Just over a year ago, on November 29, 2018, the Queens community was rocked by the devastating, ruthless, and unwarranted beating of David, an innocent Bukharian youth at 64th Road and 108th Street. His crime being simply that of his heritage – a member of our Jewish tribe. The gruesome pictures of its aftermath circulated all facets of media like wildfire, bringing the most hardened individuals to tears.
Manny Krausz, a humble business consultant from the Borough Park section of Brooklyn, was particularly impacted by the horrific images of the youth beaten and battered on a stretcher, and yearned to bring solace. Krausz explains that “it is the responsibility of each Jewish individual to respond and gather the strength to fight back at acts of anti-Semitism in our midst. When an individual or community faces unexpected times of darkness, we must accept the task to turn these moments into those of laughter and delight.”
The Midrash L’man Achai yeshivah student, then just 16 years old, was the lone victim following a rash of altercations originating at Forest Hills High School. Over three days, non-Jewish student groups marched along 108th Street in Forest Hills allegedly seeking to inflict harm upon vulnerable Jews. To facilitate a plan to combat the rising anti-Semitism in the area, the Beth Gavriel Community Center hosted a meeting of community leaders and politicians, where Rabbi Levi Mushaiev, an administrator at the boy’s yeshivah, reported, “He stays the furthest out of trouble and has no affiliation to the teenagers at Forest Hills High School.”
As Chanukah approached, Krausz took it upon himself to celebrate the yeshivah boy’s successful recovery and presented him with a stunning silver menorah at a gathering of family and friends. “When a Jew gets attacked, the Jewish people must unite and share in the responsibilities of one another overcoming their troubles.” Krausz explained that the menorah’s light is a symbol of hope in times of darkness, and this gift was the most appropriate for a man beginning his journey of life. As another gesture to help this victim begin his life anew, Quality Leasing, with the encouragement of Krausz, arranged for a free car lease, allowing David the opportunity to travel to his place of employment on Long Island and earn a respectable living. The pair intend to retain a connection in the coming months and years and share in one another’s celebrations.
In his formative years, Krausz heard stories within his own family of anti-Semitism. In Hungary, his revered grandfather was knocked to the ground and left unconscious, unable to speak for days, merely because he was a Jew. “No child should be subject to deal with the anguish of anti-Semitic victimization,” championed Krausz. After the war, their family moved to Argentina and later immigrated to Williamsburg, around 1960, when his father served as rav of Congregation Kahal Raatsfert, operating out of their home. Unity, strength, and resolve were the overall lessons engrained in Krausz throughout his life.
The Krausz family again suffered the aftermath of an alleged anti-Semitism attack. On July 21, 1975, The New York Times reported the untimely passing of Krausz’s 19-year-old brother Schmiel Dovid, who was gunned down by a group of similarly aged teenagers as he headed to a melaveh malkah in the dining hall of the Satmar summer camp Rav Tov in Ellenville, New York.
Being a Good Samaritan comes second nature to Krausz, and the miracle of Chanukah once again prevailed. Around the same time as the attack on the Bukharian yeshivah boy, another widely publicized anti-Semitic incident unraveled in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, at Throop Avenue and Walton Street, where Shlomo Zalman, a young chasidic child all of 11 years old, was pushed to the ground by a hooligan shouting, “You dirty Jew,” resulting in painful injuries including a fractured nose. To help subside the horrid trauma of the attack, Krausz, who had no previous connection to the boy, took the boy, joined by his parents and sister, to Toys 2 Discover on Lee Avenue, hoping to counter the hate and bring the victim cheer and happiness. Krausz detailed to the Bukharian Jewish Link that Shlomo Zalman had been asking his mother for an expensive gas station toy set. She explained that they had ample toys, but he could request of Hashem to grant his wish on condition that he would publicize the results of his prayers when answered. The messenger knocking on the door was Krausz announcing, “Shlomo Zalman, you are going on a trip.” This journey helped get Shlomo Zalman out of a depression as he was able to share his experience together with yet another victim of anti-Semitism, aided by Krausz’s generosity, who joined for the early Chanukah shopping spree.
