More than half a year after directing a mob against a reporter covering an anti-lockdown protest in Brooklyn, a well-known ultra-Orthodox activist has pled guilty on Friday to charges of “inciting to riot” before subsequently bragging that he had gotten “off the hook” for his actions.
During a virtual hearing on Friday, former city council candidate Heshy Tischler admitted that he egged on a crowd against journalist Jacob Kornbluh, a Hasidic journalist whose reporting on violations of pandemic rules by members of New York’s ultra-Orthodox community generated intense outrage.
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Over the course of 2020, Tischler emerged as a leader for those in the Hasidic Brooklyn neighborhood of Borough Park who feel that Orthodox Jewish communities are being unfairly singled out in the city’s pandemic response.
In a video of the encounter, Tischler was seen screaming at Kornbluh as a mob fell in behind him. “Everybody scream moser,” Tischler yelled at Kornbluh, using a Jewish term for someone who informs on other Jews to secular authorities. The mob hit him in the head and kicked him while calling him a “Nazi” and “Hitler".
Following Tischler’s arrest last October, a mob formed outside Kornbluh’s apartment building, at a busy intersection in Borough Park, with people in the crowd again shouting the “moser” accusation.
After being attacked, Kornbluh said that he expected such incidents to continue “as long as community leaders and rabbis don’t come out and say explicitly that any violence, especially against a member of the press, is unacceptable.”
There is a lot of “anger and frustration in these communities,” Kornbluh said. “And they are letting it out [at] anyone coming close to them — law enforcement, city officials or members of the media.”
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As part of his plea agreement, Tischler will have to log 10 days of community service at a food bank in Brooklyn. The case will be sealed if he completes the service, adheres to an order to stay away from Kornbluh, keeps his court dates and avoids arrest for six months.
“I welcome the fact that Mr. Tischler acknowledged in the court of law that he incited a riot against me and has been held accountable for his actions,” Kornbluh, who is now The Forward’s senior political reporter, initially stated following the deal. “I am looking forward to continuing my work in journalism undeterred.
However, by Sunday, Tischler had recanted, posting a video on social media platform TikTok describing Kornbluh as a “rat” and a “pig” and claiming that he “did not plead guilty.”
Kornbluh, who took to Twitter to describe Tischler’s comments as “dangerous,” told Haaretz by phone on Sunday that the activist was “just continuing the smear campaign against me, proving that he doesn’t stand by his own words in the court of law.”
“I hope the community sees the truth," Kornbluh added.
Several other journalists, both in the United States and Israel, also reported being harassed while reporting on the pandemic from ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods. Not long after Kornbluh was attacked, ABC7 reporter CeFaan Kim tweeted that a local had verbally abused him while he was reporting a story in Brooklyn, with one passerby stating “come here chinky... Let me give you a little corona.”
Last October, Jerusalem Post photographer Marc Israel Sellem and religion reporter Jeremy Sharon were both accosted in separate incidents in Jerusalem while Channel 12 correspondent Carmel Libman reported being attacked by a mob in the Haredi West Bank settlement of Betar Ilit.
"Dozens crowded around me, throwing eggs, knocking on [my car] windows and shouting insults,” he tweeted at the time.
Other reporters who were attacked last year included Army Radio reporter Shahar Glick, Kan public broadcaster’s Ittai Shickman and Mynet reporter Liran Tamari.
This January, several reporters were chased by mobs in the Tel Aviv suburb of Bnai Brak while covering violent protests against COVID-19 restrictions in Bnei Brak.
The Forward and JTA contributed to this report.