The Toronto-based head of the militant Jewish Defense League — classified by the FBI as a terrorist group — said he is coming soon to New York City to expose and confront Black leaders who spread anti-Semitism.
The group’s once-powerful presence in New York has been muted since 2002 when former Jewish Defense League chairman Irv Rubin committed suicide in prison. Rubin was awaiting trial on charges of conspiracy to bomb a California mosque and the offices of Rep. Darrell Issa, a California Republican.
“A top priority for the Jewish Defence (sic) League in New York City will be to expose and confront Black organizations and leaders who spread anti-Semitism within the Black community,” JDL leader Meir Weinstein said in a statement posted to Facebook Jan. 8, the New York Post reported.
Two violent attacks on ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities, weeks apart in New York and New Jersey, have raised concerns that intolerance is boiling over, according to NBC New York.
For years, ultra-Orthodox Jewish families who couldn’t afford Brooklyn real estate moved to the suburbs, expanding into New York’s Hudson Valley, the Catskills and northern New Jersey. This led to conflict over new housing development, local political control and rhetoric seen as anti-Semitic.
The Jewish Defense League was founded in New York City in 1968 by Rabbi and politician Meir Kahane to protect Jews from local anti-Semitism. The organization’s logo is a fist inside a Jewish Star and the slogan is “Never Again.”
The organization grew from a “vigilante club” into a 15,000-member group. In 1971, Kahane moved to Israel where he established the far-right Kach party. He served a term in the Israeli Knesset before being banned from the Knesset in 1988. His legacy still influences militant and right-wing groups active in Israel today, according to the Jewish Voice.
In 1990, Kehane was assassinated in New York by an Arab terrorist linked to the nascent Al Qaeda organization.
In 2001, the FBI classified the Jewish Defense League as a right-wing terrorist group — a violent extremist Jewish organization. From 1980 through 1985, there were 18 officially classified terrorist attacks in the U.S. committed by Jews and 15 of those were by members of the Jewish Defense League, according to FBI statistics.
Weinstein, 62, says current conditions demand a revival, the New York Post reported.
“There’s gotta be action and there has to be things that are addressed,” he said, referring to the violent attacks in Monsey and New York City. “We’re very concerned about the level of antisemitism coming from the Black community.”
Weinstein blames the progressive left-wing for the anti-Semitic climate today, the Jerusalem Post reported. “The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement has a large network of groups … and Jews are blamed for practically everything,” he said. “The progressive left wing must be called out and confronted.”
Weinstein said he plans to meet with donors and visit Manhattan, Brooklyn and possibly the Monsey synagogue in a three-or-four-day visit later this month.
“We just had somebody in New York call us Monday night who pledged $2,600,” Weinstein told the New York Post.
A Jewish Defense League member in Los Angles reported getting “100 to 200 emails a week,” from people seeking more information about the group.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has increased patrols in Brooklyn neighborhoods with large, ultra-religious Jewish populations such as Crown Heights, Borough Park and Williamsburg.
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“Hate doesn’t have a home in our city,” de Blasio recently tweeted. “Anyone who terrorizes our Jewish community WILL face justice. Anti-Semitism is an attack on the values of our city — and we will confront it head-on.”
Shmuel Sackett, a former Jewish Defense League member, urged Jews to arm themselves.
“Every Jewish community needs to train their people in self-defense and acquire legal firearms,” he said. Synagogues, schools and community centers “must be guarded by Jews carrying legal firearms who are not afraid to use them, should a threat present itself.”
Yossi Klein Halevi, a senior fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, warned against the type of vigilante thinking promoted by the Jewish Defense League.
“I don’t think that American Jews should be forming private illegal militias,” Klein Halevi told the Jerusalem Post. “American Jews should certainly be working with the police to help keep these streets safe for Jews – that’s very different to the way the JDL operated.
“After the antisemitic attacks in New York City and Jersey City, we need to start protecting ourselves so that people know they can’t have a free for all,” he said.
Weinstein told followers that he is following in the footsteps of Rabbi Kahane, the founder of the Jewish Defense League.
In late December, YouTube removed 2,600 videos containing footage of Rabbi Kahane or his students.
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