Orthodox Jewish reporter assaulted as anti-lockdown protests continue in Borough Park

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Borough Park residents protested the city’s latest COVID-19 restrictions for the second night in a row on Wednesday.
Photo by Todd Maisel

An Orthodox Jewish reporter was chased through the streets of Borough Park and assaulted on Wednesday during ongoing protests against coronavirus-related lockdowns in the community. 

Shortly after 10 pm, Jacob Kornbluh, a national politics reporter for Jewish Insider who lives in Borough Park, was attacked by a large crowd egged on by right-wing radio host Heshy Tischler, who has organized the large protests in the neighborhood.

“I was just brutally assaulted, hit in the head, and kicked at by an angry crowd of hundreds of community members of the Boro Park protest — while yelling at me “Nazi” and “Hitler” — after Heshy Tischler recognized me and ordered the crowd to chase me down the street,” Kornbluh wrote on Twitter.

Kornbluh was pinned against a wall by the large crowd, where protesters kicked and hit him while calling him a “snitch” before NYPD officers were able to escort him away.

Kornbluh has come under fire from a fringe element in the Borough Park Orthodox community for his insistence on social distancing standards in the neighborhood, which was among the most hard hit during the first wave of the pandemic. Some, such as Tischler, have labeled him a traitor for reporting houses of worship that violated social distancing to the city.

A police spokesperson said there were no arrests yet related to the incident but that a complaint was on file for misdemeanor assault. 

Wednesday’s protest, which saw hundreds of people take to the streets of 13th Avenue near 48th Street, came after a massive demonstration on Tuesday night into Wednesday, during which multiple men were beaten by protesters, including a photojournalist and a Borough Park community member, and masks were burned in the street.

Tischler, who at the start of recent COVID spikes heckled Health Department officials about mask mandates, told protesters Tuesday they were “at war” with new COVID-19 restrictions in Borough Park — one of nine ZIP codes in Brooklyn and Queens where COVID-19 rates have surged in recent weeks. 

Hoping to avoid another deadly outbreak, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio have moved to restrict activity in the nine hot spots — closing schools and limiting religious gatherings to 10 people. Non-essential businesses in these districts must close by Friday, Cuomo announced on Tuesday.

The crowds Tuesday and Wednesday believe the new restrictions target them.

Thousands of local residents flood the streets.Photo by Todd Maisel

After largely remaining silent following the first night of violence, political representatives of Orthodox communities quickly condemned the assault on Kornbluh and called for peace.

“This kind of behavior will do nothing to achieve [our] goal,” Borough Park Assemblyman Simcha Eichenstein said in a statement. “I am asking, I am begging and I am imploring the handful of people within the community to end the violence. It will simply hamper our response.”

Borough Park Councilman Kalman Yeger, who spoke alongside Tischler before Tuesday’s demonstration turned violent, shared similar sentiments.

“Second night in a row, a resident of our community was surrounded and assaulted,” Yeger tweeted. “THIS IS NOT WHO WE ARE. The NYPD must investigate. Enough is enough!”

Protesters Wednesday danced in the streets, waved pro-Trump flags, and shut down 13th Avenue for hours into the night. Some who protested said they felt the governor’s proposed lockdown was an unfair infringement on their religious freedoms.

Protesters participated in numerous religious dances.Photo by Todd Maisel

“This is unprecedented that the government are interfering with religious institutions, and it’s something that we don’t want it to just be easy for them and make them feel like it’s okay for them to just decide and dictate arbitrarily how we will worship,” said Borough Park resident Yidy Bruck, who in one hand held a sign that read “In G-d We Trust” on one side and “We Will Not Comply” on the other, and in the other, a flag with the words “Don’t Tread on Me” in Hebrew.

On Monday, police and government agencies raided a large synagogue where up to 500 people were gathered to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Sukkot.

Borough Park has the highest rate of COVID-19 positivity in the city, according to Cuomo’s office, with more than 10 percent of daily COVID-19 tests coming back positive as of Oct. 6.