It has been less than a month since Hamas’s attack on Israel and, New York, which has the world’s second-largest Jewish population (only after Israel), is already feeling the fallout. Anti-Semitic incidents have increased across the city, with 30 hate crimes reported since 9 October, just two days after the Hamas incursion. Requests for additional security at Jewish events are growing, while sensible and peace-loving parents at my sons’ school are talking about buying guns. Two days ago, New York State governor Kathy Hochul announced some $75m (€71m) in grants to protect synagogues and other houses of worship. But this might only prove to be the beginning of necessary funding if anti-Jewish sentiment proliferates.
Now is the time for solutions. Few, however, appear to be actionable in the short term. What would help is a commitment from City Hall, the City Council and the NYPD to take the threat seriously. As New York mayor Eric Adams said during a speech in mid-October, anti-semitism has “no room in this city”.
But what about district attorney Alvin Bragg? The public official has faced scrutiny for facilitating a widely decried plea deal to one of four defendants charged with attacking a Jewish man in Times Square more than two years ago. Bragg initially suggested a mere six-month sentence for the crime, which left the victim severely injured and provoked vast public outrage. The 24-year-old assailant was eventually handed a sentence of 18 months behind bars.
Perhaps Bragg got the message: this week his office announced the indictment of 21-year-old Lenny de la Rosa for a string of anti-Jewish graffiti incidents on synagogues in Manhattan’s Upper East Side. All took place just weeks before the Hamas attacks and the city’s subsequent rise in anti-Semitic crimes. Like Mayor Adams, Bragg has demonstrated an ability to take anti-semitism seriously. But his willingness to act will be tested greatly in the weeks to come. A strong first step would be to make an Adams-style speech, which clarifies that antisemitic crimes are hate crimes – and will be prosecuted like any other offence, whether rooted in race, gender or sexuality.
David Christopher Kaufman is an editor and columnist based in New York. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.
President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, concludes her four-day trip to the Western Balkans today, which aims to bring the region’s economies closer to the EU. Von der Leyen hopes that her incentive of €6bn in investments for the region will be enough to convince nations to forge stronger economic ties with the EU – and her approach is far from one-sided.
While Von der Leyen has promised financial support to both Serbia and Kosovo, she has warned the countries that they must take concrete steps to normalise relations, prompting Serbia to issue a de facto recognition of Kosovo. “This is a problematic phrase for Serbian politicians, especially now that elections are approaching,” Monocle’s Balkans correspondent, Guy de Launey, tells The Monocle Minute. “Committing to the word ‘recognition’ would result in a massive loss of votes – it’s a mystery why Ursula von der Leyen is framing it in these terms.”
For more on Ursula von der Leyen’s trip on the Western Balkans, tune in to Wednesday’s edition of ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle Radio.
The South Korean art scene is on the rise and collector JaeMyung Noh intends to take it a step further with the launch of his own art fair, Art OnO (the name stands for “One and Only”). The fair, which will debut in April 2024 at the exhibition centre SETEC in Seoul’s Gangnam district, will join the likes of Frieze and Art Busan, which have both established new ventures in the South Korean capital over the past two years. But Noh’s approach will focus on showcasing smaller galleries, which are usually priced out of events due to high fees, to highlight new and exciting talents on the art scene. This, he hopes, is what will set his fair apart from other events on the region’s ever-growing cultural calendar. Its success is not guaranteed but the multiplication of homegrown art fairs shows South Korea’s increasing importance to the industry.
German luggage label Rimowa is expanding its offering beyond its signature aluminium designs, with a new leather collection called Distinct. The suitcases, which come in navy and black, were crafted using an innovative leather-wrapping technique that allows them to hold their shape. Protective aluminium panels were also added on the corners and backs to ensure that the new designs were as durable as the brand’s much-loved metallic luggage.
Rimowa hasn’t used leather in its designs since the 20th century but the label is ready for the material to make a comeback. Since the luggage-maker was acquired by LVMH in 2017, it has reported record growth, partly as a result of attention-grabbing collaborations with luxury fashion labels such as Dior. Its foray into leather, a more traditional luxury material, could create space for further growth and more surprising tie-ins.
Jannis Stürtz is the co-founder of Habibi Funk, a Berlin-based label specialising in reissues of eclectic sounds from the Arab world, from Libyan reggae to Sudanese jazz. He tells Monocle about how Habibi Funk started and its efforts to put the spotlight on lesser-known talents.
How did Habibi Funk start as a record label?
I was visiting Morocco as part of the tour management of an artist playing there and I ended up staying on for a few days and exploring Casablanca. I found an old record shop and bought an album by a singer called Fadoul that really piqued my interest. We tried to find and sign him. But we learned that he died in the 1990s. Eventually we found his family and reissued his work, splitting the profits with the artist’s estate. We have built our catalogue since then. There is a trove of work from overlooked artists from North Africa, West Asia and other parts of the world. There could be dozens of labels like ours in operation without any of them running out of material any time soon.
Tell us more about the genres that Habibi Funk covers.
It is important to understand that what we focus on is not a representation of popular music in, say, Libya. We are interested in these particular groups or singers who took influences from outside their countries and mixed them with something that already existed. Ibrahim Hesnawi, the father of Libyan reggae is a good example: he was the first one to popularise the genre in the country.
How do people consume your music?
We use Bandcamp as our central platform for direct sales. I personally love physical records. But you quickly realise that if you release non-mainstream music, you don’t have the luxury to oppose streaming platforms. Our main playlist on Spotify has 100,000 followers – and it is vital. We invest our time equally into streaming, direct sales via Bandcamp and advertising because, if you wish to pay your team and artists fairly, you need all of these revenues in order to make it work.
To hear the full interview with Jannis Stürtz, tune in to the latest edition of ‘The Monocle Weekly’, on Monocle Radio.
We talk about total design with Danish architect David Thulstrup and find out how The Office Group’s new timber tower could tempt workers back into town. Plus: we check in with Store Projects, an association of creatives working to address inequalities in design.