Things That Matter

The Jewish Community Has Been Attacked In Recent Weeks So The Guardian Angels Are Stepping Up To Help

In the past week, hate crimes have occurred back-to-back. And, it’s not just this week. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) released a somewhat shocking report in November that stated an increase in hate crimes in 2018. The FBI noted in 2018 that hate crimes reached a 16-year high. We say that the news was somewhat shocking because violence in the United States feels never-ending. If we’re not dealing with mass shootings, we’re dealing with crimes against people because of their background — sometimes both at the same time. Now — as if these actions were taken from a movie — people are taking it upon themselves to fight crime if authorities cannot. 

The Guardian Angels have vowed to patrol the streets of New York City after a slew of anti-Semitic crimes in the state.

Credit: The Red Berets / Facebook

“These attacks are taking place, and the cops have not been proactive at all,” Curtis Sliwa, founder of the Guardian Angels, told NBC News. “It comes from City Hall and the mayor. He’s been just apathetic.” 

“We’re a visual deterrence in our red berets and our red satin jackets,” Sliwa added. “Nobody’s going to commit an attack when we’re around.” So what exactly will the Guardian Angels do if someone does attempt to commit a crime and they happen to be there, Sliwa responded by saying, “we’ll physically restrain the persons responsible, make a citizen’s arrest and hold them until the police arrive.”

The Guardian Angels is a nonprofit that formed in 1979 and has “safety patrols chapters throughout the United States and worldwide.”

Credit: The Red Berets / Facebook

According to its website, Sliwa founded the group and currently has 12 volunteers in New York City. “The ‘Magnificent 13’ rode the subways to conduct safety patrol. For 37 years, thousands of people have joined the Guardian Angels and created chapters in over 130 cities in 13 countries to protect their communities and improve substantially the quality of life.”

However, not everyone is pleased that the Guardian Angels are taking on a vigilantly stand, especially because the group’s founding member has made disparaging remarks against various groups.

Credit: @rafaelshimunov / Twitter

Political activist Rafael Shimunov tweeted a thread of clips that showed Sliwa making fun of the Jewish community and disparaging the Black community as well. Someone also linked out to a 1992 New York Times story in which Sliwa admitted to faking crimes for publicity. 

Yet, others on social media are praising the Guadian Angels for stepping up and fighting hate crime in New York City streets.

Credit: @MUCKWlTCH / Twitter

One man tweeted, “So glad to see the Guardian Angels still doing amazing work on the streets after so many years. I remember hearing their amazing stories growing up. Thank you @CurtisSliwa and the @GA_DareToCare team!”

Another tweeted, “Love the Guardian Angels but it’s kind of crazy that this is where we’re at. Citizens on patrol duty in NYC. Onus is on all of us to band together and speak up in the face of discrimination and prejudice. Now more than ever. Silence is complicity. #zerotolerance #lovetrumpshate.”

Time will tell if the Guardian Angels will do anything to stop these hate crimes going on in New York and around the country because they’re not stopping anytime soon. 

On Dec. 28, a woman, who was with her young son, reported that she was hit on the head after a woman yelled anti-Semitic slurs at her. Also, last week, police said at least “three incidents of possible hate-based attacks against Jews in less than 72 hours.”

On Saturday night, a man stabbed five Hasidic Jews who were at home celebrating Hanukkah in Monsey in upstate New York. The assailant was arrested in Harlem and charged over the weekend. 

“People inside fought to stop him,” Rabbi Yisroel Kahan, told the New York Times. “It was very heroic of them. They didn’t just let this happen — they tried to defend themselves.”

As we noted, the FBI reports a surge of hate crimes, but we should also mention that the group being targeted more than any other group is the Latino community. 

Credit: @berniesanders / Twitter

“The FBI said 485 hate crimes against Latinos were reported in 2018, up from 430 in 2017,” the New York Times reports. “It said 270 crimes were reported against Muslims and Arab-Americans, the fewest since 2014,” They added, “Hate crimes against Latinos were at their highest level since 2010, when the unemployment rate and border crossings from Mexico were both peaking. Some advocates placed the blame for the recent rise on President Trump.” 

