(JTA) – A Michigan man who allegedly threatened and harassed congregants at a Detroit-area synagogue uttered antisemitic slurs at the magistrate who arraigned him on Monday.
Meanwhile, the synagogue where the incident took place is planning events to help community members process both their trauma and their concern about how local police handled the incident.
Hassan Chokr, a Dearborn resident, remained in custody in Bloomfield Township after being arrested on Sunday, two days after he yelled antisemitic and anti-Israel invective outside Temple Beth El while parents were dropping off their children at its early childhood education center. After the incident drew widespread attention, including because of a video apparently filmed by Chokr of his conversation with police immediately following his departure from Beth El, he was arrested at his home and charged with two counts of ethnic intimidation.
As Magistrate Julie Nelson-Klein set a bond of $1 million for his release on Monday and outlined conditions if he is able to meet it, Chokr called her a “Jewish b—-_” and “Zionist b—-,” the Detroit Free Press reported. (Nelson-Klein is Jewish.) Court officials frequently muted Chokr, who appeared via video, as he ranted about God punishing the magistrate.
Chokr, who pleaded not guilty, had told congregants they were going to die, witnesses from Beth El reported. He also had delivered a string of profanities to families as he demanded to know whether they supported Israel, saying, “Do you support Israel? How dare you. F— Israel and Jews,” and hurled racist language at a member of the synagogue’s security staff who tried to get him to leave.
Temple Beth El Rabbi Mark Miller has been counseling families since the incident. He told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that “there is a mixture of anger and sadness” within the congregation.
Since Chokr’s harassment of the synagogue, he said, some of the children who were present saw a white truck parked outside and asked their parents, “Is that that man again?”
Chokr’s next hearing related to his actions outside Temple Beth El is set for Dec. 15. He also has an extensive criminal record and is also in the middle of prosecution in another case, where he has been charged with assault with a dangerous weapon and assaulting or obstructing a police officer, according to the Free Press. His Instagram page, which indicates that a previous version had been removed, contains multiple videos showing him making antisemitic comments; a highlight is called “F— the Jew.”
Miller said he and others in the congregation remained concerned about how the local police had handled the incident. Police officers had initially engaged with Chokr in a friendly manner and let him go free from a traffic stop even after he said he was heading to another synagogue — behavior that was captured on video and shared online by a prominent antisemitism watchdog. He was not arrested for two days.
“I have a hard time wrapping my head around the idea that, after what this guy did and said, he shouldn’t have been immediately in custody,” Miller said. “It makes me uncomfortable.”
The Bloomfield Township Police Department has defended its actions, saying in a statement that officers had deployed tactics meant to de-escalate conflict and “were able to assess that subsequent to the traffic stop the subject would not be an imminent threat to the community.” But a top lieutenant also acknowledged that locals were unnerved by the video and the police practices it captured, telling the Free Press on Sunday, “There are some concerns about that.”
Miller said his congregants have “some residual anger at the police” because of the traffic stop video, even now that Chokr is in custody. “Whether the police process was right or wrong, it feels really bad.”
Temple Beth El plans to hold a parent forum with a trauma and resiliency expert this week. Following that, Miller said, there will be a community-wide forum about law enforcement’s response to reports of antisemitism.
Miller took stock in the fact that the Jewish community has shown “resiliency” throughout the ordeal. “The same day that this happened,” he said, “we had an incredible Shabbat with a musical guest.”
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.
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.”
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.)
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.
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