UPDATE: Fighter/instructor Yuri Foreman checked in with NYF, after I asked how these self defense classes have been going.
“Norman Steiner and Jackie Atkins and myself in my opinion supplied the students with vital info,” Foreman said. “But like anything in life there is no ‘one time wonder’ ….to get better at anything requires commitment. Our second class had significantly more people!”
If you pay attention to the news, bless you. So much of it is “bad.” The climate, the political scene, it is an age of division. And in the New York region, an uptick in anti-Semitic incidents have added an extra layer of unease felt by Jewish people in the area.
The constant stream of vandalism, and verbal attacks and violent and lethal assaults are unsettling, at best.
So, Gleason's Gym boss Bruce Silverglade (below) is offering something of an antidote to the negative trend.
He told me his wife came up with the idea to have a self defense class at Gleason's. Both have been aware of a rising tide of hate crimes and incidents of an anti-Semitic nature. Then, the horrific attack in Monsey, NY, which saw on Dec. 28 a deranged man wielding a machete storm into a Hasidic rabbi’s home and stab five people at a Hanukkah celebration, in that New York City suburb.
The Anti-Defamation League recorded the third-highest total of anti-Semitic incidents since the group started tracking and sharing that stat 40 years ago. In New York City, authorities said there had been a 23 percent rise in anti-Semitic hate crimes in the last 12 months.
The Monsey attack came on the heels of a rampage that killed three, in Jersey City, NJ. A couple opened fire on persons in a kosher grocery store and authorities found the shooters, killed in an exchange with police, subscribed to hateful beliefs regarding Jews.
Silverglade wanted to do something positive rather than just take in the torrent of bad news; he listened to his missus, saw the wisdom of her suggestion, and approached Yuri Foreman, a rabbi who happens to fight.
“She said Gleason's is often on the forefront of many of the major issues, she said this would be a good thing, and let's start giving self defense classes to the people who need it from that community,” Silverglade said. He asked Jackie Atkins, and attorney/fighter Norman Steiner, to pitch in. Both are acquainted with the self defense art of krav maga, taught to military in Israel. “We had an overwhelming response to the announcement!”
WPIX taped a segment on the class, which will run any day now, he said.
“We want to build self confidence, we want the people to know they can stand up for themselves, and not just be pawns out there,” Silverglade said, noting that such classes can also help kids who get bullied in school. He made sure to hammer home that anyone is welcome, the class kicked off to be an asset to Jewish folks, but any and all are welcomed.
There will be two sessions offered, on Sunday, one in the morning, one in the afternoon.
Right now, Foreman is poised to have his first fight at welterweight, after campaigning as a junior middleweight. But he's all about doing service, and offering himself to bolster his community, and spread positive messaging. I asked him about the self defense class. The 39 year old pugilist, who offers training sessions at his home base of Gleason's, replied, “This is the least we can do for ourselves, I'm talking about Jewish people, and not just Jewish people, people who need to protect themselves, and give themselves a little bit of extra confidence, so they won't be susceptible to bullying.”
And this isn't teaching you to FIGHT, this is to help you know how to defend yourself. If God forbid you are attacked or pestered, you can now know how to defuse the situation, if it starts to become physical, or is headed in that direction. “One third of the class will be about mental preparedness,” Foreman (click here, at 32:48 mark, to hear more from Foreman, including the status of plans for his next bout) continued. “It's very important to mentally prepare yourself, if you are walking in Brooklyn, or other areas of New York City.” And people can learn, and that will make them more confident in standing up for someone else, when you see them being bullied.
I asked Foreman why, why are we seeing this surge in attacks and hate speech. That's a long tradition, he said, and up-surges are to be expected. He sees lots of older folks being bullied by youths, but he also is happy to see, at peace rallies, people of all ages and ethnicities and races walking side by side to lobby for kindness. There is no shortage of people who believe that Donald Trump is a bad influence, that his choice of words often serve to inflame hatred and encourage hate crimes against minorities. But Foreman tries to traffic in positive reactions; he said that he sees the same unity at Gleason's, where Silverglade runs the Give A Kid A Dream program, that helps kids in danger of falling between the cracks find a bit more structure.
Sign up for the class, and then email me, at Fightwrite@gmail.com, tell me how it goes.