• The Handbasket
  • Posts
  • “I didn't think he was gonna stop”: Cousin of infamous extremist rabbi Meir Kahane attacks student protesters with car

“I didn't think he was gonna stop”: Cousin of infamous extremist rabbi Meir Kahane attacks student protesters with car

A student eyewitness tells The Handbasket what he saw.

Before we jump in: The Handbasket is fully supported by paid subscriptions. If you value independent journalism, please become a premium subscriber here. You can also support my work here. Thanks for reading.

Reuven Kahane (via Twitter)

At approximately 8:46 Tuesday morning, Reuven Kahane, 57, took a left hand turn onto Park Avenue in Manhattan, stopped short, and then accelerated his Volvo towards a group of Columbia student protesters in the crosswalk. Kahane struck one person, 55-year-old Maryellen Novak, a volunteer who was one of three people there to protect the protesters from harm. As one Columbia student witness told me Wednesday morning, “It was one of the most terrifying things I've witnessed.”

Kahane was quickly arrested by cops who were already on the scene eyeing the peaceful protesters. They arrested another one of the volunteers, John Rozendaal, 63, and Novak, too, was later arrested at the hospital. She was reportedly handcuffed to her bed, according to independent journalist Talia Jane, who was one of the first to report on the incident. An NYPD spokesperson confirmed all the arrests to me Tuesday evening.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s office has confirmed that Kahane was arraigned Wednesday morning for 2nd degree assault “by means of a dangerous instrument.” He pleaded not guilty and was released on his own recognizance. The office also said they declined to prosecute Novak and Rozendaal, and both have been released. According to the DA’s complaint, Kahane’s “conduct caused substantial pain to [Novak’s] back and legs.”

If you recognize the Kahane name, there’s a good reason: Reuven is a cousin of the late Meir Kahane, the American-Israeli political extremist and founder of the infamous Jewish Defense League. Per the Southern Poverty Law Center, “The JDL's position with regard to Israel is denial of any Palestinian claims to land and the calling for the removal of all Arabs from the ‘Jewish-inherited soil.’ The group has orchestrated countless terrorist attacks in the U.S. and abroad, and has engaged in intense harassment of foreign diplomats, Muslims, Jewish scholars and community leaders, and officials.”

Though perfunctory coverage of the story has popped up in dribs and drabs since the attack, for most of the day Tuesday, local media said nothing. And in the wake of nonstop coverage of troubling antisemitic incidents on college campuses, the silence on this attack on pro-Palestinian students was deafening.

I spoke with an undergraduate Columbia student via phone Wednesday morning who was part of the protest—and who was nearly a victim of Kahane’s vehicular assault. I’m withholding his name for safety and privacy, but he offered a detailed account of what he witnessed Tuesday:

Subscribe to keep reading

This content is free, but you must be subscribed to The Handbasket to continue reading.

Already a subscriber?Sign In.Not now

Join the conversation

or to participate.