By Mike Wagenheim

While the Manhattan district attorney offers a light plea bargain to a man who confessed to attacking a Jew, a group plans to be outside the courthouse on Thursday morning seeking “Justice for Joey.” 

Joseph Borgen of Lawrence, New York, speaks to community members in Cedarhurst, New York on May 27, 2021. Borgen was the victim of a hate crime in Manhattan on May 20, 2021, when five or six men beat and sprayed him with pepper spray while making antisemitic remarks. Borgen and other key speakers addressed the recent anti-Semitic incidents, encouraging the Jewish community to not stay silent during this time. STEVEN PFOST/JNS

Joseph Borgen was savagely beaten in May 2021 while wearing a yarmulke and on his way to a rally in support of Israel in New York City. The event came during a time when Gaza-based terrorist groups fired more than 4,000 rockets at Israeli communities.

One of his attackers, seen on video beating Borgen with a crutch, will decide during a hearing at New York Supreme Court in Manhattan on Thursday whether to accept a six-month sentence in a plea deal. A rally will take place outside, led by the End Jew Hatred movement. Three additional alleged attackers will have status hearings on Thursday as well. 

“It’s high time that the Jewish community mobilizes because what’s happening is that you can beat up a Jew and there are just no consequences,” Brooke Goldstein, founder and executive director of the Lawfare Project and founder of the End Jew Hatred movement, told Zenger News. “Now you have the district attorney reaffirming that by giving this sweetheart deal, sending this guy who has no remorse out on the streets to continue to terrorize Jews.” 

Borgen was surrounded by a gang of men near Times Square, and was subsequently punched, kicked, knocked to the ground and doused with pepper spray without provocation. 

Wassem Awawdeh, 24, was caught on surveillance video beating Borgen with a metal crutch and was arrested near the scene. 

Borgen told police that Awawdeh called him a “dirty Jew” and said, F*** Israel,” and, “Hamas is going to kill all of you.” 

Awawdeh told police that he “would do it again” if he could. 

He was charged with second-degree assault as a hate crime and first-degree gang assault under current New York County District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s predecessor, Cyrus Vance. 

Three other men, Mahmoud Musa, Faisal Elezzi and Mohammed Othman, were hit with charges, including assault as a hate crime and gang assault.

People attend a rally denouncing anti-Semitic violence on May 27, 2021, in Cedarhurst, New York. A rally was held by various organizations and local Jewish community groups to support Joseph Borgen, a recent victim of a hate crime, after a rise of violent anti-Semitic attacks in New York and across the U.S. MICHAEL M. SANTIAGO/JNS

Awawdeh has remained free on $10,000 bail, and Bragg offered him the six-month plea deal two weeks ago. Bragg’s office said it is “requiring felony hate crime pleas and incarceration for three men charged in connection to this despicable act,” but indicated that Awawdeh is being offered a lesser punishment because he only beat Borgen with a crutch, left before the attack was over and has no prior convictions. 

“It’s disgusting how Mr. Bragg calls himself a crime fighter, the man does nothing,” Joseph Borgen’s father, Barry Borgen, told The New York Post outside Manhattan Criminal Court.

Bragg’s office defended the plea deal that Awawdeh didn’t initiate the attack. Rather, he was the sixth person to join before fleeing the scene of the crime.

Nassau County leaders and advocate denounced the plea deal concerning the hate crime against Mr. Borgen, according to CBS News.

“We are setting a dangerous precedent. We are sending a dangerous message to those people who would engage in any kind of hate crime that New York City, Manhattan, is going to be lenient,” Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman said. 

Goldstein told JNS that she has been disheartened by the lack of action from the Jewish community with respect to the case. 

“What’s remarkable about this case is it’s been covered by The New York Times, CNN and The Wall Street Journal. But tell me how many leaders of Jewish organizations have come out and publicly demanded justice for Joey? Why is that?” she asked. “If this happened to any other minority community, there’d be hundreds of people out in the street protesting.” 

Goldstein said she hopes the rally can serve as a unifying moment for a Jewish community often divided along political and territorial lines. New York City Councilwoman Inna Vernikov will address protesters, as will former New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind and Jewish influencer Lizzy Savetsky. 

“We hope to mobilize as many people in the community as possible to stand in solidarity for a peaceful, lawful rally to show that the Jewish community is not turning a blind eye to what’s happening, that we are unified and that we are motivated to stand up against this type of hatred and to demand that the law be applied to this perpetrator, so he’s punished accordingly,” she said. 

Goldstein is “imploring the leaders of Jewish organizations not just to criticize this, but also to show up outside the courthouse and demand that the Jewish community receive protection and that our basic civil right to be free from violent assault be protected and upheld by the D.A.’s office.”


Produced in association with Jewish News Syndicate.

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