An Orthodox Jewish man hailed as a hero for stopping a machete-wielding man from causing further harm, having stabbed five people during a Hanukkah celebration at a rabbi's home in Monsey, New York, has refused to accept a $20,000 reward from established Jewish organisations because he considers them Zionists.
Officials with the Jewish Federation and the Anti-Defamation League told the Journal News on Friday that they were caught off guard by Josef Gluck's decision to turn down the reward.
"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.
Out of the darkness of the #MonseyAttack came some light. Josef Gluck did what we all hope we could do in a chaotic and violent situation. He fought back. Then, secured the attacker's license plate number. Proud to present him with the NYS Senate Liberty Medal today. #hero pic.twitter.com/ekvP8L4qHZ
— Senator David Carlucci (@SenatorCarlucci) January 5, 2020
However, the New York Times reported that Rabbi Dovid Feldman from Monsey who personally knows Gluck explained that his refusal to accept the reward stems from the discomfort he and some other Hasidic and ultra-Orthodox Jews have with pro-Zionist organisations.
A reward presentation event was set for 6 February but Gluck did not attend, citing a family emergency. Feldman said Gluck will instead notify the groups in writing explaining his absence and his declining of the reward. "It was his choice not to accept," Allenson said last week. "We're letting it go. There's nothing else to say."
Rabbi Feldman is a leader of Neturei Karta International, a religious organisation established in Jerusalem who opposes the existence of a "State of Israel", believing that the concept of a sovereign Jewish state is "contrary to Jewish Law".
According to a post last week on Neturei Karta's Facebook page, Gluck said in an interview: "If you would have asked me a day before if something like this is going to happen what are you going to do, I would say run for my life as far as I could. I would never imagine that I would be the one they call a hero to run and do what I did."
"I feel honored by G-d to even give me such merit to do this."
In refusing the money, his community in New York reportedly honoured him "with an equivalent reward" during a gathering of anti-Zionist activists in Brooklyn, with leading rabbis and community activists in attendance. Gluck was previously presented with the New York State Senate Liberty Medal by State Senator David Carlucci.
Josef Gluck humbly accepting the Liberty Medal from Sen. David Carlucci🏅🙌🏼 full story @ 4 pic.twitter.com/KzLCDZwfG0
— Nikita Ramos (@nikitaramostv) January 5, 2020
The attack took place on 28 December last year, when Grafton Thomas entered Rabbi Chaim Rottenburg's home and began slashing people with a machete, however Gluck threw a table at the attacker before chasing him out of the premises and followed him as he escaped into his car. Gluck captured his license plate details and passed them onto the police, leading to the arrest of the attacker. Investigators reportedly found anti-Semitic writings in Thomas' journals in addition to articles on Jews and Nazis on his cell phone. Thomas' defence attorney argued last month that a psychiatrist found Thomas incompetent to stand trial.