Benny Fischer, a local Jewish restaurateur, didn’t expect much of a controversy when he decided last week to hang a pair of Israeli and American flags outside his restaurant.
But he got one, he said, in the form of death threats.
After the flags went up outside of Benny’s Bar and Grill, located in Cabin John Shopping Center on Seven Locks Road in Potomac, Fischer said he was awakened at 3 a.m. by an anonymous caller to his home.
“Take the flag down you f—ing Jew. Jews are scum. … We are going to kill all the Jews, including you,” Fischer said the caller told him. The caller continued, also “ranting” about Israel and Jews, before Fischer hung up.
After a second call, Fischer filed a police report with Montgomery County Police.
Steven Chaikin, assistant state’s attorney for Montgomery County, said that police are now investigating Fischer’s case, and, if successful in tracking down the caller, the suspect will be charged with a hate crime.
According to the assistant state’s attorney, it is a hate crime under Maryland law to threaten or harass someone on the basis of race, religion, creed or sex. “We take all threats like this, especially hate crimes, very seriously,” Chaikin said. The case has been referred to the investigative section of the police department.
“Cowards hide behind a phone in the middle of the night,” said Fischer.
Anti-Semitic incidents have been occurring more frequently throughout the United States and the world. Recently in Miami, two swastikas were spray painted on the entrance to a synagogue. In a separate incident, an Orthodox rabbi was shot and killed walking to synagogue. Miami-Dade police are investigating that case as a robbery. No arrests have yet been made in Fischer’s case.
Despite his harrowing ordeal, Fischer expressed no regrets about flying the flags, stressing that he “supports both America and Israel. I am American and Jewish.”
Even though Fischer has never been to Israel, he said that, as a Jewish person watching the news, he felt he needed to do something to show solidarity.
“I was the kind of kid growing up who was never afraid to stand up,” said Fischer, who grew up in this area. “There is more anti-Semitism in Montgomery County than most people would believe,” he said.
Fischer said he is “undaunted by the harassment,” and is moving forward with a planned fundraiser next month for Magen David Adom, Israel’s medical emergency response service, at his restaurant.
Ron Halber, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, said it is foolish to say any place is free of racism, anti-Semitism or hate crimes. Halber does not believe that Montgomery County is experiencing an epidemic of anti-Semitism, but when it does “rear its ugly head,” [the JCRC’s] very strong relationships with law enforcement will deal with it.
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Good for Mr. Fischer. This is still America, where we all have the freedom of speech, which includes flying these flags. By the same token, those who disagree have the same right, but they don’t have the right to threaten lives. I hope the police find the responsible party, and prosecute to the fullest extent of the law.
The Flag will never come down and every Jew & non-Jew that supports Israel should put up the flag…NEVER BACK DOWN!