(JTA) — The CEO of Kars4Kids, the Jewish charity with a catchy advertising jingle, is challenging New York state’s concealed carry law in court — claiming that it leaves children vulnerable to antisemitic attacks.
Eliohu Mintz, who heads Kars4Kids, is also the CEO of Oorah, a Jewish outreach nonprofit funded by Kars4Kids that runs a summer camp in upstate New York. In a federal lawsuit filed Friday, Mintz and a camp administrator, Eric Schwartz, say the law exposes the camp to antisemitic attack because it bans private citizens from carrying guns in places where religious activities are conducted.
“The violent attacks on Jewish people targeting places of worship and places where children are — the most vulnerable of the population — are random and provide the victims with no notice or advance warning,” Mintz said in a declaration attached to the lawsuit. “I cannot be left unprepared and unarmed in the event that an evildoer decides to attack one or both of the [camp’s] campuses, nor can the other licensed staff members.”
The suit is one of several challenging the Concealed Carry Improvement Act, which was passed last year after the Supreme Court struck down an earlier firearms ban. The act limits where New Yorkers can carry firearms, including a ban on carrying in “sensitive locations” such as schools, medical facilities or houses of worship, among others. Another lawsuit has been brought by two pastors seeking to carry weapons in church, and in May, lawmakers amended the act to allow pastors and designated security personnel to carry weapons in houses of worship.
The lawyer who filed the lawsuit for Mintz and Schwartz, Amy Bellatoni, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in an email that the amendment would not apply to her clients.
“The plaintiffs are staffers who have carried for personal protection and want to continue carrying,” she said. “They are not designated security personnel and, therefore, not part of the exemption.”
Jewish security specialists have said that arming rank-and-file Jews is not an effective deterrent against antisemitic attacks. But Schwartz, who lives year-round on the grounds of the camp, which is called The Zone, said in a declaration that he and his fellow staff members are “easily recognizable and identifiable to the public” as Orthodox Jews. He said that they “have been openly targeted over the years for discriminatory acts including yelling ethnic and hateful slurs and throwing objects, including Molotov cocktails.”
The three defendants in the suit are law enforcement officials: New York State Police’s acting superintendent, Steve Nigrelli; Ronald Stevens, the sheriff of Schoharie County, where The Zone is located; and Susan Mallery, the county’s district attorney.
A spokeswoman for Nigrelli said that the New York State Police does not comment on pending litigation. Mallery and Stevens did not return requests for comment.
This isn’t the first time Kars4Kids, which is based in the heavily Orthodox city of Lakewood, New Jersey, has found itself interacting with the legal system. In 2009, Pennsylvania and Oregon fined the organization for deceptive advertising. They accused the charity of obscuring that most of the money it raises goes to Orthodox outreach rather than needy children. In 2017, the Minnesota attorney general said she was “concerned and troubled” by the organization’s practices. It has also been criticized by charity watchdogs.
The company has sought since the 2009 fines to increase its transparency. Charity Navigator now rates Kars4Kids three stars, or “Good.” “If this organization aligns with your passions and values, you can give with confidence,” the watchdog says in its rating.