READ: Anti-Semitism Rocked A NYC Subway When A Woman Physically Assaulted A Jewish Woman

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These Movies About Jewish Life In Latin America Are Perfect For Hanukkah

Culture

These Movies About Jewish Life In Latin America Are Perfect For Hanukkah

jessicanelson / Getty Images

The Jewish experience in Latin America is vast and diverse. Millions of Jewish families, having fled Europe before, during, and after World War II and the Holocaust settled everywhere in the world. Here are some of the movies depicting the various Jewish communities and stories in Latin America.

“Anita”

The Argentine movie tells the story of a Jewish woman with Down Syndrome in the aftermath of the nation’s deadliest terrorist attack to date. The Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA) was attacked by a suicide bomber killing 85 people and injuring hundreds. Anita, the young woman, is left wandering the streets looking for her mother, who was supposed to be at the AMIA at the time of the bombing. Argentina is home to the largest Jewish population in Latin America and the sixth-largest in the world.

“Gaby: A True Story”

The Mexican-American biographical film is about a European refugee family living in Mexico. The daughter, Gaby, was born with cerebral palsy and can only move her left foot, which she uses to type to communicate. Gabriel Brimmer is nurtured and encouraged by her nurse and it leads her to a life of advocacy and writing for the disabled community in Mexico.

“Havana Curveball”

The biography dives deep into the story of one grandfather’s journey to Cuba to escape the Holocaust in Europe. After living in Cuba for two years, he and his family move to the U.S. Decades later, his teenage son wants to do something to help the country that saved his grandfather’s life and he focuses on baseball. The sport is the young boys favorite thing so he sets to donate large amounts of baseball gear to the island but the embargo makes things hard. The rest of the journey plays out on the island as he learns more about the island where his grandfather once lived.

“O Ano Em Que Meus Pais Saíram De Férias” (“The Year My Parents Went On Vacation”)

A young boys mother and father leave him behind as they flee Brazil’s oppressive regime in 1970. During that time, Mauro is taken in by his grandfather and becomes the adopted child of a tight-knit Jewish community in São Paulo. Mauro anxiously waits for his parents to return as the nation gets ready for Brazil’s appearance in the World Cup.

“My Mexican Shivah”

This comedy takes a look at one of the most notable customs of a Jewish funeral: the shivah. As the family sits to observe shiva after the death of the matriarch, secrets of the family are slowly revealed. The movie is a funny look at Mexican and Jewish cultures coming together whole a family grapples with long dormant secrets.

“Nora’s Will” (“Cinco días sin Nora”)

The drama is a look at love and loss after Nora, Jose’s wife, commits suicide just before Passover. The woman’s plan was to bring her family together for the holy celebration but a forgotten photo might derail those plans. Jose finds the photo and it begins a journey to deeper understanding of his wife’s love.

“The Tenth Man”

Ariel, an Argentine man living in New York, is getting ready to visit his father in Buenos Aires. He is looking forward to finally introducing his father to his dancer wife but nothing is going to plan. Ariel and Monica finally arrive in Argentina after being delayed a few days and being unable to find the specific shoes his father requested. Yet, his father is unable to meet up for days as he promises to meet in person soon.

READ: Anti-Semitism Rocked A NYC Subway When A Woman Physically Assaulted A Jewish Woman

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These Humans Of New York Stories Will Give Your Heart A Break From Pandemic News

Fierce

These Humans Of New York Stories Will Give Your Heart A Break From Pandemic News

Cindy Ord / Getty

If you haven’t heard of the humbling photoblog Humans Of New York it’s time to tune in. The popular blog created in 2010 by photographer Brandon Stanton conducts and collects street portraits and interviews with people on the streets of New York City and often shares heart-rendering, real stories about the people who make up the city that never sleeps.

The ongoing pandemic has been reported to be the deadliest disaster by death toll in the history of New York City and while daily news of the city’s progress with the disease continues to prove depressing, the Humans of New York blog is working to bring brighter stories.

