(JTA) — The charity Kars4Kids is citing an incident outside its Jewish camp in upstate New York in pressing its case to arm staff.
In the July 23 incident, a man allegedly brandished a machete when approached by a staffer at The Zone, the Orthodox Jewish camp that Kars4Kids operates in Gilboa, New York, through Oorah, its Jewish education charity arm.
Robert O’Malley, a facility manager at The Zone, said he was directing buses out of the camp that morning when a man driving a green Jeep Cherokee wearing a Coast Guard veteran cap began yelling at him to “get the f— off the road,” according to O’Malley’s sworn July 30 statement, which the Jewish Telegraphic Agency obtained.
After O’Malley waved the man over, the man brandished a large knife, according to the statement filed with the Schoharie County Sheriff’s Office. In a photograph attached to the complaint, a man is holding up a machete through the open window of his car.
"Fearful and scared"
“The actions of this male made me fearful and scared,” O’Malley said in the complaint. The complaint does not say that the man said anything about the camp or campers’ Jewish identity, which resolved without violence.
The CEO of Oorah and Kars4Kids, Eliohu Mintz, and a camp staff member are challenging New York State’s concealed carry law in court, claiming that its restrictions leave staff and children vulnerable to antisemitic attacks. The law prohibits private citizens from carrying guns in places where religious activities are conducted.
The machete incident “vividly illustrates the very real, imminent and pressing need for staff of the camp to be properly armed,” Wendy Kirwan, Kars4Kids’ communications director, said in an email to JTA.
Kirwan said the incident took place in view of campers. July 23 was the final day of the camp’s first session.
Designated and trained security guards may carry guns at religious facilities in New York, but the Kars4Kids officials challenging the law are not part of the staff’s security staff. The staffer, Eric Schwartz, lives year-round on the grounds of the camp and said in the legal challenge to the state law that he had faced antisemitic incidents because he is “easily recognizable and identifiable to the public” as an Orthodox Jew.
Jewish security specialists, who have recently increased their attention to the summer camp sector, have said that arming rank-and-file Jews is not an effective deterrent against antisemitic attacks.
The Schoharie County sheriff’s office did not return a request for a status update on the complaint.