Jewish New Yorkers Wearing Their Faith Proudly
On the streets of Manhattan and Brooklyn, Jewish New Yorkers are wearing their faith proudly despite rising tensions as Israel wages war on Hamas following the terrorist group's surprise attack this month.
As thousands of pro-Palestine protesters took to the streets on Friday for the "day of jihad" demonstration, the NYPD has stepped up patrols at Jewish schools and synagogues out of an "abundance of caution." But Jewish New Yorkers are not backing down.
"I'm not afraid of anything," says 31-year-old Joseph Borgen, who was beaten by a mob in an anti-Semitic attack while on his way to a pro-Israel rally last year. Borgen is clad in a yarmulke and draped in a massive blue and white Israeli flag at a pro-Israel rally in Manhattan. "If they want to get me, they can get me. If that means being a little afraid and showing our support for Israel, then that's what we need to do."
Chabad Rabbi Uriel Vigler, who runs Belev Echad, an organization that supports injured Israeli soldiers, agrees that showing Jewish pride and encouraging others to stay strong is the best way to combat the hostile and intimidating climate. "Our response to darkness is to ignite a light. A little bit of light dispels darkness. When they bring hate we bring light," he says.
Blake Zavadsky, a college student who was randomly attacked in Brooklyn two years ago while wearing an IDF hoodie, is wearing the same sweatshirt as a symbol of strength and defiance. "The world needs to know that Jews are strong – we don't give up and we won't be intimidated," says the 23-year-old. "I'm Jewish and proud."
Dikla Goren, a 42-year-old mother of four, is draped in an Israeli flag at a rally in Midtown. She says her first time doing so since she visited Auschwitz as a teenager. "I was very proud when I went to Auschwitz, but I never imagined I would need to show the world I'm Jewish and proud," she says.
Anti-Israel protests have erupted at several New York City colleges this week, including CUNY Brooklyn College, Hunter College, and Columbia University. But some Jewish students, like 21-year-old Nathan Orbach from NYU, continue to wear their love for Israel on their sleeves. "If they're wearing their uniforms and fighting, we should wear our uniforms in New York City," he says, donning a yarmulke, Israeli flag-emblazoned sweatshirt, and ceremonial fringes called tzitzit at a pro-Israel rally in Washington Square Park.
Beauty queen Justine Brooke Murray joined the pro-Palestine rally in Times Square, going against the wishes of her "stereotypical concerned Jewish mother." She says, "I'm not going to let anti-Semites and enemies of Western civilization force me to live in fear. That's giving them a win."
As Borgen reflected on the progress made since his attack, he says, "If nothing positive comes of what happened to me, then what's the point?" The Jewish community in New York City is showing resilience and courage in the face of rising tensions, determined to proudly display their faith and support for Israel.