Check out some of the most recent posts from the blog below.

This sweet story of father-daughter support and love.

“My mom said: ‘Val has something to say to you.’ I was sitting on the stairwell, crying. And he knew right away that I was pregnant. He didn’t yell. He didn’t say anything. He just started pacing. But I knew what he was thinking: I was eighteen years old, I was his only daughter, and he thought that having a child would ruin my life. When he finally stopped pacing, he told me: you can either get an abortion or leave the house. I knew then that I’d be entirely on my own. I started saving money from each paycheck to spend on clothing and supplies. But I had no idea what I was going to do when the baby came. My father wasn’t speaking to me. There was no eye contact. No nothing. Not that he’d ever been good at expressing his emotions. His mother had died when he was a baby. He’d had a tough life. From the outside like he didn’t care, but my mother told me that he was crying himself to sleep every night. After a few weeks he began to soften. He asked to see the sonogram. It wasn’t exactly a celebration—but at least he asked to see it. On the day of my C-section, dad spent that day drinking alone—which he rarely did. He was pretty drunk by the time I left for the hospital. He didn’t say a thing. My mom just looked at him and shook her head. But I was in the hospital for five days after my son was born, and every day my dad would visit. He’d bring us food. He’d hold my son for hours at a time. And when I came back home, there was a letter waiting for me on my bed. I’ve only read it twice in my life. Because it makes me cry too much. But he apologized for his behavior. And he said that we were going to be fine. My son is eight years old now. And whenever it’s Father’s Day at school, he brings home art for Papa. The two of them are inseparable. They’re always playing something. My son is always giving him hugs, and kisses, and saying ‘I love you.’ And Papa says it back. It’s the only time he ever says it to anyone. With my son he has no choice. It’s not in Papa’s nature to be affectionate. But it’s my son’s nature. He’s so open and natural with his emotions. He’ll give love for no reason at all, and his Papa has no choice but to accept it.”

This super relatable Magical Black Girl hair tale.

““I had very thick hair as a child. But I was also very tender-headed, so I hated getting my hair combed. The first time my mother took me to the salon, I screamed bloody murder. So for the rest of my childhood she did my hair herself. And it always looked good. I grew to believe that my hair was my best quality. I could have on my best make-up, and my best outfit, but if my hair wasn’t done right—the whole thing was off. After college my boyfriend discovered the first bald spot on the back of my head. Soon afterwards I was diagnosed with an auto-immune condition. The doctor told me that I could eventually lose all of my hair. I was devastated. I immediately called my mother—and she told me we were going to fight it. We prayed and prayed. We kept finding new oils and new shampoos. But the bald spot only grew bigger. My mother started doing my hair again– just like when I was a kid. And whenever a new spot appeared, she’d invent a new style to hide it. For the longest time no one knew. But it was so much stress. I’d panic if someone was behind me in the elevator. Dating was the worst. It was like: ‘Oh my gosh. How am I going to keep this a secret?’ Some mornings I’d call my mom in a moment of desperation. I’d tell her: ‘I can’t do this anymore. I’m going to shave it off.’ But she’d talk me out of it. She’d tell me: ‘Don’t worry. We’re going to figure this out.’ But we never did. It only got worse and worse. By the age of thirty-one I was in a really dark place. And I decided to go on a fast because I needed some clarity from God. And that’s when I made the decision. The first person I told was my mom. She’d been telling me not to do it for so long—because she was scared too. But I needed her to be OK with it. I needed her to finish this journey with me. Everyone in the hair salon was nervous. The person in the next chair was nervous. Even the hairdresser was nervous. She was like: ‘Do you really want to do this?’ But then she took out the clippers, and began to shave it off. My mother was the first one to break the silence. After the first pass of the clippers, she looked closely at my head. And then she announced to the whole salon: ‘It’s going to look good!’”

This loving story about support from strangers.

