Haredi reporter Jacob Kornbluh and video photographer Berish Getz on Wednesday night were attacked by a crowd of an estimated 500 Chasidim at a protest led by radio personality and community activist Heshy Tischler, who were demonstrating against Governor Cuomo’s and Mayor De Blasio’s pandemic-related restrictions on their neighborhoods.
One protest organizer, Sammy Gross, told the NY Daily News that the rally was against the double-standard in the city, which permits large-scale Black Lives Matter protests while restricting synagogue attendance and shutting down schools. “The hypocrisy that’s going on here. People can go rioting, looting, but they’re singling out our community when people want to go to our houses of worship. That’s wrong,” Gross said.
But then, at some point during the protest, as Gothamist reporter Jake Offenhartz described it Wednesday night: “At Heshy’s urging, the crowd just surrounded and attacked journalist Jacob Kornbluh. They pinned him against a wall and shouted “moyser” (“snitch”) as NYPD lost control of the situation. Really scary scene. Jacob is a pro.”
Update: One person in critical condition — being transported to Maimonides Hospital — after beaten with rocks by protesters at the anti-Cuomo protest in Borough Park early this am pic.twitter.com/aGIYgst91p
— Jacob Kornbluh (@jacobkornbluh) October 7, 2020
According to the NY Post, another Jewish reporter, Berish Getz, was shooting a video of the demonstration from the roof of a trailer at 14th Avenue and 46th Street around 1:30 AM, when someone in the crowd shouted, “This is Getz!” and some started yelling Getz was an informer. Getz jumped down in an attempt to escape, but the crowd surrounded him and beat him up. According to Police sources who spoke to the Post, three men hit Getz in the neck, head, and face and one hit him with a stick while others threw objects at him.
Jacob Kornbluh tweeted: “One person in critical condition – being transported to Maimonides Hospital – after beaten with rocks by protesters at the anti-Cuomo protest in Borough Park early this AM.”
Kornbluh tweeted about his own clash with the demonstrators Wednesday night: “I was just brutally assaulted, hit in the head, and kicked at by an angry crowd of hundreds of community members of the Boro Park protest — while yelling at me ‘Nazi’ and ‘Hitler’ —after Heshy Tischler recognized me and ordered the crowd to chase me down the street.”
He added: “I was saved by heroic police officers and several community members. I’m safe right now,” and “I want to thank the people who got in harm’s way — and might have gotten injured — to protect me. I am filing charges against Heshy Tischler for incitement and physical assault and will seek charges against any individual who hit me.”
Jason Greenblatt tweeted Thursday morning: “What an embarrassment/Chilul HaShem. Disgusting behavior! Glad the police and community members stepped in. Jacob Kornbluh I hope you are OK.”
About 80 Orthodox jews gathered in Borough Park Brooklyn tonight for a Civil Disobedience protest against Mayor and Governor of New York. Speaker Heshy Tischler and the group were protesting closing of businesses.
? By Scootercaster (FNTV) firstname.lastname@example.org for licensing pic.twitter.com/j3euVDmvT1
— @SCOOTERCASTER (FNTV) (@ScooterCasterNY) October 7, 2020
Harold “Heshy” Tischler was a School Choice Party candidate for District 44 representative on the New York City Council in New York and was defeated on November 7, 2017, by Democrat Kalman Yeger (11,334 to 670). Since then, Tischler has emerged as a local leader who appears to successfully gauge the mood of the community and express it with considerable vehemence. His show, “Just Enough Heshy,” is broadcast Wednesdays at 9 PM on WSNR 620 AM (remember AM radio?). The show is also available on Tischler’s Facebook, YouTube and Twitter accounts.
Tischler is being described as a populist and a brute – his slogan is very reminiscent of Peter Finch’s line in Network: “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore.” If you ask Tablet Magazine’s senior writer Yair Rosenberg, “Heshy Tischler is a public menace inciting violence and the NYPD should be stopping him, not assisting him. This isn’t peaceful protest, it’s egging people on to lawlessness and assault.”
But this relatively new voice of Borough Park is not such an outsider. In fact, he is recognized as a leader in the community by the powers that be in the city. Lubavitcher reporter Andrea Karshan tweeted: “NYPD negotiates with Heshy Tischler, promises him 2 hours of blocked streets tomorrow, and lets him use the police car’s public address system to rally the Borough Park protesters.”
Community resident Heshy Tischler tells protesters in the presence of an NYPD inspector: “You are my soldiers. We are at war.” pic.twitter.com/9sneRVxrf3
— Jacob Kornbluh (@jacobkornbluh) October 7, 2020
Wednesday’s report of the event on FNTV ran: “About 80 Orthodox Jews gathered in Borough Park Brooklyn tonight for a Civil Disobedience protest against Mayor and Governor of New York. Speaker Heshy Tischler and the group were protesting the closing of businesses.”
According to the NY Daily News, Tischler was quite open about his ambitions when he addressed the protesters Wednesday night: “I’m going to take these children, these soldiers, these future leaders. These are my people. We’re going to create an army. We are at war with you, Mr. de Blasio. Here is my army.”
Assemblyman Simcha Eichenstein, a Haredi Democrat representing Borough Park and Midwood, issued a conciliatory message immediately following the violent protest, saying: “What we have been witnessing on the streets of Boro Park over the last 48 hours does not reflect the values of our beloved community. I, like everyone in the community, am deeply saddened and outraged by the rhetoric and the draconian measures that Governor Cuomo announced just the other day. It is despicable and completely unacceptable. But violence is never the answer. Ever.”
The Assemblyman continues for five more paragraphs about peace and the holiday and unity but avoids mentioning the name Heshy Tischler even once – which means that the community activist who in 2017 couldn’t scratch together 700 votes of support in a city council run, has become a power to contend with in Haredi politics.
The NY Daily News devoted its cover to the violent demonstration, with the lazy headline “Oy, Revolt,” because if it happens to Orthodox Jews in America it’s always a little funny. But it wasn’t funny at all. Especially with the chilling sub-header: “Here in Borough Park, we don’t go by the laws of America. We have our own laws.”
Anti-Semitic? You think?