Several years prior, three Hispanics targeted Dovid, a seven-year-old chasidic child on the opposite end of Williamsburg. In that nightmare, they knocked off Dovid’s yarmulke, pulled his pei’os, and pushed him out of an elevator. After an extensive search, Krausz discovered his identity and took him on a shopping spree to a local toy store. The boy made sure to pick toys for all his family members, ensuring nobody would be insulted. The family kept up a relationship with their benefactor, enabling Krausz to locate the family of the subsequent victim.
Krausz explains that Jewish people must rally together and be compassionate and responsible for one another, as we are not an average nation. We must ensure that anti-Semitism backfires on its perpetrators.
No New Yorker should ever feel uneasy or threatened in any manner when strolling through one of our local parks or traveling about our lives. As a Jew, we should be proud to don our yarmulke in any environment as it symbolizes acknowledgment, devotion, and trepidation before our Creator.
The new chilling norm in New York City follows a rise of over 85% in hate crimes this past year alone. A woman was arrested and later released for assaulting three Jewish women, then again booked and freed for battering someone else. Our criminal system is in utter disarray. If an accused criminal is set free repeatedly, what is stopping the spread of anti-Semitism if there are no repercussions? From targeted attacks on those being chased down and beaten while dressed in traditional chasidic garb to those proudly wearing their kipah and tzitzis being ridiculed, tormented, and stripped of their Jewish identity. It remains clear that the education simply is not there to steer those with a warped sense of mind to the humane morals of society. As a community, we must decide on drastic action today and thwart a rise in anti-Semitism, or we will only watch the cancer spread beyond healing.
We are reminded on a constant basis of Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue that was subject to the face of hate as 11 innocent Jews were slain in cold blood on a Shabbos morning as congregants gathered to say the Yizkor service for their dearly departed family. Then the Jewish nation reflects on the massacre in the Jersey City kosher supermarket, where a new neighborhood is still encased in fear, and the storekeeper and others were sent to the olam ha’emes simply because they were affiliated with the Jewish faith.
One may ponder how the United States, a land many of our proud and dignified Jewish ancestors sought as refuge to rebuild their lives from the war-torn ruins of Europe, now harbors such divide. These Jews, who were of various backgrounds and walks of life, all found America as their haven. Today, a Jew-hatred persists from elected politicians to diplomats, journalists, playwrights, to everyday folk of all ages and backgrounds. Jews in our country are not conflicted on their allegiance to the flag of our faithful country, yet we are shocked and devastated each day as we awake to find another attack claiming a Jewish life or bloodshed on our streets or on the floors of our homes as was the case in Monsey on the seventh night of Chanukah. This blatant hatred does not just consume the lives of our Jewish brethren, it constitutes and ever-present danger for all citizens of our sacred country. If our world is to be rid of the Jewish people, it will ultimately be rid of humanity.
Joseph Stalin despised Jews, yet he killed 40 million of his own citizens; Adolf Hitler detested Jews, yet he facilitated in the death of countless Germans during the time of the Holocaust. In the modern-day world, we hear of the terrors in Iran and Syria led by the Hamas, ISIS, and Hezbollah forces. These groups abhor the very existence of Jews, yet they allow countless of their own to suffer and perish. Anti-Semitism has long been a part of us, and as a testament to our history we must stand up to its evil with strength and courage, dignity, and resoluteness as we remain a part of history after thousands of years of these ferocious pains. As a Jewish nation, we understand that a vital essence of our eternity is a commitment to the continuity of Judaism alongside our history and faith. We just concluded the holiday of Chanukah, where we continue to let the flames and hopes of a time long ago console us in our homes, because as a Jew we understand that if we keep our customs and lifestyles alive, we in turn allow our children to continue fanning the flames of Yiddishkeit. In the words of singing sensation Benny Friedman, “I’m a Jew and every Jew’s a proud Jew… Never be ashamed to be a proud Jew… Spread the pride around you… Yehudi ani, eternally!”
Krausz proclaims a message to Jewish haters: “We must rise up and be prouder of our Jewish identity, determined not to give up, and be more resilient. We each must roll up our sleeves and show more compassion to victims of anti-Semitism, and help them lead a happier, pain-free life, forgetting the darkness they once experienced.”
By Shabsie Saphirstein