By Schmoel Yitzhak
During the New York City administration of David Dinkins a series of assaults by Blacks on Jews in the Bedford-Stuyvesant-Crown Heights neighborhood left many friends and relatives in fear of their safety.
Under Dinkins, some Jews believed -- based on the Crown Heights Riots -- that the New York police offered only token protection.
In previous decades the typical Jewish response became fleeing to the suburbs. But this time a conspicuously different reaction took place and one man -- above all -- was responsible.
Rabbi Meir Kahane was not one for turning the other cheek nor allowing his flock -- and other fellow Jews -- to be intimidated by any group bent on assaulting them.
Rather than be cowed by neighborhood ruffians, the rabbi followed a page out of the Warsaw Ghetto Fighters book not to mention that of Jews who fought back at Treblinka and other Nazi country clubs where a Jew either had the luxury of dying or becoming a semi-dead slave laborer.
Kahane named his group The Jewish Defense League, as apt a monicker as ever there was one and it soon put its actions where its label was. The JDL battled any individual or mob that fussed around with its people.
By their works, the JDL earned the respect from its enemies for a pure and simple reason; those who made trouble for the Jews would get trouble in return; sometimes even BIGGER trouble.
Sure enough, the rabbi got results. No longer were Jews in Crown Heights-Bedford Stuyvesant easy prey and, soon, Kahane became a hero to his people; except for one thing.
This clergyman was not behaving in the manner of ninety-nine and forty-four one-hundreth’s percent of his fellow rabbis. (And that especially means the Reformed and Conservative Nervous Nellies.) Not surprisingly, the JDL found itself up against two significant groups.
On the one hand there were some Gentiles who have never liked the idea of tough Jews. (Cowering Jews, yes, militant Jews, no!) And on the other hand, there was the Rabbi Stephen Wise-type Jewish Establishment which found the JDL an embarrassment to their Good Housekeeping ideals.
This Jewish bloc would turn its other cheek until it was black-and-blue and then broken.
Thus, wishy-washy media outlets such as the New York Times took umbrage over the JDL's tactics and purpose. Kahane was branded everything from vigilante to racist; sort of a madman-without-portfolio.
Once again, the media was wrong, a fact that I discovered after interviewing him during his New York stint. I found him to be affable, intelligent, insightful and indomitable in his pursuit of protection for any embattled Jew in his community.
Kahane was assassinated in November, 1990 by an Egyptian American named El Sayyid Nosair. Charged and then Acquitted of the assassination, Nosair went on to be an accomplice in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, under interrogation he finally admitted to the assassination of Kahane.
Indubitably, the Arabs knew that Kahane was someone to be feared for his principles and actions.
Interestingly, a similar -- but not Jewish -- group later was spawned in New York by a chap named Curtis Sliwa. To protect subway riders and others who might be vulnerable to punks, et. al., Sliwa organized a brigade called The Guardian Angels.
Sliwa’s work was so appreciated by his fellow New Yorkers that he became a celebrity with a regular radio show. To this day, Sliwa and his GA operate with impunity and considerably less criticism than the JDL previously did.
Fortunately the spirit of Meir Kahane has survived in various parts of the Jewish world where help is needed: France, for example.
While many embattled French Jews have long since fled to Israel, a major bloc remains and for their protection the French Jewish Defense League was formed; and be sure, it is no more namby-pamby about protection than its Brooklyn predecessor.
What's more, the French JDL not only is sensitive to Jewish protective needs in its homeland but in Israel as well. And that explains why it is sending a portion of its membership to Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria who face possible confrontations with hostile Arabs when the Palestinian bid for United Nations recognition in the General Assembly vote is taken on September 20th.
This is a commendable, protective move, no less admirable than Rabbi Kahane's in Brooklyn nor that of pre-World War II Jews who physically broke up anti-semitic German-American (Nazi) Bund rallies in Manhattan's Yorkville and Brooklyn's Ridgewood sections.
But like the earlier Jewish fighters, the French group already has been media-maligned as "extremist" and other political slurs so easily hurled by Quisling-Jewish publications such as Haaretz, which often cannot be distinguished from its Arabic cousin, Al Jazeera.
Bear in mind that the Franco-Jewish version of Kahane's JDL is coming not to attack Arabs but rather to enhance the safety of Jews who might come under attack -- as many believe will happen -- by our enemies.
The French JDL is to be commended for its concern for Israel and willingness to step forward in a time of need.
If Meir Kahane was around today to see his disciples in action, he would get a good case of nachas!