Rachel Wainer Apter, director of the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights, is the state official most directly responsible for fighting hate crimes.
Unfortunately there is plenty for her to do. According to a report released by Attorney General Gurbir Grewal on January 13, there were 944 “bias incidents” last year in which people were harassed or hurt because of their identity. This figure represents a 66 percent increase from the year before, the largest since the state began tracking hate crimes in the 1990s.
Wainer will speak about anti-Semitism in a speech on “The State of Hate in New Jersey” on Thursday, January 16, at 7 p.m. at the Adath Israel Congregation at 1958 Lawrenceville Road. For more information, visit www.adathisraelnj.org or call 609-896-4977.
One of the worst incidents took place last month in Jersey City when a man and a woman shot and killed four people in a rampage that targeted a Kosher grocery store. Authorities said the couple also built a bomb that could have killed people 500 yards away had it detonated. The murderers were members of the Black Hebrew Israelites.
“The data confirms that incidents motivated by bias, prejudice, and hate are rising,” Apter said in a press release. “We encourage anyone who has been subjected to bias-based harassment or discrimination at work, in housing, or in a place of public accommodation to file a complaint with DCR, where remedies can include equitable relief and compensatory damages. And we are working closely with the entire Task Force to finalize a list of comprehensive recommendations on how to prevent and combat bias, prejudice, and hate among children and young adults. If anyone was not able to join one of our listening sessions but has ideas or recommendations for how to prevent or combat bias, we encourage them to please submit written comments to the Taskforce.”
Apter has been director of the Division on Civil Rights since 2018. She was previously a counsel to the attorney general, advising on civil rights and immigration, where she helped New Jersey’s legal effort to defend the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
Earlier in her career, she worked for the ACLU, where she worked on well known civil rights cases such as the Colorado bake shop that refused to sell a cake to a same-sex couple getting married, and the Trump Administration’s decision to allow employers to opt out of providing coverage for female employees to access contraception as part of their health benefits.
Apter’s speech is part of a program at the Adath Israel Congregation called Mosaic. The Mosaic series of cultural events, which include art, performance, and thought, is meant to bring in members of the community who aren’t necessarily Jewish, and encourage Jewish and non-Jewish communities to learn from one another. (Lawrence Gazette, September 27, 2018.)