The ringleader of violent protests by strictly Orthodox Jews against New York City leaders was released from jail on Monday, vowing to bring thousands out onto the streets on Wednesday night.
Heshy Tischler, an emerging grassroots leader in the city’s Borough Park district, whipped up his mask-less Charedi followers, who waved Donald Trump flags and chanted anti-authority slogans before attacking and injuring an Orthodox journalist.
Jacob Kornbluh, an Orthodox journalist for Jewish Insider, was following the demonstration when Tischler directed his followers towards the reporter, who said he was then chased, pinned against a wall, called a “Nazi” and hit. Tischler had earlier called Kornbluh a “moser” – one who informs on fellow Jews to the authorities.
Tischler was later arrested and charged with inciting a riot against the city’s leaders for imposing coronavirus restrictions, despite infection rates in areas with large Charedi populations continuing to skyrocket.
More than 100 Charedi Jews protested at night outside Kornbluh’s home after Tischler was arrested, chanting “No Heshy, no peace”, as police were called to protect the building.
Upon his release from prison, Tischler said he was running for the city council and planned to take legal action against the city’s authorities, including Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo, both of whom are Democrats.
On Monday, Cuomo said Charedi protesters had “never followed” coronavirus restrictions imposed to varying degrees over the past seven months, adding that the pattern of micro-clusters in areas with high Orthodox Jewish populations “makes the case of how the regulations actually worked.”
Last week’s figures showed areas with large Orthodox Jewish populations had five times more Covid-19 infections than other neighbourhoods, but the true figure may be higher, with local media reporting anonymous Yiddish messages telling Charedi Jews to get tested in private clinics only so as not to raise the official figures.
New York’s current restrictions for ‘red zone’ areas includes a maximum 25 percent capacity in places of worship, but Cuomo said that even when this was at 50 percent, Orthodox leaders saw it as a negotiation and “offered 75 percent”.
Asked about the protests at a press conference on Monday, he said: “They have never been following the regulations with any rigour. I had an eye-opener in talking to them. Now you see the result.”
Tischler’s lawyer said he was “not guilty”, adding: “This is a politically motivated arrest and the truth will come out.”
New York is one of several areas around the world whereby strictly Orthodox Jews vehemently against coronavirus-related limits on activities such as worship have angered neighbours by ignoring Covid-secure restrictions.
In Australia, there were clashes on the streets, as non-Jewish locals confronted dozens of strictly Orthodox Jews emerging without masks from a synagogue, while in Israel Charedi Jews have thrown objects at police officers.
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