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Community Shows Unity In New City Rally After Apparent Hate Crime Attacks

Dr. Penny Jennings speaks during a rally against hate on Thursday. Photo Credit: Zachary Croce
Justin Schwartz of the Spring Valley Fire Department. Photo Credit: Zachary Croce
Rabbi Simcha Morganstern speaks with reporters at the rally. Photo Credit: Zachary Croce

NEW CITY, N.Y. - Local officials, leaders, advocates, and community members rallied on the steps of the county courthouse days after three explosions were set off at the residences of two Jewish rabbis, with a shared message: there is no place for hate and intolerance in Rockland County.

“We cannot legislate that you love your neighbor but we will and can have legislated that we will live harmoniously and we will show respect,” said Rockland Commissioner of Human Rights Penny Jennings.

Three small explosions occurred Tuesday night at the homes of Rabbi Simcha Morganstern and Rabbi Avremel Kotlartsky on Tarry Hill Drive and Phillips Hill Road respectively, both of which are closely located to the Chabad Lubavitch of Rockland.

The incidents occurred around 10:45 p.m., and a fragment and partial label of a firecracker were recovered at the scene, a news release from Clarkstown police reported.

Kotlartsky’s daughter observed what are described as four white males running outside the home after the explosion, one wearing a pink t-shirt. County legislators and local leaders have condemned the incidents.

Evan Bernstein, the regional director for the Anti-Defamation League, said the organization is offering a $2,500 reward for the arrest and conviction of the perpetrators.

“Let’s be clear: when two incendiary devices, high-powered fireworks—whatever there were—are tossed in front of two rabbi’s residences that is intimidation, that is a hate crime in my view,” Rockland County Executive Ed Day said.

Members of the community are awaiting the findings of the investigation to see if it was in fact a hate crime and described tension in Rockland County toward the Jewish community.

The tension stems from issues like the outgrowth of blockbusting in Clarkstown, the issues surrounding East Ramapo School District, illegal housing, overdevelopment--issues present in Ramapo where there is a fast-growing Orthodox community, explained Justin Schwartz.

Schwartz is the chaplain of the Spring Valley Fire Department and is a teacher/educator at Temple Beth Abraham in Tarrytown.

“The environment in Rockland County, unfortunately, makes it conducive to that (being a hate crime),” Justin Schwartz said.

“I hope that people will be made aware that continuously degrading and debasing the Orthodox Jewish community, specifically the Chabad House in Clarkstown, has negative consequences,” Yossi Gestetner said. Gestetner is a founder of the Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council and added that the zoning around the Chabad house, which was changed from single family to multi-family, was a contentious issue last November.

Clarkstown Supervisor George Hoehmann dismissed this idea.

“I think that the Chabad has been here for a long period of time, and I think that even if it was, that’s no excuse for what might’ve taken place. We’re here today to show that we condemn this in the strongest possible terms,” he said.

Hoehmann added that the police took a report last month of swastikas painted in New City.

Dustin Hausner, a New City resident, held a sign during the rally that read “let us have peace.”

“I think this is an occasion where we can come together as a community, as a people, and try to find ways to stop the hate, stop the anger, and be able to live as a united community.”

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