“I thought studying in the US would be easy. I’d attended a UN conference in high school, so I already had a visa. I begged my father to let me go. He finally agreed and took out a loan to buy me a plane ticket. I arrived with $150 in my pocket, and stayed with a Gambian family in Maryland. For two months I visited schools, asking for financial aid—but nothing was available for people like me. I began to accept the reality that I would need to go back home. There was one last school called Montgomery College. It was a five-minute bus ride from where I was staying. And when I visited the campus, I learned about a scholarship for international students. But the deadline was approaching, and I would need to submit my application that day. I searched everywhere for a computer. I walked through the hallways looking for any door that was open. And that’s how I discovered Professor Rudin. She was sitting at her desk. She had currency from all over the world hanging on her wall. I noticed a bill from Gambia, and that’s how we started talking. I stayed for two hours. I told her my entire story, and by the end we were crying and hugging each other. Kelly researched the scholarship and learned it wouldn’t work out. But that night she spoke to her husband Tom, and they decided to pay for my school fees. They gave me money for food and clothes. Kelly drove me to Best Buy and got me a phone, and then added me to their family plan. I’m still on that plan today. For two years I lived with the Rudins. Every morning Kelly made me breakfast, and we drove to school together. She and Tom became like my parents. And her children became like my siblings. They hung pictures of me around the house. They helped with my entire education. When I graduated from Georgetown, they even paid for my father to attend the ceremony. He was so overwhelmed when he arrived. He gave Tom the biggest hug. It was such an emotional moment for me. I thought about how it all started—begging my dad to let me come to America. And here I was, four years later, graduating from Georgetown. My father was with me. And he was thanking the two human beings who took me in and called me their daughter.”

This sweet story about education and support.

“My biological mother had three kids at a young age, then dropped us all off with my aunt. It wasn’t even a legal adoption—she just signed a piece of notebook paper. My aunt already had three kids, so it was wild in that house. Summers without air. Winters without heat. I loved her to death. And she tried to keep us clothed and fed, but I can’t say that everything she did was exactly legal. She collected disability for some injury that she never wanted to talk about. And she was a bit of a thief. On the first day of school we’d go to the Salvation Army and switch our old clothes for the ones on the rack. My brothers began to model her behavior at a very young age. They drank a lot. They fought a lot. And they stole a lot. The whole town knew about us. On the first day of high school, our principal Mr. Herring pulled me aside and gave me a stern warning: ‘I know your siblings,’ he said. ‘And I hope you remember that we won’t tolerate the same behavior from you.’ I was absolutely devastated. I’d stayed out of trouble my entire life. I’d been determined to show that ‘I’ was better than ‘we.’ But apparently it hadn’t worked. So I tried even harder. I made good grades. I threw myself into musicals and drama and journalism. I even became the first student from our school to go to nationals for speech and debate. I did notice that some of the fees were waived for my activities and school trips, but I assumed everyone was getting the same treatment. Then three weeks before graduation, I was called into the principal’s office. I was horrified. I’d never been in trouble before. Mr. Herring was silent for fifteen seconds, then he said: ‘I made a huge mistake. The biggest mistake a teacher can ever make. I judged you before I ever knew you. And for that—I apologize.’ Then he got up, gave me a hug, and asked me to give a speech at our graduation ceremony. I felt so seen in that moment. After graduation I ended up going back to the school to work as a speech coach. One day I happened to be chatting with an old teacher, and I joked about how I never had to pay for my activities. ‘Oh,’ he said. ‘Your teachers all chipped in to pay for them. Along with Roger Herring.’”

This heartbreaking story about racism.

