Transcript: Mayor de Blasio Delivers Remarks at Congregation Shaare Zion

December 5, 2015

Mayor Bill de Blasio: Shabbat Shalom! 

Audience: Shabbat Shalom!

Mayor: [inaudible] a great, great honor to be here [inaudible]. I am your fellow Brooklynite, and I have a profound sense of what [inaudible] means to this community. And I feel tremendous pride when I hear Ronnie say that for this community Brooklyn is the home and will be the home, because that means something good is happening. That means that Brooklyn has been a place for people to thrive and find safety and security and respect. That means that here in this time and this place, all the trials and tribulations of history were actually answered, because people who were so often treated wrongly are finally treated with the embrace and respect that they deserve. 

So to hear what this congregation means and to hear the strength of this community here in Brooklyn and here in this city literally warms my heart, and reminds us of the work we’re supposed to do to create a just society and prevail, no matter how hard it is. And this beautiful synagogue is a testament to that, to this community that struggled so many times along the way but built something extraordinary here in Brooklyn. 

When I walked in the door, I could feel – it’s very hopeful to me – I could feel what an accomplishment this place is, what an extraordinary home it is. So it is my honor to be here.

I have to say, Ronnie and I, as he said, we’ve known each other a long, long time – I consider him a dear friend. Ronnie, you have been extraordinary in what you’ve done for the community, what you’ve done for Brooklyn, for this city. [inaudible] contributions to this community are amazing, but you have reached beyond the community to help people of all kinds. And I know you faced [inaudible] challenges, but that did not slow you down one bit. [inaudible] thank you [inaudible]. 

[Applause]

I also want to say a very warm happy Hanukkah to everyone! A wonderful season we enter into – and I’m going to be giving thanks with you as tomorrow we begin this festive season. 

And it is a time to appreciate that we enter this season here in peace and security, and people can take the opportunity to truly appreciate all the season is supposed to mean, to appreciate their families, and to know that they are safe and secure [inaudible]. 

I want to thank the folks who have gathered here – everyone – it’s an honor to be with all of you. We are – I am especially honored to say we are in the presence of some great rabbis here around me, and I thank them for their tremendous leadership. I want to thank, in this congregation, Rabbi Saul Kassin. I want to thank Rabbi Mayer Yedid. I want to thank your president, Victor Sasson. I want to thank Rabbi [inaudible]. 

I want to thank, also, the public officials who stand by this community, serve this community. Council Member Mark Treyger and I were speaking outside [inaudible] extraordinary work on behalf of the community, and he’s also done extraordinary work on behalf of people all over the city who suffered in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, and he has really been their friend [inaudible]. So, thank you, Council Member Treyger for that [inaudible].

[Applause]

And then I saw just the other night for dinner, who is the heart and soul of Brooklyn, who has done wonderful things in just two years as our borough president – I can tell you that Eric Adams calls me, emails me when anything’s a need in Brooklyn. When Brooklyn has a priority, Eric lets me know it instantly. He knows I have a special [inaudible] for my home borough. And Eric, thank you for the great job you’re doing [inaudible]. 

[Applause]

Now, I won’t be long but I want to make a couple of quick points. 

I – I was in Jerusalem just weeks ago. I was Tel Aviv just weeks ago. And I said something to Mayor Huldai of Tel Aviv and to Mayor Barkat in Jerusalem – I said with the greatest respect for both, I think, fantastic leaders of extraordinary cities of such meaning to everyone on this earth and extraordinary meaning to the Jewish community – they’re two cities that New York City feels an incredible tie to – I said there’s one thing I have that you don’t have – to both of these mayors – I said, think of your city, think of the city limits of your city, and I said think of the population of your city – I said the difference is my city has the largest Jewish population of any city on the earth, here in New York City. 

[Applause]

They humbly had to acknowledge that truth.

[Laughter]

And it is a special honor. And it comes with a special responsibility. And I’ve tried to be very straightforward about this – this is something that I believe cuts across any other designations of partisanship or ideology or any other type of way you might categorize people – I think the mayor of New York City has to be one of the voices in defense of the Jewish community all over this world.

[Applause]

And that it makes so much sense given [inaudible], almost 1.2 million people now, given the importance of this community, given what the Jewish community has meant for this city, given that, unofficially, Yiddish is our second language here in New York City – all these facts tells us that it’s part of the job description [inaudible]. 

And I wish, my friends – I wish I could say that was rarely necessary. I wish I could say that was something farther back in history, but it’s not. It’s not. 

When I was in Israel, I was honored to be there for the fourth time, and I was there at a very powerful moment – once again, the Israelis under attack, suffering from terrorism – a moment where it was important to show solidarity. And we would love there to be no longer any moments where solidarity is needed, but we have no such illusion. It’s been thousands of years and this work must continue to show solidarity with the Jewish people. So it is important to be in Israel when Israel is under attack.

