Ilya Feoktistov and Charles Jacobs, American Thinker, January 9, 2020
Attacks on New York Jews continue unabated in the New Year. A Jewish teen was threatened with a knife by a mob on New Year’s Eve, and a Jewish man was attacked by two women on the street on New Year’s Day. Many of the attacks are simply not reported out of fear.
No wonder — unless the attack causes serious injuries, most of the suspects have been released without bail and are walking the same neighborhoods as their victims, unlikely to serve any time or even make their court appearances. One of the attackers, who allegedly slapped three Orthodox Jewish women while yelling, “F— you, Jews,” was released and rearrested three more times for new assaults. She was unrepentant, telling the cops: “Yes, I slapped them. I cursed them out. I said ‘F-U, Jews.’” A Jewish man who was beaten with a chair by a mob on December 24 told the New York Post that he felt there was no use reporting the beating, “given new bail reform legislation that bars judges from detaining suspects in assaults that don’t result in injury — even in the case of hate crimes.”
Thanks to the new bail law, Jews are now being beaten in the streets with impunity. The law eliminates bail and requires pre-trial release for those charged with many violent and heinous crimes, such as second-degree manslaughter, aggravated vehicular homicide, criminal possession of a gun, and dozens of other serious charges.
Yet it was New York’s establishment Jewish leadership that led the lobbying effort to pass bail reform. On September 15, 2019, the UJA-Federation of New York, the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of New York, and a national umbrella group of 125 Jewish community relations councils that calls itself the Jewish Center for Public Affairs (JCPA) held a conference celebrating the role of Jewish organizations in getting criminal reform legislation passed. Among the accomplishments touted at the conference were the new bail laws. Here in Massachusetts, the local JRCR head, Jeremy Burton, has also been pushing for bail reform.
The JCPA, led by David Bernstein, is the central Jewish organization driving criminal justice reform campaigns. In 2016, the JCPA launched its Criminal Justice Initiative, mobilizing dozens of its member community relations councils in cities across America to demand criminal justice reform to “end mass incarceration.” Jewish community relations councils serve under Jewish federations as outreach organizations in most big American cities.
In 2018, the JCPA hired New York activist Roy Waterman to lead its the initiative. Waterman would seem a strange hire for an organization focused on Jewish issues. In the mid-1990s, the future JCPA official was a crack dealer in Queens. Waterman spent his teenage days “walking with guns” and “hurting people,” until going to prison for masterminding an armed bank robbery and being an accomplice in the brutal torture and murder of an innocent man over drug money.
On July 29, 1996, Waterman accompanied a heroin dealer trying to collect a $180 drug debt to an Albany apartment, hoping to “beat the guy up and get the money.” Not finding him there, they instead began beating his roommate, Anthony Ingoldsby. The ringleader took Anthony into a bedroom and began torturing him as Waterman and the other men kept watch outside. Waterman could hear loud “booming” noises, as well as the victim crying and begging, but did nothing to stop it. The victim’s “body was discovered the following morning with multiple stab wounds to the neck, shoulder and chest…”
As an accomplice to first-degree murder, pled down to first-degree burglary, Waterman served twelve years. On the inside, he benefited from mental therapy programs, Narcotics Anonymous mentorship, skills training, and correspondence paralegal courses. After being released, he started a successful food truck and catering business, hiring young formerly incarcerated men like himself.
Some might argue that New York’s criminal justice system treated Waterman quite well — certainly better than Waterman treated Ingoldsby. Waterman served what many might consider a lenient term of twelve years, received free treatment and education, and was welcomed back into society with open arms.
On the other hand, some might argue that America’s criminal justice system does need rational reform. The War on Drugs has been a disaster. There are too many criminal statutes on the books. Criminal laws are enforced too arbitrarily, and, when it comes to drug laws, often with racial disparity.
All this is arguably true, yet Waterman and the JCPA promote neither of these moderate arguments. Waterman believes that he was unjustly victimized by a criminal justice system that is illegitimate at its core, by a society motivated by racism, and by laws that should not exist. As Waterman writes about himself:
“Roy strongly believes that the racist criminal justice system which never had a level of humanity or equality to begin with cannot be tweaked or reformed. He continuously asks us all to reimagine a society without jails or prisons.”
“Slavery never ended,” Waterman claims, because “mass incarceration is just a manifestation of what slavery is.” He claims he’s “been saying this for years,” that “[i]f we actually want to end mass incarceration, we must have the courage to talk about reforms that are for EVERYONE behind bars, not just those convicted of low-level drug offenses.” Waterman’s solution is radical: “What we have to do is break the system that was created, which was built off of institutional racism, and now reimagine what it looks like to be incarcerated in America.”
Yet all this talk of anarchy and lawlessness is music to the ears of the leaders of America’s most powerful Jewish institutions, so many of whom have come to favor progressive ideology over fundamental Jewish (and classic liberal) principles. Roy Waterman is an “all[y] in pursuit of the American dream,” tweeted ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt after inviting Waterman to speak at ADL’s 2018 National Leadership Summit. Jewish leaders from Cleveland to St. Louis sing Waterman’s praises.
The situation contains an element of absurdity. Why would Greenblatt and David Bernstein recruit a jailhouse radical who helped torture someone to death to lead a revolutionary project to break America’s criminal justice system by emptying all the prisons and jails? Is this really the best use of the American Jewish community’s political power? And how will the American public react to Jewish leaders heading such an effort, which, among other things, brands all Americans, especially those in law enforcement, as irredeemably racist?
The reality is less absurd than it is tragic. Jewish leaders like Greenblatt and Bernstein don’t do their work for the good of the Jews. Mainstream Jewish organizations like the ADL, the Federations, and the JCRCs have been usurped by far-left extremists who view themselves as the vanguard of a progressive intersectional movement first, and as Jews dead last. Their belief system has much more in common with Waterman’s than it does with the religion of the Orthodox Jewish community of Brooklyn. Like the Hellenizing elite of Maccabean times, they have set themselves against their own people. More and more Jews are now questioning if they too must now be chased out of power. Commentary Magazine editor John Podhoretz is furious with Greenblatt and wants him replaced. (Today’s podcast.)
Judaism abhors violent crime and values human life. As a minority, Jews have thrived in societies with a strong rule of law, and died en masse in places where governments refused to protect them. “There were remarkably few policemen on the streets,” reported the Telegraph from Berlin on Kristallnacht. “Those who were there, when their attention was drawn to the outrages which were proceeding before their eyes, shrugged their shoulders and refused to take any action.” Thanks to the destructive efforts of Jewish leaders like David Bernstein, the same reporting may now accurately describe New York in the 2020s.
On February 27, 2019, Roy Waterman was charged with two class 2 misdemeanors in North Carolina for reckless driving and for going 90 in a 65 mile per hour zone. Not quite torture and murder, but not role model material, either. The reckless driving charge was dismissed, and the speeding downgraded to a non-criminal infraction. Once again, Waterman was treated fairly by the criminal justice system, even though he has since skipped out on paying his fine.
The JCPA allowed Waterman to continue pushing for bail reform until its passage last April, and then parted ways with him amicably last May. The JCPA and the ADL should now part ways with David Bernstein and Jonathan Greenblatt as well, repudiate their reckless bail reform agenda, and get back to protecting the Jewish people from the many threats we face.