Joseph Borgen Was Beaten In The Streets While Wearing A Kippah. Now, He’s Fighting In The Nyc Court System

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    NEW YORK (JTA) – Before Joseph Borgen was beaten in the street nearly two years ago, on the way to a pro-Israel rally, he enjoyed playing basketball after returning home to the Upper East Side from his day job as an accountant.

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    In the time since Borgen, now 30, was attacked, that hasn’t been possible. The incident — in which five men shouting antisemitic slurs punched, kicked, pepper-sprayed and beat Borgen with crutches — left him needing surgery on his wrist. Only recently has he started going back to the gym.

    “It’s something that is still lingering and I’d love to put it in my rearview,” Borgen, who is the eldest of five siblings, told the New York Jewish Week. “It doesn’t just only affect me. My little brother was seeing me on the news. He’s still a kid. We’re very close.”

    The attack on Borgen drew national attention, and came amid a string of antisemitic assaults in the United States surrounding the May 2021 conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. Now, Borgen is caught in a conflict of a different kind, one that illustrates the long tail of hate crimes that have faded from public consciousness. He doesn’t want the beating to define him, but finds that its after-effects have festered — and that a controversy over the ensuing trial of his alleged attackers has spurred him to become a passionate, if ambivalent, advocate against antisemitism.

    “There is some value and good in speaking about what happened and just getting the message out there,” Borgen said. “But it’s not something I want to harp on.”

     

    Borgen was walking to a pro-Israel rally when he was attacked in the street in midtown Manhattan on May 20, 2021 — the same day Hamas and Israel announced a ceasefire after 11 days of conflict. A blurry video of the attack that circulated on social media showed a small crowd of men surrounding Borgen, kicking him and beating him with sticks. A photo of Borgen from later that night shows Borgen with a puffy red face, and wearing a neck brace.

    “I was just wearing a kippah, listening to music, just minding my own business — and it all just erupted,” Borgen said, recalling the incident. “Before I can even really react or do anything, there’s a group of individuals surrounding me. I didn’t have the time to process what was going on.”

    Borgen is still facing those who have been accused of attacking him — but that confrontation has moved to the courts. The lead defendant, Waseem Awawdeh, was charged with hate crime assault, along with a list of other charges. The case is still in process, and the next hearing is on April 20.

    “I can’t even tell you how hard personally I’ve been fighting for this,” Borgen told the New York Jewish Week. “If there’s no accountability or consequences of what took place, what happened to me is going to happen to someone else.”

    Borgen is currently worried that Awawdeh will go to prison for a small fraction of the maximum sentence he faces, which, according to Borgen’s attorney, is 15 years. That concern stems from reports in the New York Post and New York Sun that Manhattan D.A. Alvin Bragg offered Awawdeh a six-month plea deal.

    Those reports have sparked a chorus of criticism, as well as a letter to Bragg by nearly two dozen groups lobbying against the deal. The signatories were a mix of right-wing, pro-Israel and Orthodox groups, including the Rabbinical Council of America, an association for Orthodox rabbis; the Zionist Organization of America, a right-wing organization; and Americans Against Antisemitism, a group founded by former New York State Assemblymember Dov Hikind, who represented a Brooklyn district.

    “Failing to impose severe consequences here would send the dangerous and unacceptable message that Jews can be brutally attacked with impunity,” said the letter, which was sent earlier this month.

    The six-month deal, however, seems like far from a sure thing. Awawdeh’s lawyer, Peter Marc Frankel, confirmed the deal to the Post in January, as did prosecutors on the case. But speaking to the New York Jewish Week on Monday, Frankel said he was unsure if the deal would come to fruition.

    “I don’t know if it’s going to happen, frankly,” Frankel said. “It’s unclear at this point. I don’t know if it’s going to be a six-month deal, but I would not expect a shorter deal, certainly.”

    The deal has not yet been openly discussed in court, and Borgen’s lawyer, Ross Pearlson, who is representing his client pro-bono on behalf of the Anti-Defamation League, told the New York Jewish Week that “it’s not clear” if the six-month deal will hold.

    “I’m unaware of any offers being made,” Pearlson said. “I believe that a year would be more appropriate. Six months to me still seems a little light considering the mob violence and the damage that was done to [Borgen].”

    Bragg’s office declined to comment on the deal. The ADL likewise did not respond to requests for comment on the case.

    Shortly after the attack, in 2021, a prosecutor on the case said that Awawdeh had told one of his jailers, “If I could do it again, I would do it again,” according to the Post. But Frankel told the New York Jewish Week that “that quote was taken completely out of context” and that Awawdeh has offered to meet and apologize to Borgen. He also met with the prosecutors to explain how remorseful he felt.

    “[Awawdeh’s] behavior was the result of bad impulse control and a bad reaction to a bad situation, rather than an effort to try to seek someone out who is Jewish to commit a hate crime,” Frankel said.

    Pearlson added that Borgen “has been traumatized by this event.”

    “He’s very emotional when I speak to him about it,” Pearlson said. “He gets agitated for each one of these court appearances. When we talk about the case, he’s passionate about it.”

    There are now five defendants in the case, including Awawdeh, and the D.A.’s office is treating them differently based on their alleged respective roles in the beating.

    “Justice is not one size fits all,” Pearlson said. “It doesn’t move quickly, but in this case, it’s not the D.A.’s office delaying things or dragging its heels. There’s going to be some element of justice done.”

    Bragg’s office told the New York Jewish Week that 92 hate crimes were prosecuted in Manhattan last year.  His office currently has 20 open hate crime cases related to antisemitism for this year. A report last year in The City, a local publication, found that most hate crimes charges are dropped before any convictions take place.

