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Brooklyn gyms have an answer to antisemitism: teaching Jews to fight back

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(New York Jewish Week) — Emanuel Landsman, a Lubavitch father of five who lives in Crown Heights, found the recent rise in antisemitic attacks to be very concerning. But instead of being afraid, he decided to learn how to fight.

Over the past three years, Landsman has become proficient in the Israeli martial art known as Krav Maga (literally, “close combat”). “I’m a visibly Jewish man,” Landsman told the New York Jewish Week. “I came to train because of all the antisemitic attacks and what was going on around us. I would get hollered at by cars driving by. My kid came home and said others were walking down the street and yelling at him.” 

Recently, high-intensity self-defense classes have been popping up in Jewish neighborhoods in Brooklyn, specifically in response to street attacks on Orthodox residents. Last week, an analysis of NYPD data by the Times of Israel showed that antisemitic incidents in New York City have doubled over the past two years.

Landsman learned to fight with a training program called Legion, which has previously held Krav Maga classes in Manhattan and Connecticut. Next month, Legion is making its first post-pandemic expansion to Brooklyn; weekly classes will take place at the Beth-El Jewish Center, a synagogue in Flatbush.

“It’s not a requirement to join our class, but the majority of our members are Jewish,” Legion’s president and former Israeli Defense Forces soldier Corey Feldman told the New York Jewish Week. “Our logo is a Jewish star. It’s pretty obvious who we are and what we stand for.” 

Jews are attacked because we’re seen as vulnerable targets. Join Legion Self Defense & send a message to criminals: “you can no longer attack me & expect me not to defend myself.” I had the opportunity to participate in the program for 2.5 years, & acquired life changing skills. pic.twitter.com/bOnAbnwbPF

— Councilwoman Inna Vernikov (@InnaVernikov) January 8, 2023

 

Feldman added that he is seeing more of a demand for these classes, which include separate classes for men and women, and a mixed class as well. “We already have 40 people in New York City, with many more that wanted to join, but we didn’t have room to accommodate.” Feldman said, adding that as antisemitic attacks on Jews increase, people are “aware of the need for this.”

“We believe that the best way to confront that is deterrence,” Feldman said. “We want to make sure you’re going to think twice before you start pushing that guy on the subway who is wearing a kippah.” 

In Legion classes, members work up a sweat through a mix of high-intensity workouts that include punching, kicking, grappling and other forms of martial arts.

The new Legion classes in Brooklyn will be held in City Council member Inna Vernikov’s district, which encompasses parts of Brighton Beach, Sheepshead Bay and Midwood. She told the New York Jewish Week that she’s “very involved” with Legion; she has taken Legion classes herself and said she is working to provide discretionary funding from her district office this year, although she declined to discuss specifics.

“It’s extremely important that every single Jew, especially visibly Orthodox Jews, do this,” Vernikov said. “I’ve seen small, petite women train and gain life-changing skills. You develop an attitude and a confidence that if you walk down the street and use the skills properly, the attacker will avoid you.” 

Another Krav Maga program serving Brooklyn Jews is Guardian Self Defense, which was started by Joe Richards, a Jew from Long Island. In 2019, he rented out a room in a Crown Heights yeshiva to teach members of the local community how to fight.

“Across the hall they were having a bar mitzvah,” Richards told the New York Jewish Week. “And then there was us training. We ran these 45 guys hard and pushed them.” 

Since then, Richards said he now teaches hundreds of Jewish students through his program. In Crown Heights, he runs three weekly classes for the Lubavitch community in space rented at the local outpost of the gym chain Crunch. GSD also has other locations in Manhattan, Long Island and Florida.

Richards said he started his Brooklyn classes after seeing videos of attacks on people wearing the distinct dress of Orthodox Jews. “Let me bring the training to the area where this is happening,” Richards said. “There were no freaking gyms there. I went into the community and recruited them [students]. And now the people [students] are doing all the recruiting because it’s so popular.” 

Members of Shomrim, a neighborhood watch organization in the Orthodox community, are using Krav Maga training to learn how to defend themselves in the field.

Crown Heights Shomrim member Ben Cousin, who trains regularly with GSD, told the New York Jewish Week that “ordinary people” are now learning how to fight in his community through these programs. “They have been victims of antisemitic attacks,” Cousin said. “Some of them have seen it, they feel it, but they are joining because they feel they have to stand up for themselves.”

A Guardian Self Defense fighting class in Crown Heights. (Courtesy)

Cousin spoke about how the GSD teaches “de-escalation” tactics, and is not just about fighting. He told a story about when he was on patrol with Shomrim and his team confronted a man after a robbery. “He pushed me,” Cousin said. “Instead of pushing him back, I said, ‘I don’t want to fight you.’ I calmed him down. I apologized. That comes from the training — I don’t want to fight, but I’m ready, just in case.” 

“This is a last resort program,” he added. “If you put your hands on us, we will remind you that Jewish blood is not cheap.”

Like Legion’s Feldman, Richards is gearing up for a new group of GSD trainees this year who have heard about his Krav Maga program. Richards is the grandchild of four Holocaust survivors and compared the current rise in antisemitism to what his grandparents experienced.

“The Jews are being targeted everywhere — verbally, online, physically. From the right and left, we are now under siege,” Richards said. “If you’re visibly Jewish, you have a double target on your back. We don’t have the luxury of trying to plan what we should do. Everybody should be taking action.”

“There are plenty of people in this class who had never thrown a punch in their life,” Landsman said of his training with Legion. “I’m not asking you to join the UFC [the mixed martial arts league], but you need to be able to stand your ground and unfreeze yourself when somebody is threatening you with violence. You need to know when to run or when there is no retreat and you have to defend yourself.” 


The post Brooklyn gyms have an answer to antisemitism: teaching Jews to fight back appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Obituaries

PHYLLIS POLLOCK

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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.

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Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary

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By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”

Raquel Dancho (left), Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St.Paul, and Nikki Spigelman, President, Gwen Secter Centre


Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)

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Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station

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This is a developing story.

(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.

An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.

Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.

The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.

The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to  transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.

Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.


The post Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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