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Joseph Borgen was beaten in the streets while wearing a kippah. Now, he’s fighting in the NYC court system



(New York Jewish Week) — Before Joseph Borgen was beaten in the street nearly two years ago, on the way to a pro-Israel rally, he enjoyed playing basketball after returning home to the Upper East Side from his day job as an accountant. 

In the time since Borgen, now 30, was attacked, that hasn’t been possible. The incident — in which five men shouting antisemitic slurs punched, kicked, pepper-sprayed and beat Borgen with crutches — left him needing surgery on his wrist. Only recently has he started going back to the gym. 

“It’s something that is still lingering and I’d love to put it in my rearview,” Borgen, who is the eldest of five siblings, told the New York Jewish Week. “It doesn’t just only affect me. My little brother was seeing me on the news. He’s still a kid. We’re very close.” 

The attack on Borgen drew national attention, and came amid a string of antisemitic assaults in the United States surrounding the May 2021 conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. Now, Borgen is caught in a conflict of a different kind, one that illustrates the long tail of hate crimes that have faded from public consciousness. He doesn’t want the beating to define him, but finds that its after-effects have festered — and that a controversy over the ensuing trial of his alleged attackers has spurred him to become a passionate, if ambivalent, advocate against antisemitism.

“There is some value and good in speaking about what happened and just getting the message out there,” Borgen said. “But it’s not something I want to harp on.”

Joey Borgen, victim of a violent antisemitic attack last yr which took place few blocks from Times Square, said “The attack on me was no isolated incident.  Pittsburgh to Poway to across the river in NJ— violent, deadly antisemtism is increasing to record levels”#ShineALight

— JCRC of New York (@JCRCNY) November 29, 2021

Borgen was walking to a pro-Israel rally when he was attacked in the street in midtown Manhattan on May 20, 2021 — the same day Hamas and Israel announced a ceasefire after 11 days of conflict. A blurry video of the attack that circulated on social media showed a small crowd of men surrounding Borgen, kicking him and beating him with sticks. A photo of Borgen from later that night shows Borgen with a puffy red face, and wearing a neck brace. 

“I was just wearing a kippah, listening to music, just minding my own business — and it all just erupted,” Borgen said, recalling the incident. “Before I can even really react or do anything, there’s a group of individuals surrounding me. I didn’t have the time to process what was going on.” 

Borgen is still facing those who have been accused of attacking him — but that confrontation has moved to the courts. The lead perpetrator, Waseem Awawdeh, was charged with hate crime assault, along with a list of other charges. The case is still in process, and the next hearing is on April 20.

“I can’t even tell you how hard personally I’ve been fighting for this,” Borgen told the New York Jewish Week. “If there’s no accountability or consequences of what took place, what happened to me is going to happen to someone else.” 

Borgen is currently worried that Awawdeh will go to prison for a small fraction of the maximum sentence he faces, which, according to Borgen’s attorney, is 15 years. That concern stems from reports in the New York Post and New York Sun that Manhattan D.A. Alvin Bragg offered Awawdeh a six-month plea deal

Those reports have sparked a chorus of criticism, as well as a letter to Bragg by nearly two dozen groups lobbying against the deal. The signatories were a mix of right-wing, pro-Israel and Orthodox groups, including the Rabbinical Council of America, an association for Orthodox rabbis; the Zionist Organization of America, a right-wing organization; and Americans Against Antisemitism, a group founded by former New York State Assemblymember Dov Hikind, who represented a Brooklyn district.

“Failing to impose severe consequences here would send the dangerous and unacceptable message that Jews can be brutally attacked with impunity,” said the letter, which was sent earlier this month. 

Hikind told the New York Jewish Week that he wants more Jews to vocally support Borgen. “We need to fill the courtroom,” Hikind said. “Unfortunately, we’re just not there. The community needs to come out.” 

