“I am still in shock,” admitted Victoria Zirkiev to the Queens Jewish Link about the antisemitic attack she and her husband Shalom experienced while deplaning in Florida. “It was just insane.”
The Jewish community of Queens is no stranger to the generosity and advocacy of Shalom and Victoria and their extended family. Victoria is renown as president of Chazaq’s women’s division, advocate for Lashon Hara USA, and a social media influencer, as well as producer for musical superstar Gad Elbaz.
“We arrived in Miami on a short business trip when we were confronted by a true antisemite just as we were preparing to disembark from our Delta flight,” explained Victoria. As any traveler knows, planes often become stuffy and humid, and under the precautions of a mask one can easily become winded. “Shalom lowered his face covering for a mere moment simply to catch his breath and was nearly instantaneously shunned by a 20-something-year-old to recover his face. Shalom quickly complied,” said Victoria. But the spirit of freedom that Delta often shares was not on display following that flight at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.
Shalom, a real estate developer, is a yarmulke-wearing and G-d-fearing Jew who has the utmost respect for all of Hashem’s creations. The Zirkiev home has a warm, open door and the couple hosts political fundraisers, most recently for Assemblymember Daniel Rosenthal and NYC Mayor-elect Eric Adams. Victoria was appointed to Adams’ transitional team and a legal committee member.
Shalom and Victoria entered the Florida airport terminal and proceeded to remove their facial coverings like many other passengers nearby; however, they were the only Jewish travelers. That’s when the angry antisemite verbally berated them, using the foulest of language, “Why don’t you put your masks on, you [expletive] Jews!” But ugly words soon turned to physical violence when Shalom was shoved. Frightened, the Queens couple fought back until the attacker let go. “We started to defend ourselves and he did not expect it,” said Victoria. “I think he thought Jews are weak and quiet. Well, not these Jews; we stand up for ourselves.” Despite the commotion, the man in a brightly-colored shirt continued his tirade, accosting and rebuking Shalom and Victoria for removing their masks. Once Victoria retrieved her mobile phone from the bag Shalom was carrying, she began filming the assailant, who quickly got intimidated and backed off.
“This is America, not Nazi Germany; unfortunately, antisemitism is alive and well,” said Victoria. “Jews get blamed for everything. My parents left their country to escape antisemitism, not for their children to experience it here in America.”
In recent months, Victoria has hosted a couple of Instagram Live panels that shed light on antisemitism. Each were watched and later viewed by thousands of Jewish men and women and friends of the Jewish people. Those she invited to join as co-hosts and panelists are influencers in the Jewish world.
At the “Night of Gratitude to Hashem” hosted by Chazaq last week, Victoria said, “In my house we are known to constantly thank Hashem and appreciate his blessings. If you ask my children what their mom’s favorite saying is, they will tell you without hesitation that it is ‘Thank You, Hashem. I love Hashem.’ We try to instill in our children to be grateful for everything that Hashem gives us. To do that I give my children the exercise each morning of saying five different things that they are thankful for. Such an activity helps to open a child’s mind and teaches them to be thankful for the world around them.”
May we always be thankful for our freedom and safety.
By Shabsie Saphirstein