New York City Mayor Eric Adams and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a meeting in Jerusalem on Aug. 22, 2023. Photo by Kobi Gideon/GPO.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a meeting in Jerusalem on Aug. 22, 2023. Photo by Kobi Gideon/GPO.
featureU.S.-Israel Relations

Protecting the Jewish community is sacred, says New York mayor

Eric Adams explains why he stands with Israel, and what his city is doing to safeguard the largest Jewish population outside the Jewish state.

With the exception of U.S. President Joe Biden’s historic address on Oct. 10, it’s doubtful that there has been another speech from across the sea in defense of Israel like the one delivered a day afterwards by New York Mayor Eric Adams.

In his speech, delivered in front of U.N. headquarters in New York City, Adams criticized anyone who found symmetry between Hamas’s crimes and Israel’s efforts to defend itself. He also addressed the antisemitic and anti-Israel atmosphere that characterizes a large part of the American elite these days.

On social networks and in Israel as well, his statement, “We are not alright,” has already become a common phrase, and his speech went viral overnight.

Adams’ personal story is inspiring. He was born in Brooklyn, the fourth of six siblings, and grew up with his mother and brother in the South Jamaica neighborhood of Queens. At the age of 15, he and his brother were beaten and arrested by police, an event that influenced him to the point of joining the New York City Police Department. He retired at the rank of captain after 22 years of service.

In 2006, Adams was elected to the New York State Senate as the representative of the 20th district. He served as the chairman of the Committee on Public Safety and the Military and was elected as the borough president of Brooklyn in 2013, taking office in January 2014. At the end of 2017, he was reelected for another term. In 2021, he won the Democratic Party’s primary elections for the mayoral race in New York City and subsequently won the general elections in November of that year. He assumed office on Jan. 1, 2022.

In August 2023, Adams visited Israel, where he met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, leaders of the Knesset and Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion. During the visit, they discussed the Netanyahu government’s contested judicial reforms; two months later, those issues seem like ancient history. 

Adams is considered a friend of Israel who is well aware of developments in the Middle East. Due to his closeness to Biden, it was important for him to be the first among the mayors of major U.S. cities to stand with Israel.

Since his Oct. 11 speech, and despite the challenging atmosphere in the United States, including the anti-Israel and antisemitic incitement on college campuses and the fears of the Israeli and Jewish communities in major cities, Adams has only ramped up his rhetoric against Hamas.

Q: Mr. Mayor, are you aware of how much resonance your powerful speech got in Israel?

A: Yes, because we are really not okay with what happened, and we need to be angry. We need to say things as they are and not beat around the bush or equivocate. When something as terrible as these terrorist attacks happens, we need to be straightforward, clear and honest with the public. That’s what people expect from their leaders—to tell them the truth. Hamas terrorists brought death and terror to innocent Israelis. That’s the truth, and it needs to be said.

Q: Do you think the public in the United States understands the severity of these crimes and their consequences?

A: We all saw the pictures and read the personal stories, so I assume that we understand what happened in Israel on that horrific Saturday. But we are across the ocean, and no matter how hard we try, we cannot fully comprehend what the citizens of Israel are going through. A New Yorker cannot truly understand what it’s like to walk on the street, wondering where the nearest shelter is, and having to get there within seconds if there’s suddenly an air raid siren. No matter how we look at it, New Yorkers do not walk in fear of missiles coming from our neighbors.

Q: What actions does your city take to combat rising antisemitism and the threat to institutions associated with Jews and Israelis in New York?

A: New York is home to the largest Jewish population in the world outside of Israel. Protecting the Jewish community here is a responsibility that I see as sacred. Our police officers and those responsible for our security are on high alert, and we have an increased police presence throughout the city. After the recent terror in Israel, we deployed many of our police officers to enhance security around synagogues, schools and large communities. Additionally, we invited Jewish leaders in New York to several personal meetings, Zoom conversations and phone calls to keep the community informed about what is happening and reassure them that they are not alone. They, on their part, shared their concerns, and we assured them that we would update them as needed. We also issued a public statement to the residents of New York: “If you see something, say something.”

Q: President Biden has said several times in the past that “one does not have to be Jewish to be a Zionist,” and you have also emphasized the shared values between us.

A: It is clear that all of us can identify with the need to feel at home. We all deserve to have a place where we feel we belong, where we feel safe; it’s natural. For so many Jews around the world, that place is Israel. Given that Jews have been persecuted in so many countries, it is even more important to have a place like Israel. We should also remember that for us, Israel is much more than that. It is also one of our closest allies, a stronghold of democracy in the Middle East.

Q: How did you feel about President Biden’s decision to visit Israel during such a critical time, and what message do you believe it conveys to both nations and the rest of the world?

A: I want to thank the president for this journey during such a critical time for Israel to emphasize our nation’s strong support at this crossroads we have reached together. It is clear that there is nothing more important than being united with Israel and against terror and hatred. We need to show a united front against the forces of evil that are trying to divide us. Just a few months ago, I visited Israel, and that visit filled me with pride. I am happy to have brothers and sisters in Israel, and even now, they remain close to my heart.

Originally published by Israel Hayom.

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