“I grew up in a high rise across from Coney Island. It was a great childhood, but the neighborhood started to change– and my dad didn’t like it. So he bought us a house in Long Island. It had a big backyard, and a porch. I was finally going to have my own room. We were so excited. But the day after we moved in, someone painted a message on our house. It said: ‘KKK – Niggers Move Away.’ I remember my mother started crying. But my father got angry. He said: ‘We’re not moving anywhere.’ And that same day he repainted the wall. There was one other black family on the block. And I think they had a better sense of what was going on, because they never let their kids go outside. But both my parents worked. So my sister and I hung out. Some of the kids were nice. But I started noticing the way their parents looked at me. It was a look that all black people know. The ‘what are you doing here?’ look. We lived on a canal, so a lot of the families had boats. And sometimes the kids would play in them while they were tied to the dock. But one day my friend Donna got called into her house. And when she came back, she told me I needed to leave. Because black people weren’t allowed in the boat. I was only eight years old. I cried the whole way home. Things got even worse when school started. Two boys named Dante and Michael would follow me to the bus stop. It was a quarter mile walk, but it felt like an eternity. They’d kick, and move away. Kick, and move away. Dante had corrective shoes with heavy soles, so his kicks hurt the most. The whole time they’d call me ‘monkey’ and ‘tar baby.’ There was nothing I could say to them. Nothing I could change. These kids were kicking me for no reason, and that’s what hurt the most. Deep down I knew I was a good person, but nobody saw that. And when you’re a kid, you don’t know enough to be mad about it. You just think that’s the way things are. And you sorta move on with your life. But you can’t move on completely. Recently my company held a George Floyd memorial. And my boss asked me to share my story during the video conference. When I told about those kicks, I started crying. So I guess that little girl is still in there somewhere.”

This sweet story about going from child to friend.

“Even though my dad is six-foot-seven, he’s not scary at all. He listens to a lot of Reggae music. And I don’t think I can ever remember him yelling. When I was really young, he used to get on the ground and play Barbies with me. And every morning he’d lift me out of bed, and insist that I carry out my duties as princess. He’d carry me downstairs and make me wave to my ‘royal subjects’– which was nobody, because it was just an empty living room. He’s always been a really mellow guy. I know his life hasn’t been easy. His brother passed away when he was fourteen. His father drowned at the beach while he stood on the shore. So he’s seen a lot of tragedy, but he’s always been really strong. Growing up I never saw him cry. I was the emotional one. I’d cry during arguments. Or when something sad came on the news. Or during sad movies. But he never lost his composure. I think he enjoyed being the strong one so that he could comfort me. During my senior year of high school, my mom had to work in another state. So it was just me and Dad for awhile. And we became very close. Our bond became more of a friendship. We cooked our meals together. We went shopping together. His mother passed away that year, so I helped him with all the funeral arrangements. I know it was really hard for him, but during the entire process– I never saw him cry. At the end of the summer I left for college at Florida State. My whole family came down for the weekend to help me move in. We set up my entire apartment. Then Sunday night came around, and it was time for everyone to go. Mom went out to the parking lot first because she didn’t want to get emotional. Dad stayed behind to help me hang some final décor. Then, when everything was in place, he gave me one last hug and started walking down the stairs. I was right behind him. And something about seeing him walk down those stairs felt so final. And everything hit me at once. I stopped and began to cry. He turned around, walked back up the stairs, and gave me the biggest hug. He told me that he loved me. I didn’t look at his face. And we never talked about it. But I could feel his shoulders shaking. And I knew that he was crying too.”

This unshakeable bond.

“It’s not that my dad has a problem talking about his past. He’s just naturally very reserved. So if the topic doesn’t come up in conversation, it doesn’t come up. I learned about his history in bits and pieces. He grew up under Apartheid in Namibia. He rebelled against the leadership and spent most of his twenties in refugee camps, until an NGO gave him a scholarship to study in America. By the time I was born he was a software engineer. And that’s how I always knew him. I was more intimidated by him than anything. He was an African dad, so he was very strict about certain things. He’d make me practice piano. And go to robotics camp. He used to take me to these enrichment courses after school. Most of my friends would be playing outside, and I’d be doing extra math problems. And he didn’t care how I felt about it. He’d explain that it was an investment in my future, and that one day I’d be thankful. On the drive home I’d put my Taylor Swift CD in the player, and play the song ‘Mean’– because I never had the courage to call him that directly. I always compared him to my mom. She was the more emotive of the two. She’d listen to my frustrations. And ever since I was a little girl, she was the one I gravitated toward. But halfway through high school she suffered some mental health issues. She became vindictive and angry, until eventually she decided to leave. And ever since then it’s just been me and Dad. At first we got in a lot of fights. We had to go to therapy to learn how to communicate. We talked through our guilt, and anger, and sadness. And we grew closer. We became a tag team. He started showing interest in the more mundane parts of my life. My friendships. My crushes. I know he loved going on my college tours with me. And I’ve let go of the need for him to be emotional. I’ve stopped looking for that in him. Because he’s the same that he’s always been. And even when I thought he was being ‘mean,’ he was thinking about my future. He might have been strict, but he was showing up. He was unshakable. He was my sense of continuity. And after all the heartbreak we’ve been through, he’s the one that’s still here.”

