NEW YORK — The heads of two prominent Jewish organizations backing opposing parties in the US on Monday issued a joint condemnation of recent attacks by extremists in Brooklyn against a local journalist in their community who has warned of the dangers of the coronavirus.
“As leaders of organizations who don’t normally agree on much, we have come together to speak in one voice condemning the unconscionable violence and threats targeting journalist Jacob Kornbluh,” Jewish Democratic Council of America executive director Halie Soifer and Republican Jewish Coalition head Matt Brooks said in a statement.
“We are unified in our outrage and deep concern about the violence and incitement directed at Jacob for his valuable reporting. We stand together with Jacob, condemn those threatening violence, and call for this upheaval and vilification of a respected journalist to come to an immediate end,” the two groups added.
Kornbluh, a Borough Park resident, has reported on rising coronavirus infection rates in ultra-Orthodox areas of New York and the behaviors, including relatively infrequent mask-wearing, that may be fueling the rise.
Kornbluh was attacked while trying to cover a Tuesday protest organized by far-right community activist Heshy Tischler against recent lockdown measures instituted by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, aimed at curbing the virus.
Tischler confronted Kornbluh and in a video of what unfolded, the rabble rouser is seen screaming at the reporter, as a mob falls in behind him. “Everybody scream ‘Moser,’” Tischler yelled at Kornbluh, using a Jewish term for someone who informs on other Jews to secular authorities, a charge that some Jewish legal texts say merits the death penalty.
Here’s Heschy egging then on. “He’s lucky time be alive,” one of the protesters told me after.
A few yards away, cops agree to close more streets, joking around with same men who just beat up a reporter pic.twitter.com/UekTnKQqrA
— Jake Offenhartz (@jangelooff) October 8, 2020
In a tweet shortly after the incident, Kornbluh said he had been punched and kicked by the crowd and that he planned to file charges.
Tischler, a radio host who has become a leader of the anti-lockdown movement, was arrested late Sunday evening for inciting a riot and unlawful imprisonment.
Shortly after his arrest — and in the early hours of the morning — an angry gang of Tischler’s supporters gathered outside Kornbluh’s home to heckle him.
An account belonging to one of Tischler’s supporters had tweeted out Kornbluh’s address.
In one video posted by a “Tischler fan account” on Twitter, people can be heard shouting, “Shame on you.”
Footage also showed people in the crowd again calling the Haredi reporter a “moser.”
A man was also heard yelling through a megaphone in a menacing tone, “Good morning, Jacob, we’re all waiting for you.”
Some of the crowd, who all appeared to be maskless, danced and celebrated, as police officers guarded the entrance to Kornbluh’s building.
Kornbluh appeared to be safe, tweeting, “[Thank you] folks. I love you all.”
The assault on Kornbluh was not the only time last week’s protests again virus restrictions turned ugly.
On Tuesday night, crowds of ultra-Orthodox protesters in Brooklyn’s Borough Park burned face masks on the street and chased a reporter out of the area after Cuomo announced new restrictions on schools, businesses and houses of worship in some parts of the city and state.
Around 2 a.m. Wednesday morning, a man who was taking video of the protest was chased and hit with a traffic cone. He was later taken to the hospital.
The protests came amid anger and resentment in New York City neighborhoods facing new coronavirus shutdowns, with some residents saying that the state is unfairly targeting Orthodox Jewish communities, as it tries to stamp out hot spots before they spread.
Cuomo insists the new restrictions are based solely on science and coronavirus case clusters in areas that, in his view, have flouted the state’s existing virus-safety rules.