The 42-second video of people becoming allies with a Jewish person confronting a person ripping down posters of Israeli hostages in Forest Hills has gone viral, with more than ten million views on X (formerly Twitter) and an estimated 100 million views altogether on social media.

Jake Birn was shocked and awed by how New Yorkers with “no connection to this, care.”

Birn, 24 years old and a member of the Young Israel of Forest Hills, works remotely from home. Birn went jogging during his lunch hour on Friday, October 27. He saw a man tearing down posters of the Israeli hostages on Yellowstone Boulevard and 68th Road and called out, “What are you doing? Stop that!” Birn called to report it to Queens Shmira Public Safety and continued jogging.

Fifteen minutes later, Birn stopped jogging to confront the same man, now on 108 Street, between 68th Avenue and 68th Road. “I always feel Zionist. I felt very passionate about raising awareness for the hostages and the kidnapped innocent civilians.”

Birn said the man kept repeating, “Don’t record me. You don’t have proof” (of civilians being held hostage).

“He just didn’t care. You can tell in his eyes that he had no sympathy.” Birn felt “like he was anti-life.”

Birn wasn’t afraid it would become physical. “He didn’t look like he wanted to incite violence. He looked so, honestly, brainwashed.”

Birn called Shmira again. Shabsie Saphirstein, Community Outreach Coordinator, advised Birn to document what is happening. Saphirstein called the police “and coordinated with them to be there.”

A minute later, Birn was video-recording with his cell phone when a man in a blue construction hat and yellow reflective vest showed ID that he is a veteran.

Another man, named Paulie, in a brown flannel shirt, said to the man that he and the other people gathered were not Jewish but the man was offending them.

With the curses removed, Paulie said, this is the United States, New York City, and the man did not have a right to touch the posters of Israeli hostages.

 “This is a free country. You can waive your Palestine flag, say, ‘Death to the Jews, America,’ whatever you want, but we could put up signs.”

When the man says he isn’t doing anything, Paulie said, “You’re offending us.” He was also littering by throwing the posters to the ground. “In a minute, I am going to litter you,” said Paulie.

The man replied, “You have no proof” they are kidnapped. Paulie said, “You have no proof they’re not kidnapped so move on.” The man in the blue construction hat and yellow reflective vest restrained Paulie while sirens were heard, and the video cuts off.

Birn said it “means the world when anyone stands hand in hand, especially a non-Jew, a blue-collar worker in New York City. Usually, workers just want to do their job and go home, and they have no reason to do this. You could tell they genuinely cared.”

Birn stayed to answer questions from the police, who then spoke with the person tearing down the posters. Birn doesn’t know what the police said to the man. The entire incident lasted just five-to-six minutes.

Queens Shmira Public Safety called Birn soon afterward, explaining that the man didn’t do anything illegal but “show what he did.”

Birn expects these incidents to continue and would confront again if necessary. “I would support my people.”

He wants people to say, “Enough is enough.” He hopes “non-Jews see what’s going on and really try to educate themselves on this.” Birn feels proud of the help he received from ordinary people.

The posters of the Israeli hostages were put up by Forest Hills resident David Arnonov along Yellowstone and Queens Boulevards from 71st to 66th Avenues. Two days later, they were torn down, but Aronov put them up again. “It’s one of the few actions we can do locally.”

“There are people online and on social media that are denying there are any hostages at all, and I think that’s really disgraceful,” said Aronov, who is also a Special Advisor for Community and External Relations at the United Jewish Appeal.

By David Schneier