in anti-Semitism. "We've seen a rash, especially in our state, of anti-Semitic and racist incidents over the last few years,” Kaminsky, who has pushed for legislation to teach middle and high school students about the history of anti-Semitism and the phrases and symbols that evoke it.

The anti-Semitic message sent to Kaplan came after the senator released a June 15 statement critiquing a resolution on the Israel-Palestine dispute published by the union that represents CUNY professors. Kaplan said the resolution was “put out into the public square with little understanding for the harm they're causing, and we need more people speaking out to denounce it.”

Kaplan emphasized that seemingly minor incidents could ultimately create an environment of largescale anti-Semitism.

“The Holocaust didn’t begin overnight,” Kaplan said. “It began by society normalizing and accepting anti-Semitism in our daily lives.”

“When people of good conscience fail to speak out against small acts of anti-Semitism, those acts begin to grow, become worse, and more frequent,” Kaplan said. “We must all speak out when we encounter anti-Semitism, and we must forcefully reject it at every opportunity,” she added.

The incident was reported to the Nassau County Police Department and is being investigated, according to the June 22 statement released by the senator’s office. Kaplan also urged constituents to contact Bias Crimes Coordinator Chief James Bartscherer of the Nassau County Police Department to report anti-Semitic crimes.

“I hope this incident can be a teaching moment for all of us to remember that we can never stay silent in the face of hate,” Kaplan said. “If people of good faith don't stand up and condemn this behavior in the strongest of terms, I fear we will see the worst of our history repeated."