Huge Jewish counter protest sees off Palestine supporters at New Jersey synagogue

Palestinian groups called on supporters to demonstrate outside a fundraiser for Zaka


An anti-Israel protest and a pro-Israel counter-protest ensued in Teaneck, N.J., after a synagogue hosted an event featuring firsthand accounts by ZAKA representatives detailing the Hamas terrorist attacks on Oct. 7 in southern Israel, April 1, 2024. Credit: The Jewish Link.

A New York City resident was arrested and charged with bias intimidation after pro-Palestinian demonstrators clashed with hundreds of Israel supporters on Monday night outside a synagogue in Teaneck, New Jersey, where an event for the Israeli search-and-rescue organization ZAKA was being held.

According to the Teaneck Police Department, the demonstrations began at around 6:30pm, and continued for four hours. As it was ending, “officers observed a man, later identified as Isaac Chavarria, spit in the face of [an] individual from the opposing side.” In addition to the charge of bias intimidation, police said Chavarria was also charged with simple assault. He was issued a summons and released.

Before the event, Palestinian groups, including the anti-Israel Within Our LifeTime, used social media to call on its supporters to show up outside of Congregation Bnai Yeshurun, located in the heart of Teaneck’s Jewish community, and protest the ZAKA event.

In one such post, organizers from Within Our LifeTime, wrote, “we stand in solidarity to demand accountability from ZAKA. While they’re being hailed as heroes, ZAKA’s false claims and fabricated evidence have fueled genocide in Gaza. Let’s ensure truth prevails and justice is served.”

Concerned about the potential for violence by the protestors, the Rabbinical Council of Bergen County reached out to local law enforcement and asked that the protest be stopped. When it became clear that the protest would go ahead, members of the Jewish community banded together to come out in force to show their support for ZAKA and the synagogue.

Hundreds and hundreds of people of all ages answered the call and gathered outside of BnaiYeshurun and the surrounding streets where they waved Israeli flags, chanted “bring them home,” sang pro-Israel songs as well as the American national anthem. Police separated them from the Palestinian supporters, though there were some shouting matches between the two groups.

Among the hundreds of Jewish residents who came out to show their support to ZAKA, Israel and Bnai Yeshurun was Chana Shields. A member of the Bergen County Jewish Action Committtee’s executive board, Shields said: “These attacks on our synagogues have to end. Full stop.

“Last night’s protest showed clearly that these protests are nothing more than an attack on Jews and our religions freedoms,” she continued. “ZAKA is a humanitarian organization that collects body parts and human remains after terror attacks and disasters. it is comprised of Jewish and Muslim volunteers to make sure burial is handled according to religious practices. What kind of person opposes that?”

The Jewish communal response this week was a far cry from what occurred in mid-March at a different Teaneck synagogue, when the community had been asked to stay away. In that instance, a thousand anti-Israel demonstrators stood outside of Keter Torah Synagogue as a real estate event for Israel was being held inside. They were, for the most part, unchallenged in their rhetoric and protests that Jews were buying stolen land.

In addition to the in-person protests, there have also been car rallies through town by anti-Israel demonstrators waving Palestinian flags in recent weeks.

All of these events, “led the way for extremist, anti-Israel organizers to now shamelessly organize a rally against a humanitarian organization that provides dignified treatment and burial for those of all religions killed in tragedies,” Rachel Cyrulik, another Bergen County Jewish Action Committee executive board member said during at Monday night’s demonstration. “This protest denigrates the noble and selfless work of ZAKA volunteers who dedicate their lives to providing dignity in death to victims of disasters and terrorism worldwide.”

Cyrulik also noted that “in Teaneck, our strength is our unity. … Our enemies are relentless, but we are resolute. Our detractors recklessly harass and intimidate, but we are resilient.”

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