The final criminal proceeding for the case of Joseph “Joey” Borgen, a Jewish man whom a gang of antisemites mauled and pepper-sprayed in broad daylight during protests and counter-protests over Israel’s 2021 war with Hamas, resulted in another conviction Wednesday.
Mohammed Said Othman, 29, was sentenced to three years in state prison, according to a press release issued by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg.
Borgen, who is Jewish, was wearing a kippah while walking in Manhattan when Said Othman, along with several other men, ambushed him without being provoked. They shouted antisemitic slurs at the pro-Israel advocate, who suffered a concussion, wrist injury, black eye, and bruises all over his body.
Since then, three other sentences have been handed down in the Borgen case. Waseem Awawdeh, who continuously struck Borgen with a crutch while allegedly joining the others in shouting antisemitic epithets at him, pleaded guilty to attempted assault as a hate crime and received 18 months in jail, as part of a plea bargain negotiated with Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Jonathon Junig.
In November, Mahmoud Musa received seven years in prison for his role in the attack. In December, Mohammed Othman was sentenced to five-and-a-half years in state prison and five additional years of post-release supervision.
As seen in footage of the incident, Othman kicked and repeatedly struck Borgen in the face while sitting on his chest to weigh him down. In court, he pleaded guilty to gang assault and third-degree hate crime assault.
“These defendants violently targeted and assaulted another individual simply because he is Jewish,” District Attorney Bragg said in a statement. “While this office always supports the right to peacefully protest and engage in open dialogue, these multi-year prison sentences makes clear that physically attacking someone because of their religion is never acceptable. I thank our hate crimes unit for its diligent work in this case.”
Throughout the criminal proceedings in his case, Joey Borgen called on New York City lawmakers to do more to eradicate antisemitic hatred in the five boroughs.
In December, he told The Algemeiner that while he is pleased with the outcome of the case he is worried that the group with which his attackers were allegedly affiliated, the extreme anti-Zionist organization Within Our Lifetime (WOL), is still engaging in antisemitic activity that could lead to more hate crimes.
Since Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel, WOL has posted (and deleted) a map, titled “Know Your Enemies,” showing the addresses of Jewish organizations in New York City, and staged numerous disruptive protests. The group is led by Nerdeen Kiswani, a former City University of New York (CUNY) student who once threatened to set on fire someone’s Israel Defense Forces (IDF) hoodie while he was wearing it.
“They’re still causing havoc; they’re forcing Jewish attendees of a fundraiser to speak at the backdoor of a police van, and they’re bombarding the mother of a hostage with horrible antisemitic chants,” Borgen said. “While I’m happy that I got a positive result in my case, I’m still disturbed that this same group is still going around causing issues for Jewish people, attacking restaurants, and putting people in danger.”
Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.
The post Attacker in 2021 Antisemitic Assault in New York Sentenced to Three Years in State Prison first appeared on Algemeiner.com.
Why the Conservative movement is changing our approach to interfaith marriage
(JTA) — At the recent convening of Conservative/Masorti movement leaders, we were holding a workshop on new approaches to engage intermarrying couples when a participant spoke frankly about her own family. She said she felt like a failure and was not sure what to do.
“We’ve raised our daughter with a thorough Jewish experience,” she explained. “But she recently told us she is going to marry someone of another background.”
A member of the workshop panel responded quickly and emphatically: “Mazal Tov!”
Murmurs quickly spread throughout the room. Some people echoed the hearty wishes of congratulations and wanted to give the parent permission to fully embrace the young couple. Others were more measured, reflecting a strong, traditional preference for marrying Jewish partners.
The tension in that room over how hearty our blessing should be reflects the tension we face in the Conservative/Masorti movement. That tension was addressed in a new report from our movement’s Rabbinical Assembly, which I lead, issued this week, exploring ways to better welcome interfaith couples.
I was brought up in the 1970s and 1980s to believe that if I intermarried, it meant I didn’t care about Judaism and the Jewish people.
