Violence flares up as Hasidic community protests need to wear masks

Rises in COVID-19 outbreaks and tempers flared yesterday as a massive group of mostly Hasidic Jewish residents, reportedly led by Harold “Heshy” Tischler, burned their face masks in the street on 13th Avenue in Borough Park. The gathering led to the injury of two Jewish individuals reporting and documenting on the scene Wednesday, October 7.

This comes after the recent criticisms of largely Orthodox Jewish communities in certain ‘zip codes’ with COVID-19 hotspots in Brooklyn and Queens. Many had expressed outrage at feeling targeted by Mayor Bill De Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo who were in talks of shutting down schools and establishments in these areas to prevent a second wave in the city.

City Councilman Kalman Yeger

According to Councilmember Kalman Yeger’s office (Bensonhurst, Borough Park, Midwood, Ocean Parkway) the councilman was present “at least several hours before any ‘protests’” at around 9 p.m on Tuesday.   

Yeger’s spokesperson Hannah Shulman said “the councilmember was on the avenue, briefly addressed around a dozen or two neighborhood residents, most of whom were teenagers, about the importance of wearing masks and keeping small businesses and houses of worship open responsibly.” 

The violence, at Tischler’s urging, tweeted a reporter from the scene, didn’t start until Wednesday night after 10 p.m in another location on the avenue. In the video the crowd surrounded and attacked local Jewish journalist Jacob Kornbluh, calling him a “moyser,” Yiddish for “snitch.” 

Council Member Mark Treyger

“I condemn the violence committed against journalist Jacob Kornbluh last night. City and State leaders need to immediately increase culturally responsive outreach efforts to build trust and confidence that is sorely needed right now,” said Councilmember Mark Treyger (D-Bensonhurst, Coney Island, Gravesend, Sea Gate).

A 34-year-old Hasidic man, Berish Getz, was also reportedly beaten unconscious by a Hasidic crowd of mostly Yeshiva students angry over the state’s call to limit synagogues to 10 people and close schools in the area. Getz was seen standing on top of a container on the side of 13th Avenue, videotaping and photographing the crowd near 46th Street. 

Many commented on social media that NYPD response was markedly different and missing the same aggression seen at previous Black Lives Matter and social justice protests the past few months.

“The councilman immediately condemned the attack and continues to call for NYPD to investigate the incident.  No one should set public fires, and certainly no one should burn masks,” said Shulman. “Councilman Yeger personally participated in distributing 418,000 masks just a week ago. These are valuable and necessary tools to combating the pandemic, and people should wear masks, period.”

Mayoral Candidate Maya Wiley, campaigning in Brooklyn on Thursday, said this about the Borough Park uprisings, “Look, what we have to do right now since COVID is real is put public health first, and we need to make sure that every single community in this city both gets all the information that it needs about how to do that. And the city must be engaging with community leaders, including faith leaders, to partner, ensuring that they are part of the solution. That’s something that should happen no matter what neighborhood we’re in, no matter where we are in New York, and every single community should know that it’s going to be treated the same in this crisis.” 

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