ALBANY -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo is heading to Israel this weekend to discuss economic-development opportunities and offer a "message of solidarity" amid a rise in anti-Semitism in New York and the U.S.
Cuomo gave two speeches Wednesday pledging unity with Jews in New York and condemning bomb threats at Jewish Community Centers across the state, including in Westchester, Buffalo, Syracuse and Albany.
"This is repugnant to everything we believe as New Yorkers. It is an act of cowardice," Cuomo said of the bomb threats during a visit to the Albany JCC. "It suggests a basic misunderstanding of who we are as New Yorkers and what we believe as New Yorkers. This state was founded on the premise of equality and the promise of freedom from discrimination."
Later, speaking to Jewish students at an event near the Capitol to promote state aid for religious schools, Cuomo announced he will head to Israel -- his second trip there since taking office in 2011.
"This weekend, I am going to do an economic development trip to Israel, which is a great economic development partner of ours to talk about technology and joint ventures that we're working on with technologies and to talk about security," Cuomo said.
"But I'm also going to bring a message of solidarity, and I want to say to the people of Israel, and I want to say to the Jewish community: In New York, you are not alone, and every person in the state of New York with any decency and understanding of what it means to be a New Yorker stands with you at this moment."
Cuomo visited Israel in August 2014 during his re-election bid, and he planned to go again in last September, but the trip was cancelled after a fatal train crash in New Jersey.
The Democratic governor is expected to seek a third term next year and has been rumored as a potential presidential candidate in 2020.
New York has the largest Jewish population in the world outside Israel. New York has about 1.7 million residents of Jewish descent.
"We stand arm in arm with the Jewish community through this time of hardship," Cuomo continued. "I say that to you today. We'll say that to the people in Israel this weekend."
In recent months, New York has bolstered its efforts to combat hate crimes.
State Police have a hate-crime task force, the state added a texting hotline to report incidents -- "HATE" to 81336 or a toll-free hotline 888-392-3644 — and created a $5,000 reward for any tips that lead to a conviction on a hate crime.
Cuomo also is proposing $25 million in the proposed state budget to religious schools and centers to boost security.
Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, R-Suffolk County, said he supports the additional aid for religious facilities, but said it's a shame that the money is even needed.
"I find it abhorrent and distasteful that the governor or we would have to come up with $25 million for security," Flanagan told the Jewish students in a speech.