Hero in US Hanukkah attack rejects $20K reward from ‘Zionists’

Police officers escort Grafton Thomas to a police vehicle on Dec. 29, 2019, in Ramapo, N.Y. after he stabbed multiple people gathered to celebrate Hanukkah at a rabbi's home in the Orthodox Jewish community north of New York City. (AP file photo)
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Updated 23 February 2020

Hero in US Hanukkah attack rejects $20K reward from ‘Zionists’

  • Josef Gluck is credited with stopping the Dec. 28 assault in Monsey, New York, and led police to arrest the attacker
  • Grafton Thomas, accused of stabbing five men, was found to have anti-Semitic writings and articles on Jews and Nazis on his cell phone

WEST NYACK, New York: An Orthodox Jewish man credited as a hero for attacking a knife-wielding man who stabbed five people during a Hanukkah celebration north of New York City is refusing to take a $20,000 reward from established Jewish groups because he considers them Zionists, according to a rabbi who knows him.
Officials with the Jewish Federation and the Anti-Defamation League told The Journal News that they were caught off guard by Josef Gluck’s decision to turn down the reward, the newspaper reported Friday.
“The reward would have been for anybody who offered information that would lead to an arrest,” said Miriam Allenson, spokesperson for the Jewish Federation & Foundation of Rockland County. “That was what was on our minds.”
Allenson said that there were no strings with the money and that the groups had “no idea” regarding Gluck’s decision to turn away the funds.
The reward presentation event was scheduled for Feb. 6, but Gluck said he had a family emergency, Allenson said.
Rabbi Dovid Feldman of Monsey said Gluck’s decision stems from the discomfort he and some other Hasidic and ultra-Orthodox Jews have with organizations like the Jewish Federation and Anti-Defamation League. Feldman said Gluck was preparing to notify the groups in writing to explain in more detail his reasons for declining the reward.
Rabbi Feldman is a leader of Neturei Karta International. Its Orthodox Jewish members believe “the entire concept of a sovereign Jewish state is contrary to Jewish Law.”
“It was his choice not to accept,” Allenson said Monday. “We’re letting it go. There’s nothing else to say.”
Gluck is credited with throwing his body in front of the machete-wielding man and using a wooden table to try and stop the Dec. 28 assault in Monsey, the newspaper reported. He then lured the attacker outside and documented the attacker’s license plate number and alerted police.
Gluck has received several honors for his heroism, including a congressional certificate presented by US Democratic Rep. Nita Lowey, of Harrison, the Town of Ramapo’s Freedom Award and a New York State Senate Liberty Medal.
Evan Bernstein, an Anti-Defamation League vice president, said that while the group is disappointed Gluck decided not to accept the award, it will continue to work closely with the Orthodox Jewish community in Monsey and elsewhere and offer rewards when merited to assist law enforcement in the investigation of hate crimes.
Grafton Thomas, the man accused in the stabbing, pleaded not guilty on multiple hate crime charges. Investigators found anti-Semitic writings in Thomas’s journals and articles on Jews and Nazis on his cell phone, according to a complaint filed by the US Attorney’s Office. Thomas’ defense attorney said last month that a psychiatrist found Thomas incompetent to stand trial.
The attack left five men wounded, including a 72-year-old who remains in a coma with a fractured skull and other injuries.


Out of work marriage registrars wait for couples to say ‘I do’ in Bangladesh

Updated 07 July 2020

Out of work marriage registrars wait for couples to say ‘I do’ in Bangladesh

  • Lockdown restrictions mean more people opt for virtual weddings

DHAKA: There were days when Khalilur Rahman Sardar would struggle to take a lunch break during office hours.

As one of Bangladesh’s 7,500 registrars officiating marriages in the country, his days were busy and diary always full.

However, after the government imposed social distancing restrictions in March to limit the spread of coronavirus in the country, the number of couples getting married in person fell drastically as well. Dhaka-based Sardar told Arab News on Monday that he’s been rendered jobless by the pandemic.

“Usually, I register around 20-40 marriages per month. But I have registered only two marriages in June. If the pandemic continues for an indefinite period, I don’t know how we will survive,” said Sardar, who is the president of the Bangladesh Muslim Marriage Registrar Association (BMRA).

With strict restrictions on movement, he said that a majority of couples, especially those residing in different cities, were choosing to get married online, resulting in a “total disaster” for most registrars.

Whereas earlier couples could walk into a marriage registrar’s office to legalise their wedding, nowadays the registrar receives a power of attorney from either the bride or groom to sign on their behalf in the registration book and make the wedding official.

In some cases, the bride or groom sends a signed and scanned copy of a “promise note” as a document of surety for the registrar. In addition to this, the registrar also enlists a guardian to send a video recording of the virtual ceremony for further proof. 

According to law, marriage registrars receive a 12.5 percent commission of the total amount of “Den Mohor,” the money pledged by the groom to his bride as part of a necessary process in a Muslim marriage.

Registrars bear all their office expenses from these earnings.

However, with no source of income due to couples opting for virtual weddings, the BMRA has appealed to the government to grant them a stimulus package or some financial relief.

“We also need to survive, just like other professionals in society. But in a situation with almost no work, how can we do that?” asked Iqbal Hossain, secretary-general of the BMRA.

“Our work volume is down to 5 percent of the normal workload. It’s become a question of our very existence and if it goes like this, many of our colleagues will be forced to switch the profession,” Hossain said.

However, virtual marriages have brought relief for some couples.

“Our marriage ceremony was scheduled to take place in the last week of May. But the COVID-19 pandemic compelled us to postpone all the ceremonies, and it was just a virtual marriage,” said Nusrat D., a resident of Dhaka’s Bangshal area.

She said that since her husband lives in Europe and couldn’t visit Bangladesh due to the international travel ban, they had no option but to exchange vows online.

Wedding planners in Dhaka are making optimum use of the lockdown restrictions, providing tailored packages for virtual marriages.

With charges ranging from $100 to $200, the packages include the services of a marriage registrar, a live musical show which is streamed online and an option to connect a guest list of up to 1,000 people.

“In the past month, I organised a virtual marriage where the groom was in Chottogram, and the bride was in the United Kingdom. I have four to five more clients who have signed up for the package,” said Labib Mohammad, chief executive of Selvice, an event management firm.