But in more than two decades of my rabbinate, I have not found that to be the case. Some of the most beautiful things said to b’nai mitzvah in my congregation came from parents who are not formally Jewish. They have been full partners — and in some cases, the driving force — in organizing religious school carpools, hosting a Passover seder, lighting candles, putting a mezuzah on their door and taking trips to Israel. Some ultimately chose to convert to Judaism.
And let’s face it: there are certainly households with two Jewish parents who make far fewer intentional choices about creating a Jewish home.
Being a rabbi also proved different than I expected when I was ordained. In rabbinical school, my teachers taught me a lot about rabbinic authority. When I actually started at my synagogue, I discovered that my influence with congregants was based much more on trust and relationship than on my title.
Given these experiences, it’s no wonder that our Conservative/Masorti movement is changing how we engage intermarrying and intermarried couples and families.
A series of prohibitions — around officiation, synagogue hiring, rituals and public roles — were developed in previous decades on the premise that intermarriage would inevitably lead to Jews leaving our people, and that religious authority could influence congregants’ choices.
But that culture of disapproval did not generally dissuade individuals in their marriage choices. It certainly did not draw people closer to our communities. Instead, too often, it pushed them away.
It is time for us to reconsider some of those practices.
These policies and prohibitions also made it much too easy for rabbis and couples to avoid hard conversations about what it means to create a Jewish home together. Whether it was discussing what kind of wedding ceremony could have Jewish integrity for both the officiant and the couple, or what it would mean to raise Jewish children, our policies — and our attitude — have meant we didn’t have the opportunity to engage. Why bother having these conversations when our culture simply disapproved of intermarriage?
The issue of officiation at a wedding ceremony by a rabbi is a complex conversation, which our rabbis, and so many others in our communities, take seriously. The Rabbinical Assembly report issued this week recommends that the prohibition around officiation at interfaith weddings be maintained at this time.
But the report was clear that this standard of rabbinic practice does not need to be the start (or end) of our conversations. Our culture of welcoming and engagement can start with how we announce all of our weddings and lifecycle events; how we offer blessings as a community in the days before and after a wedding; the pastoral conversations we have with all couples about creating a Jewish home; and how we include everyone in our communities during lifecycle events, in worship, in Torah study and in acts of kindness and justice.
This new invitation is also reflected in the establishment of a Joint Working Group between the RA and United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ), which represents our congregations, on how we can better engage intermarrying couples.
For more than 100 years, our movement has learned how to conserve tradition while evolving with a culture of respect, inclusion and egalitarianism. I have no doubt we will continue to do so.
As I listened to the murmurs in the room when the mother shared her feelings of failure, it was clear to me that our movement has a duty not just to love every Jewish person — but to love the ones whom they love. I recognize this both as a parent and as a rabbi. This love inspires me to find the words to congratulate couples and their families and then to to help them find a path toward a meaningful Jewish life.
The post Why the Conservative movement is changing our approach to interfaith marriage appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
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Biden sanctions 4 Jewish settlers based on allegations of violence against Palestinians and Israeli peace activists
WASHINGTON (JTA) — President Joe Biden ordered crippling sanctions on four Jewish West Bank settlers for alleged violence against Palestinians and Israeli peace activists.
Biden’s executive order Thursday represented an escalation of the diplomacy and pressure he has exerted on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to rein in extremists.
A White House statement framed the action as part of the multiple sanctions Biden has levied against officials of Hamas, the terrorist group that launched the war with a wave of massacres on Oct. 7.
“Since October 7, the United States has issued five rounds of sanctions against Hamas, including the most recent round of sanctions against Hamas last week,” the White House said in a statement. “President Biden has also spoken about his concern about the rise in violence that we have seen in the West Bank from extremist actors — in particular the rise in extremist settler violence, which reached record levels in 2023. This violence poses a grave threat to peace, security, and stability in the West Bank, Israel, and the Middle East region, and threatens the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States.”
