Early this morning, technically the middle of the night, a “mentally deranged” Black man walked into 770 and said something like “Kill all the Jews” and proceeded to stab a 22-year-old Jew who was learning in the shul. He stabbed him in the back of the neck, near his ear. Levi Rosenblat, the kvutza bocher from Beitar in Israel, was taken to Kings County Hospital, and then was transferred to a Manhattan hospital where he is undergoing emergency surgery for brain injuries. Calvin Peters, the 49-year-old attacker from either Brooklyn or Valley Stream or both, was shot by police when he refused to put down his knife. Peters later died of the gun shot wound.
Bocherim report that Peters had been skulking around 770 asking weird questions about where and when learning takes place in the shul at about 5:30 PM, and had been chased away. When Peters returned at 1:45 AM, he appeared to be on heavy drugs and mentally unwell. For the record, he had no previously existing beef with Rosenblat as the two men didn’t know each other. The motive, as far as anyone has reported, seems to be a combination of “Kill all the Jews” and mental derangement/heavy drugs. What is being reported is that it does not appear to be an organized terrorist attack.
As a resident of Crown Heights and a Lubavitcher who works in an office above 770, and also as an Israeli (I have dual citizenship) and as a straight-sighted, take-no-crap kind of person, I have a few things to say about this.
1. Jews need to learn physical self-defense.
I mean Jews of all colors and all nationalities need to learn self-defense. I don’t care if you are white, black, mizrachi, religious, Chinese, Indian, Persian, assimilated, or living under the black hat of Brooklyn, you need to know one thing: The IDF and those two Jewish boxers cannot be the only Jews who know how to fight back. I personally took a self-defense course at PREPARE, INC. in Manhattan after witnessing some rather spine-tingling anti-semitism in Brooklyn when I first moved here. As I like to say, I felt safer hitchhiking through Gush Etzion than I do walking through Brooklyn. The incident in particular that drove me to take the self-defense course was on September 11, 2012 when a man on the 4-train stared right at me (I was the only Jew on the train) while lecturing the train about how he personally was going to perpetrate the next “9/11” and that the Zionists and Jews were on his target list. I now know that if this guy had come at me, I could disable him in a few moves using my lower-body strength and no weapons. Don’t be a wimp. Learn how to fight. I don’t care if you take a class like I took or Krav Maga, just do something.
2. Why? Psychos are everywhere and nothing exists outside of culture and politics.
Does it matter what the mental health status of an attacker is? Is anyone who kills out of anything other than self-defense “healthy”? Do you honestly feel better because everybody is reporting that Peters was emotionally disturbed? Sure, it has yet to be reported that he was put up to the stabbing by a terrorist organization, but clearly he was influenced by attacks like those in Har Nof and Mercaz HaRav. It’s myopic to say that because Peters was mentally unstable, the attack was somehow isolated from worldwide and specifically Palestinian attacks on Jews.
When was the last time you met someone who wasn’t either addicted to something, traumatized in some way, actually diagnosed with a mental illness, or just consistently acting the fool and making the same bad decisions over and over? When was the last time you met a single person who at some point in life was neither ready to break nor pissed at a whole population of people? Never, that’s when. We don’t exist in a vacuum. Mental wellness/illness is informed by culture and politics as much as it is informed by chemistry. Nature and nurture work together. Can any stabber/shooter/kicker/biter actually be called “mentally well”?
3. This is a really bad time for infighting.
A stabbing of a Yid in 770 really puts the whole “yechi” vs. “not yechi” balagan into perspective, doesn’t it? I’m not trying to be kumbaya about this. ISIS has a pretty unified mission statement. Hamas has a pretty clear mission statement. They have no problem attracting people to join their ranks. Jews, on the other hand, are like, “I want to be on the right side of history. I blame YOU for all our problems, because you are religious/charedi/assimilated/reform/Zionist/not-Zionist/Labor/Likud/Shas/yechi/not-yechi/whatever.” In short, the approach of blaming other Jews for all of our problems as a small, globally-distributed, rather unusual nation is not working. But the clarity and vision of absolute truth and strength that ISIS and Hamas offer in our fragmented, post-everything world is even attracting the most staunch anti-establishmentarians, even though it is a literally totalitarian, murderous and female-enslaving philosophy.
I don’t care who didn’t invite you to a Shabbos lunch. I don’t care if your Hebrew school stunk. I don’t care if the Jewish education system is rotten, if your “heimish” boss is making your life miserable, if other Jews excluded you or made you feel like an undignified piece of crap for your whole childhood. I don’t care if charedim are on welfare. I don’t care if your slumlord is Jewish. I don’t care if your Jewish mother made you feel guilty but your shiksa wife makes you feel loved. I don’t care if you’re “culturally Jewish, but not religiously”. I don’t care if you are a “Woman of the Wall”. Now isn’t the time in history to point fingers and to shirk responsibility.
Learn how to fight back so that we stop looking like easy victims. Acknowledge that anti-Semitism is rampant, and that mental stability is at an all-time low. And for, literally, the love of G-d, get a mission statement. Not a mission statement to push your own personal agenda, but a mission statement as an honest-to-goodness Jew who believes in ONE G-d and in ONE people.