The six-month deal, however, seems like far from a sure thing. Awawdeh’s lawyer, Peter Marc Frankel, confirmed the deal to the Post in January, as did prosecutors on the case. But speaking to the New York Jewish Week on Monday, Frankel said he was unsure if the deal would come to fruition.

“I don’t know if it’s going to happen, frankly,” Frankel said. “It’s unclear at this point. I don’t know if it’s going to be a six-month deal, but I would not expect a shorter deal, certainly.”

The deal has not yet been openly discussed in court, and Borgen’s lawyer, Ross Pearlson, who is representing his client pro-bono on behalf of the Anti-Defamation League, told the New York Jewish Week that “it’s not clear” if the six-month deal will hold. 

“I’m unaware of any offers being made,” Pearlson said. “I believe that a year would be more appropriate. Six months to me still seems a little light considering the mob violence and the damage that was done to [Borgen].” 

Bragg’s office declined to comment on the deal. The ADL likewise did not respond to requests for comment on the case. 

Shortly after the attack, in 2021, a prosecutor on the case said that Awawdeh had told one of his jailers, “If I could do it again, I would do it again,” according to the Post. But Frankel told the New York Jewish Week that “that quote was taken completely out of context” and that Awawdeh has offered to meet and apologize to Borgen. He also met with the prosecutors to explain how remorseful he felt.

“[Awawdeh’s] behavior was the result of bad impulse control and a bad reaction to a bad situation, rather than an effort to try to seek someone out who is Jewish to commit a hate crime,” Frankel said.

Borgen said that any offer Awawdeh made to apologize is “news to me” and would be “surprising” given Awawdeh’s previous conduct. He said that while he would like to move on from the incident, he understands that “applying public pressure to the D.A.’s office” is important for ensuring accountability. He called the Jewish groups advocating for him “the biggest support network I have.”
“It would be kind of shocking if they offer [Awawdeh] six months,” Borgen said. “At no point has he shown any remorse. When people think of this case, they think of this guy. All of these factors make people like myself more resolute in pursuing justice.”

Pearlson added that Borgen “has been traumatized by this event.”

“He’s very emotional when I speak to him about it,” Pearlson said. “He gets agitated for each one of these court appearances. When we talk about the case, he’s passionate about it.” 

There are now five defendants in the case, including Awawdeh, and the D.A.’s office is treating them differently based on their alleged respective roles in the beating.  

“Justice is not one size fits all,” Pearlson said. “It doesn’t move quickly, but in this case, it’s not the D.A.’s office delaying things or dragging its heels. There’s going to be some element of justice done.” 

The fact that Borgen’s case is being prosecuted at all puts it in the minority of hate crimes complaints in Manhattan. According to NYPD statistics, police precincts in the borough received 241 hate crime complaints in 2022, and made 118 arrests based on those complaints. 

Bragg’s office told the New York Jewish Week that 92 hate crimes were prosecuted in Manhattan last year.  His office currently has 20 open hate crime cases related to antisemitism for this year. A report last year in The City, a local publication, found that most hate crimes charges are dropped before any convictions take place.  

Although Borgen remains involved in the case, and has spoken about his experience publicly, he suggested that it was still hard to think about.

“Some people have said, ‘God only put you through this because you can handle it,’” said Borgen, who is modern Orthodox and puts on tefillin daily. “But if I start to think about it in those terms, I don’t want to go there. I don’t want to let it factor into my views on God and spirituality because if I did, it might make me start to question and wonder about things. I don’t want to go down that road.” 

On March 9, Borgen appeared in court, sitting in the same room as his alleged attackers. While he could not comment on the specifics of the hearing, not wanting to impact court proceedings, he said that “it sucks to be in the same room as individuals who could have killed me.” 

“I don’t like going to court,” Borgen said. “I do it because when I’m there with other people, a large group of Jewish individuals, it sends a message that we’re not lying down and taking this.” 

The post Joseph Borgen was beaten in the streets while wearing a kippah. Now, he’s fighting in the NYC court system appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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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



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



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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