This story was updated to include a statement from Bronx City Councilmember Marjorie Velázquez.
City Councilmember Eric Dinowitz is in the midst of leading a weeklong study tour in Israel — an educational trip that provides councilmembers and other city leaders with first-hand knowledge of the global Jewish community.
Dinowitz, of Riverdale, told the Bronx Times that he and others on the trip — including fellow Bronx councilmembers Marjorie Velázquez, Kevin Riley and Althea Stevens — hope to bring a lot of useful knowledge to New York City upon their return.
“We’re going to bring back what we learned here, both from a cultural perspective and from the vantage point of a government that manages municipalities,” said Dinowitz, who is Jewish. “We’re going to be bringing that back to our district and to our city.”
From the Bronx to the Sea of Galilee.
So excited that we can share these experiences with each other. BX strong! pic.twitter.com/HqUXTdbhtw
— Council Member Eric Dinowitz (@EricDinowitzNYC) November 30, 2022
In a written statement, Velázquez reiterated the cultural benefits the study tour will have on the city council and the community.
“This trip is not only about cultural enrichment but also continues the efforts made back home to educate and support our communities,” she said. “We must work together to bring awareness of the rise in anti-Semitism and racism and support our Jewish neighbors in times like this. The power of knowledge is so important, and I look forward to applying my learnings to support and empower our local Jewish and non-Jewish communities.”
Also the chair of the New York City Council Jewish Caucus, Dinowitz said the study tour had already provided a lot of context and perspective on international Jewish relations just a few days into the trip.
“We’ve been here only two days and already we’ve seen so much of the rich diversity in Israel,” he said from Jerusalem on Wednesday.
The District 11 councilmember is leading the trip along with the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York (JCRC) — a nonprofit organization that aims to build relationships in order to advance the values, interests and security of New York’s Jewish community. JCRC has funded study tours in Israel for more than 35 years, but this is the first trip the organization has sponsored since before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to JCRC, the itinerary for the study tour allows participants to meet with leading Israeli and Palestinian scholars, non governmental organization leaders, representatives from civil society organizations, journalists, activists and more. In addition to Jerusalem, participants are scheduled to visit Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Haifa, West Bank, the Israel-Gaza border and the Israel-Lebanon border.
Dinowitz said fostering a partnership with the local Jewish population in New York City seems especially relevant now, as businesses and synagogues –most recently a synagogue on Pelham Parkway — are experiencing bouts of antisemitism.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) reported 2,717 antisemitic incidents in the U.S. in 2021, a higher figure than any other year since the organization began its tracking in 1979, and a 34% increase from 2020. Attacks against synogogues and Jewish centers increased 61% and incidents at K-12 schools and college campuses increased 106% and 21%, respectively, according to ADL data, which includes non-criminal instances.
Multiple restaurants on City Island also received antisemitic and racist hate mail cartoons in October and November — mailers which contained the n-word as well as caricatures of a Jewish man and a Black man, calling the combination “bad news.”
“Those flyers were antisemitic and racist in nature, and what’s important is that we’re all — as a group — standing up for each other and understanding each other,” Dinowitz said Wednesday.
The councilmember went to City Island to stand in solidarity with the community after the mailers were circulated, and said a majority of the trip to Israel has been about better understanding each other’s cultures.
“We’re seeing how they’re working to bridge those divides here, and we’re relating our own experiences,” Dinowitz said.
The delegation is expected to return from Israel on Dec. 6.
Reach Camille Botello at [email protected]. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes