Congresswoman Grace Meng Responds To Jewish Community

When acts of anti-Semitism occur, they are usually followed by statements of condemnation, security measures, and policy changes, along with assistance offered to families of the victims and survivors. Reward amounts are offered by law enforcement agencies and community organizations to encourage participation in solving the crime.

In Rockland County, the local chapter of the Anti-Defamation League offered $20,000 to Josef Gluck, the Monsey chasid who prevented further bloodshed this past Chanukah by throwing a table at the knife-wielding assailant in the home of Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg. He then ran after the attacker and took down his license plate number, which he then reported to the police. “I’m not a courageous guy. I’m a simple guy,” Gluck told a CNN reporter. “I feel G-d is a hero. He sent me in the right place in the right time, and He gave me the right state of mind.”

At this point, the kiddush Hashem performed by Gluck was an apparent inspiration. But then, this past week, it was reported that Gluck turned down the reward money offered by the ADL. This, too, could have been chalked up as an example of a hero’s humility, but then he told a News 12 reporter his reason for refusing the reward: “I was not willing to offer my soul for $20,000. My identity for $20,000 was not for sale.”

To most Americans, the refusing of the reward money after the attack demonstrated that there was no financial motive for assisting in the capture of attacker Grafton Thomas. It was purely to prevent further violence from taking place.

Gluck added in his interview that “to encourage and promote the Zionist idea of Jewish self-defense, of fighting back, of fighting our enemies...happens to be contrary to our tradition.”

He was simply stating a mainstream position within the chasidic sector: opposition to Zionism and rebelling against the nation. But it is difficult to understand how a stabbing attack in Monsey at the home of a chasidic rabbi has any connection to Zionism, and how reasonable security measures such as cameras and armed guards constitute “fighting back.” In Sanhedrin 72a, pre-emptive action is permissible. “If someone comes to kill you – kill him first!”

That the Anti-Defamation League is a Zionist organization certainly creates a conflict of interest with Gluck’s approach towards implicit agreement. But he is also the recipient of the New York Liberty Medal, the highest award to a civilian awarded by the State of New York. Considering that our state’s leadership passes laws that are contrary to halachah as they concern marriage and gender definition, why was the medal different from the ADL reward money?

Likewise, when m’shulachim from anti-Zionist chasidic communities travel to shuls that daven for Medinas Yisrael in search of donations, how is that different from receiving the reward money offered by a Zionist organization?

When there is anti-Semitism, we are supposed to unite as a people. Throughout history, unity has been our most effective tool in the arsenal of self-defense. When Israeli Consul General Dani Dayan met with the survivors and victims of the Jersey City massacre last December, nobody spoke of his presence in a room filled with Satmar chasidim as “selling out.”

Likely, the poskim who oppose Zionism can split hairs between the visit of an Israeli diplomat and refusing money from a liberal Zionist organization; but to the rest of the world, it only appears as a people divided over a matter that should not be publicized before the nations. An internal dispute over the interpretation of the Three Oaths from K’subos 111a should not be the source of public embarrassment.

By Sergey Kadinsky