[Applause]

It was important in January, when the Jewish community of France, the Jewish community of Paris was under attack, to go to Paris and meet with Jewish community leaders and say we don’t accept the notion – we don’t accept the notion that there is anywhere in the world where the Jewish community must be forced to flee. You know, after those attacks in Paris, some people had to ask the question would the community be safe in France going forward? The third largest Jewish community on the earth – the third largest community on the earth – and could that community continue? And my answer is it is incumbent upon every government in any nation that claims to be a democracy it is incumbent upon that government to protect the community [inaudible] visibly, forcefully [inaudible]. You cannot have a functioning democracy and leave the Jewish community vulnerable. 

[Applause]

Here in this city we take this work very, very seriously. I’ve talked about the extraordinary work of the NYPD – addressing any times there is an act of bias against this community. [inaudible].

[Commotion]

All right – thank God he’s okay. 

So, let me just continue very briefly. 

I was saying that here in New York City, the NYPD does [inaudible]. And I want to remind you, we have 35,000 members of our police force who serve us every day. And because of decisions that we made back in June, we are adding to our police force, so that between the new officers we’re bringing and officers who will be freed up for active duty by no longer having to do desk jobs, over 2,000 more officers will be on our streets – the first time we’ve increased the number of our police force in many years. And it’s a time in history where we do that despite the tremendous successes of the NYPD – we do that to ensure our safety going forward. 

One of the things the NYPD [inaudible] is acting whenever there is a bias crime, an act of hate, ensuring that there are [inaudible] consequences – if anyone that’s broken the law [inaudible] a hate crime, that there are consequences. We know, in too many places in this world, an act of hatred towards this community goes unpunished. But in New York City, we make a clear standard that there must be consequences [inaudible]. And there must be vigilance. So that in any instance in which there is an attack on the Jewish community around the world – it does not matter if it is in Israel, if it is in Belgium, if it’s in France, if it’s in Denmark – the NYPD mobilizes to provide special, focused [inaudible] support at key Jewish community locations to send a message that we will be vigilant. 

[Applause]

I said when I was in Jerusalem, [inaudible] after – after visiting Yad Vashem, and I said there is a parallel we can make. Here in this city, we fought crime – we fought crime with a strategy known as Broken Windows. We did not ignore the small offenses. We worry rightfully that small offenses turn into big offenses. Well, there’s the same – the same parallel when it comes to fighting hatred, when it comes to fighting any offense against the community. You don’t look away from the small offenses, because they will only grow. We have a broken-windows theory of fighting bias crime as well. 

So I’ll conclude with this – we know it’s a very [inaudible] time all around the world. But that should not dissuade us from the work we have to do here in this great city. 

In this city, we provide the security that people need. In fact, I’m proud to say we are adding to that security. We have added a new counterterrorism force to the NYPD – the 500-plus member Critical Response Command, highly trained, well armed, focused on preventing terror. If, God forbid, there is ever any kind of incident – a lone wolf or any other kind of incident – this command can deploy within minutes to address the situation. 

But remember, what the NYPD has shown us over 14 years now since 9/11 is that they have an extraordinary ability, working with our federal partners, with the FBI and others, to prevent acts of terror in this city. That unbroken chain of 14 years is extraordinary, and knowing that we have added to that capacity just in recent months should be a cause for people to feel a little more comfort in a very complicated world. 

And while the NYPD does that work, we continue the day-to-day work of driving down crime. And the facts – the facts matter – and what Commissioner Bratton has told us time and again – by the end of this year, we will have had the fewest number of reported major crimes of any year in decades. That is [inaudible].

[Applause]

And finally, as Ronnie said, we will add to that capacity by funding a number of new security measures at key schools that will allow additional capacity on the ground. And those new security guards that we will fund will not only do work at the schools, they’ll be additional eyes and ears for the NYPD. They’ll work closely with the NYPD and that will add to the safety of all – of course, starting with our children, but to the larger community as well.

Finally, I will say this on one other topic. And I just want to note that there is a historical parallel that must be made at this moment. I know this community understands deeply the pain of any family that must leave a homeland they love because they were forced away by violence or discrimination. Well, today, in Syria, we have seen what’s happened to hundreds of thousands of families forced from their homeland, families of all different backgrounds but equally affected by violence, equally the victims of ISIS and other terrorist groups. This nation has to be a beacon to the world, and this nation has to [inaudible]. And I said very [inaudible], when asked about Syrian refugees, I said no one doubts the question that everyone must be screened very, very carefully – by the way, it’s a 20-step process, and many, many people won’t get through that process. But when it comes to saving children, when it comes to saving families from something that’s one of the greatest humanitarian crises of our time, I reminded people look at history. In 1938, in this nation – in 1938, Fortune magazine did a public opinion poll that asked the American people, should America open its doors to people from the Jewish community fleeing Nazi violence and persecution? And I am very sad to say to you that two-thirds of Americans said no. We cannot let that happen again. It’s our obligation to be there for people in need and to send a message to the world that this nation is still a great beacon of hope, that this city of immigrants is still a great beacon of hope. That is how we [inaudible] with strength [inaudible]. 

What an honor it has been for me to be with you. What an honor it is to work closely with the Sephardic community for years. And I want you to know that you not only have a friend in City Hall, you have an ally in City Hall. Thank you and [inaudible]. 

[Applause]

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