(JTA) — Just one day after his arrest for inciting a riot, Heshy Tischler, the leader of Orthodox Brooklyn’s protests against new restrictions to stem new COVID cases, was out of jail and addressing a small crowd in front of his Borough Park home.
“I don’t condone violence, I do not want anyone to be violent,” he said, addressing the crowd over a sound system from his front steps. “I want everyone to enjoy us, what we’re going to do. We’re going to continue our fight.”
The short speech came after a tumultuous few days for Tischler and his supporters. After he led a mob of protesters in cornering Jacob Kornbluh, a political reporter at Jewish Insider and a member of the Hasidic community in Borough Park, at a protest last Wednesday, Tischler announced Friday afternoon that he would be arrested Monday morning. But on Sunday night, police officers arrested him at his home. The Brooklyn District Attorney charged Tischler with inciting a riot and unlawful imprisonment in connection to the incident with Kornbluh. He was released without bail.
Also on Sunday night, Tischler’s supporters gathered outside Kornbluh’s home, yelling the word “moser,” Hebrew for informant. Some Jewish legal texts say a “moser” is liable to the death penalty, making it a threatening designation. Kornbluh had been called a “moser” back in April after speaking out about the need to wear masks and observe social distancing.
Tischler has emerged as the leader of a protest movement, largely composed of young men on a Sukkot vacation from yeshiva that could extend for weeks if the governor keeps schools closed to stop the spread of the coronavirus, that is pushing back against restrictions imposed on synagogues and yeshivas. Frustrated by the restrictions placed on Orthodox neighborhoods like Borough Park and with the lack of results achieved by the neighborhood’s elected leaders, Tischler, a bombastic radio host and ex-convict, has become the de facto leader of the restless Borough Park youth. (Read our profile, produced in partnership with New York Magazine, for more background.)
Upon his arrival at his home Monday evening, Tischler thanked his supporters as well as those who he said had fought for his release. He included Dov Hikind, a former state assemblyman who represented Borough Park, among those who worked for his release. Hikind told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency last week that he condemned the violence at a protest last Tuesday night. “I’m ashamed of what happened,” he said, though he did not condemn Tischler by name.
Some of Tischler’s supporters called for more protests Monday night, but the rainy weather was a deterrent to others. Messages were forwarded on WhatsApp encouraging Tischler’s fans to come to his house in a show of support. “Let’s show our support do the only man fighting for us,” one man posted a video to Whatsapp.
In a video of Tischler as he arrived home Monday night, he said he would not condone violence.
“I want to thank all my supporters, I want to tell everyone again, no violence whatsoever and I want everyone to thank you for everything you’ve done for me and all your prayers,” he said.
But Tischler did not appear to be toning down his rhetoric, according to a video of him addressing the small crowd in front of his house Monday night. Tischler went after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, two of his favorite targets.
“We’re going to beat Mayor de Blasio, we’re going to knock that Cuomo out, we’re not going to let him get re-elected,” he said, before plugging his own campaign for City Council.