This sweet story about step-father love.

“I was five when he became a person in my world. I didn’t know exactly who he was. I just knew that there was someone around that was making my mother smile. I had to look way up to see him. I’d never met someone so strong. He’d tell me to hold onto his wrist, and he’d lift me into the sky with one hand. He worked at an auto shop, airbrushing designs onto the side of vans. I think he dreamed of being an artist. But he needed something more stable. So after he decided to marry my mom, he became a cop. He never lost touch with his creative side. He was always building things around the house—making things look fancier than we could afford. He built my first bike from scraps. He encouraged me to read. He encouraged me to write. He loved giving me little assignments. He’d give me a quarter every time I wrote a story. Fifty cents if it was a good one. Whenever I asked a question, he’d make me look it up in the encyclopedia. One day he built a little art studio at the back of our house. And he painted a single painting—a portrait of Sting that he copied from an album cover. But he got busy with work and never used the studio again. He was always saying: ‘when I retire.’ ‘I’ll go back to art, when I retire.’ ‘I’ll show in a gallery, when I retire.’ But that time never came. Dad was a cop for twenty years. He was one of the good ones. The kind of cop you see dancing on the street corner. Or skateboarding with kids. But in 1998 he was diagnosed with MS. First there was a little weakness. Then there was a cane. Then there was a wheelchair. It got to the point where he couldn’t even hold a paintbrush. We did his hospice at home. He seemed to have no regrets. He’d been a wonderful provider. He’d raised his daughters. He’d walked me down the aisle. During his final days, we were going through his possessions, one by one. He was telling me who to give them to. I pulled the Sting painting out of an old box, and asked: ‘What should I do with this?’ His response was immediate. ‘Give it to Sting,’ he said. All of us started laughing. But Dad grew very serious. His eyes narrowed. He looked right at me, and said: ‘Give it to Sting.’ So I guess that’s my final assignment.”

This super sweet and heartbreaking best friend story.

“Leah was my absolute best friend. She was an only child too, so it was this next level sisterly bond. Her boyfriend Rasual became like a brother as well. He valued Leah’s friendships—so we became like a family. One night the two of them were driving home and lost control of their vehicle. Both of them passed away– instantly. My grieving process was very hard. People were worried about me. The everyday, basic things became so difficult. I wasn’t cooking dinner for my kids. I wasn’t painting very much. Then one year after their death, I got invited to exhibit at an art show in Cleveland. It was on the anniversary of Leah’s funeral. I’m not even sure why I accepted the invitation. While I was getting ready in my hotel room, I remember saying a little prayer. I said: ‘Leah, I love you so much, but help me get through tonight without talking about you. Just one night.’ I arrived at the event and noticed that I’d be sharing my wall with another artist. His name was Bonic. He was deep in conversation with someone. The first thing I noticed was his voice. It was a very strong voice. And it was so familiar. I introduced myself, and told him: ‘This is going to sound crazy, but your voice sounds just like my friend who passed away.’ And he said: ‘Do you mean Rasual?’ It turns out that he’d known Leah and Rasual for years. He recognized me from their memorial service. That was over a year ago. Since then, Bonic and I have done so many collaborations. We’ve been all over the world together. He’s great with my kids. He’s my soul mate. Without question—he was the reason I was at that show. At the end of that night, I went back to my hotel room, and I wrote an entry in my journal. I wrote the date, and a single line: ‘Leah—did you send him to me?’ #quarantinestories

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