The sanctions essentially bar the four from transactions that involve the U.S. financial system, and make it nearly impossible for them to carry out business with U.S. dollars.
The United Nations Office of Humanitarian Affairs has reported that settlers, or settlers joined with Israeli forces, have killed 10 Palestinians and wounded 137 since Oct. 7.
The four named settlers are: David Chai Chasdai, who allegedly led a riot in the Palestinian village of Huwara, which resulted in the death of a Palestinian; Shalom Zicherman, who allegedly attacked Israeli peace activists in the West Bank; Yinon Levy, who allegedly intimidated and assaulted Palestinians with the aim of driving them from lands where they lived and farmed; and Einan Tanjil, who allegedly assaulted Palestinians and Israeli peace activists.
Biden has held Israel tight since the launch of the war, accelerating arms transfers, relaying troop ships to the region to deter others from joining the war, and leading airstrikes against Houthi militants in Yemen who in solidarity with the Palestinians have been targeting commercial ships headed for Israel’s Eilat port.
But he has also grown increasingly exasperated with Netanyahu, who has defied any post-war scenario that would lead to Palestinian statehood, a key Biden priority. Netanyahu was slow to respond to U..S. requests to accelerate the entry of humanitarian assistance into the Gaza Strip and to conduct a more targeted war inside Gaza.
More than 26,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since Israel launched counterstrikes after Hamas killed 1,200 people, brutalized thousands more and took more than 250 people hostage. Israel says a third of the Palestinian dead are combatants. The strip is on the verge of mass famine, international aid organizations have said, most of its homes are destroyed and most of its people are displaced.
Most galling to Biden however, has been Netanyahu’s unwillingness or inability to rein in extremists in his Cabinet, whom Biden called on Netanyahu to disavow before the war, and to control accelerated anti-Palestinian violence in the West Bank.
Biden reportedly considered adding to the sanctions list Itamar Ben-Gvir, the national security minister who has armed settlers with few restrictions since Oct. 7, and who has been convicted of terrorist-related activity. He decided against it, Axios reported. Biden also considered sanctioning Bezalel Smotrich, the far-right minister responsible for the West Bank.
Smotrich lashed out at the order on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, saying without evidence that it targeted the entire settlement movement.
“The ‘settler violence’ campaign is an antisemitic lie spread by the enemies of Israel to smear and harm the movement of settler pioneers,” Smotrich said. “Too bad the Biden administration is participating in this action while settlers are paying a steep price in the blood of their children in the war in Gaza.”
Smotrich said he would not stop in his efforts to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state and to expand settlement. “If the price I pay is American sanctions imposed on me, so be it,” he said.
The Biden administration in December levied visa restrictions on settlers found to be involved in attacks, but to little effect.
A senior administration official, briefing reporters on Thursday just before the executive order was released, suggested that Biden was frustrated with the deaf ear that Netanyahu seems to have turned to the pleas of Israel’s most important ally.
“The president has also spoken about his concern repeatedly and consistently publicly and also in almost every diplomatic conversation he has with Israeli leaders about the rise in violence that we have seen in the West Bank from extremist factors,” the officials said. “And these actions pose a grave threat to peace, security and stability in the West Bank, Israel, and the Middle East region, and they also obstruct the realization of ultimately, an independent Palestinian state sitting side by side with the State of Israel.”
The order came on the day Biden traveled to campaign for reelection in Michigan, a key swing state where he overwhelmingly won the substantial Arab American vote in 2020. There is an organized campaign in the state to persuade voters to vote neither for Biden or for his presumptive rival, former President Donald Trump, because of anger with Biden over his support for Israel.
It was not immediately clear if any of the four named settlers have U.S. ties, but the order puts on notice any organization in the United States found to have funded any movement associated with the violence.
Individuals or organizations found “to have materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of, any person blocked pursuant to the order” will face the same sanctions, the order said.