Born in Ukraine behind the Iron Curtain, Inna Vernikov’s family fled the Soviet Union and the anti-Semitism ingrained in it. A Brooklyn business owner and attorney, Vernikov pulled off a surprising win in her first run for New York City Council, running in part on a platform of combating Jew hatred in the city.

She’s been at the forefront of efforts to stamp out headline-grabbing acts of anti-Semitism at City University of New York campuses, and recently called on CUNY Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez to resign after he no-showed a council hearing on the topic that was scheduled specifically to accommodate his schedule.

It happened to the Jewish community

“It was a very big insult to the Jewish community of New York that he did not show up to the hearing after we rescheduled it to fit his schedule. It took me calling on him publicly to resign to get an in-person meeting,” Vernikov told Synagogue & State. “I was offered a Zoom meeting, which I think was a second insult. This would never happen with any other ethnic minority that’s being discriminated against, and it’s happening to the Jewish community. And it’s very unfortunate. It’s very scary.”

Vernikov tells Synagogue & State what was promised in an in-person meeting with Matos Rodríguez and discussions this week with city leadership to move forward with changes at CUNY. Vernikov, a Republican, absolves Democratic Mayor Eric Adams of blame for the general rise in anti-Semitic violence in the city, instead pointing to Albany.

“The major problem starts in the state legislature because we have bail reform, which the mayor actually tried to fight,” says Vernikov, pointing to 2020 legislation that eliminated cash bail and pretrial detention for those accused of committing a range of misdemeanors and non-violent felonies, including hate crimes. “We need a lot of changes at the political level, but we need to get rid of the bail reform. Because basically what happens is that the criminals get to go home before the cops.”

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