    Although Borgen remains involved in the case, and has spoken about his experience publicly, he suggested that it was still hard to think about.

    “Some people have said, ‘God only put you through this because you can handle it,’” said Borgen, who is modern Orthodox and puts on tefillin daily. “But if I start to think about it in those terms, I don’t want to go there. I don’t want to let it factor into my views on God and spirituality because if I did, it might make me start to question and wonder about things. I don’t want to go down that road.”

    On March 9, Borgen appeared in court, sitting in the same room as his alleged attackers. While he could not comment on the specifics of the hearing, not wanting to impact court proceedings, he said that “it sucks to be in the same room as individuals who could have killed me.”

    “I don’t like going to court,” Borgen said. “I do it because when I’m there with other people, a large group of Jewish individuals, it sends a message that we’re not lying down and taking this.”


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    51 Comments
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    Golda
    Golda
    1 year ago

    Peter Frankel, likely a Jew, said “Awawdeh’s behavior was the result of bad impulse control and a bad reaction to a bad situation, rather than an effort to try to seek someone out who is Jewish to commit a hate crime,” Frankel said. IM sure the hater simply hit a person randomly and wasn’t out to target Jews….

    Chaya
    Chaya
    1 year ago

    A 15 year old boy was beaten by a group of 5-6 teens at 9:00 pm coming home from Yeshiva. Shomrim saw where the group went and the police didn’t arrest them. This boy needed an orthodontist, orthopaedic and suffered terrible trauma. Nothing substantial was done. Both parents had to take 2 weeks off of work to take care of him and go to doctor appointments.

    Mendel
    Mendel
    1 year ago

    When is the next court hearing, I would like to day the day of of work and come show my support. Please post the next hearing date and location. Thanks

    Triumphinwhitehouse
    Triumphinwhitehouse
    1 year ago

    The result of soros AND affirmative action unqualified Alvin bragg

    Jolly
    Jolly
    1 year ago

    The animal should get at least 10 years

    Lgb
    Lgb
    1 year ago

    Bragg the same DA who meets to indict Trump, can’t make his stuff up

    Doc
    Doc
    1 year ago

    If it were a white person who attacked a black or a Jew who attacked a Muslim they would not be offered a plea deal and this DA would see to it that they serves the Max for a hate crime!! This DA is not doing his job and needs to go!!

    Judith
    Judith
    1 year ago

    Give us a petition to sign .

    hard at work yeshiva grad
    hard at work yeshiva grad
    1 year ago

    this bragg is something else. muslim terrorist wannbe gets 6 months but weiselberg has to get longer for taking some perks off the books and for doing the evil act of working for trump.

    Chaya
    Chaya
    1 year ago

    It’s Still happening

    Biden is an evil child mutilator supporter.
    Biden is an evil child mutilator supporter.
    1 year ago

    Bragg has turned a majority of felonies into misdemeanors freeing violent offenders on to the streets, and now wants to turn what may be a misdemeanor into a felony do he can try and get Trump.

    Practical
    Practical
    1 year ago

    #Where is Ezra/Schomer

    Normal
    Normal
    1 year ago

    How about we stop mentioning hate, or race together with a crime. Its a crime & leave it at that. Why do we need to base the prosecution of a crime on WHY he did it? It gives it less weight to prosecute and opens it up to excuses. I dont care if he was high on alcohol, or drugs or completely sober when he beat someone up; similarly I dont care if he loves jews or hates them – he beat up an innocent person and needs to pay for his crime.

    nebuch
    nebuch
    1 year ago

    Prosecutors across the country are notorious for pleading down hate crimes or not seriously pursuing them, even in cases like this when it’s obvious. That’s been the case regardless of the politics of the prosecutor or the identity of the people being attacked by the hate crime. They worry that will make it more complicated to get a conviction so they switch to simpler charges and often let people off easy. It’s a significant problem.

    Aguttenshabbos
    Aguttenshabbos
    1 year ago

    Back in the day, the Goilem, the Mafia, Lee Harvey Oswald, Yigal Amir, Goldstein, etc took care of business. Just saying. חדש ימינו כקדם

    Last edited 1 year ago by Aguttenshabbos
    Educated Archy
    Educated Archy
    1 year ago

    As long as Bragg goes after Trump for the crime of the century these crimes don’t matter.
    Phineas don’t you see the hypocrisy? How can you still be foolish enough to believe in the system? This is justice ? Or is it just about whatever works best for Brags PR?
    Like you still believe in the “law” and law enforcement?
    Brag the rag must go

    Last edited 1 year ago by
    Pushata yid
    Pushata yid
    1 year ago

    imagine if this was reversed. 5 of us beating one of those Chayos. The whole USA would be up in arms

    Oren
    Oren
    1 year ago

    Sue them

    Celebrating a birthday?
    Celebrating a birthday?
    1 year ago

    The next hearing is April 20. Do the anti-semites want to celebrate their hero’s ( A.H. yemach shmo’s) birthday?

    Last edited 1 year ago by NEW-NU
    Kvetch
    Kvetch
    1 year ago

    This is nothing to Bragg about
    (Before commenting pls discern that this refers to the corrupt DA)

    lazerx
    lazerx
    1 year ago

    American justice system is really and totally blind.

    Arik
    Arik
    1 year ago

    Pleeease, all frummies, learn to fight to kill.

    A REAL YID
    A REAL YID
    1 year ago

    FACT: Dramatic rise in anti-Jewish attacks and hate increased when the Orange Rasha normalized it.