BORO PARK – The man at the heart of the violent protests against masks is a marginal figure in the Haredi community who was convicted in a massive illegal immigration scheme before he remade himself as Trump era anti-mask and anti-media activist.
Harold “Heshy” Tischler, 56, is the Haredi version of the violent, pro-Trump Proud Boys, a flamboyant and outrageous figure who wore a Trump sticker across his chest as his fervent supporters marched to battle under a large blue “Trump” flag in Boro Park. He has rocketed to national notoriety in just days thanks to a combination of violent confrontation and outrageous statements.
“We are rioting. We have our soldiers. This is not going to end. Mr. Cuomo, Mr. de Blasio, this is not going to end good,” Tischler threatened in a video on his Instagram during the protest yesterday. “Me and my boys… It’s not going to end good for you. Don’t you dare come to my neighborhood. Don’t you dare send those people in. And if you hurt any of my boys, just one, I’m coming for you. I am not scared.”
Tuesday night, rioters burned masks and beat a dissenter unconscious. Wednesday, a journalist was assaulted doing his job. But while Mr. Tischler appears in videos of the scene to be leading the angry crowd, community members told Bklyner that he has emerged almost out of nowhere to lead a fraction of the community — and embarrass most of it.
“From what I have seen of him in recent videos, he is very comfortable skewing facts. In one of his recent videos that circulated the Jewish community via What’s App, he claimed that there were ZERO cases of Covid-19 at Maimonides,” said Amber Adler, who is running for the 48th City Council District. “Meanwhile, the official Maimonides count showed there was a daily average of 40 people with COVID-19. One of my friends was personally taking care of eight of them at that time.”
Ms. Adler has been involved in the community for over a decade but said she has only met Tischler once at an event.
Tischler, who is running for City Council, holds no official office. He lives in Boro Park with his wife Linda and currently has his own radio show called The Just Enough HESHY Show—which airs on 620 AM on Wednesdays and on YouTube. A figure who sometimes presents himself as a journalist and sometimes as an activist, he sometimes wears a homemade press pass around his neck. Tischler is also a landlord and owns four buildings throughout Brooklyn; two in Boro Park and two in Williamsburg.
In the widely circulated videos on Twitter, Tischler gets in the face of a well known Jewish reporter within the community, maskless. He proceeds to rally up the protesters against the journalist, Jacob Kornbluh.
Tischler, a Trump supporter, has made protests against COVD-19 restrictions his central cause this year. On September 25, he interrupted Dr. Mitchell Katz, head of NYC Health + Hospitals, the largest municipal health system in the United States, at his press conference on combating COVID-19 spread in Brooklyn by saying, “Your numbers today are lies. Go ahead, continue to lie, you piece of garbage.”
But before Mr. Tischler boarded the most extreme car of the Trump Train, he spent time in jail for a scheme that sounds like something out of Jeff Sessions’ wildest nightmares: According to federal prosecutors, Tischler was paid between $300 and $500 a head to promise jobs at fake companies like “Fix Anything Construction and Plumbing” to immigrants who wouldn’t otherwise be able to stay legally in the United States. At least 25,000 immigrants paid as much as $30,000 each to Tischler and his collaborators, often in cash, between 1996 and 2009 to provide the fake job opportunities. Tischler’s role was to “falsely represent to the Department of Labor that [he was] sponsoring aliens for employment,” according to the indictment.
“This law firm and its associates allegedly exploited the immigration system and carried out one of the largest immigration fraud schemes to have ever been committed in our country,” Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent-in-Charge, James Hayes Jr., said when the fraudsters were arrested in 2011. “Today’s arrests reflect HSI’s commitment to investigating document and benefit fraud and those who try to circumvent our nation’s immigration laws.”
Tischler was sentenced to a year and a day in prison for the scheme and appeared to blame one of his co-conspirators.
“Moiser, you put me in prison. WOW,” he complained to one, according to a court’s ruling against his appeal of the case.
Tischler’s family has also found legal trouble when it comes to politics.
In 2010, his son Abraham Tischler ran for the 44th City Council District. Abraham was sued by David Greenfield, who was then the executive vice president of the Sephardic Community Federation, for allegedly forging and duplicating signatures in his petition. At the time, Tischler, a construction contractor, had spent $1,000 on his son’s campaign, the Daily News reported, and was very upset to hear about the lawsuit. Abraham was eventually taken off the ballot when the Board of Elections invalidated about 800 of his signatures, leaving him with an insufficient number of signatures to qualify for the ballot. Tischler was upset about that as well and told VIN News, “My son does chessed, serves food at Masbia. We go to the hospital on Shabbos and give out food to people. We are supposed to be a Jewish community and the candidates keep preaching achdus. You call this achdus?”
The relationship between the Jewish community and local government has deteriorated and some believe Tischler is adding fuel to the fire. In screenshots shared on Twitter, Tischler is directly calling for violence, saying “this is what happens to rats,” referring to the victim of Wednesday night’s attack.
You are brainwashing young innocent good young boys! Stop with the madness! We arent in Nazi Germany and dont traumatized grandchildren of Holocaust victims with lies that fit your agenda! I wonder what your parents ( that were in a real holocaust )think of this!
— Elad Nehorai (@PopChassid) October 7, 2020
When she asked him to elaborate, he explained that the person deserved it and (falsely) named the counter-protestor (I’m assuming to instigate more attacks). pic.twitter.com/vvzm3VCWSW
— Elad Nehorai (@PopChassid) October 7, 2020
After videos were posted on Twitter of Councilmember Kalman Yeger and Tischler standing next to one another at Wednesday’s protest, it became unclear what Yeger’s stance on the “community activist,” was. Mordy Getz, whose brother was the victim of an assault on Wednesday, said on Twitter that Yeger needs to condemn or “cut off ties from the dangerous Heshy Tischler.” Continuing in a separate tweet to say, “I saw you [Yeger] embracing him and sharing the mic with him! Shame on u!”
When Bklyner reached out to Yeger’s office for comment, we were met with silence. He did take to Twitter to say, “I’m disgusted by the attack in the early morning hours on a member of our community. There is never ever a reason to raise a hand to a fellow human. We are better than that. I hope the attackers realize how wrong this was. NYPD will investigate violent crimes in our community.” He also Tweeted, “Second night in a row, a resident of our community was surrounded and assaulted. THIS IS NOT WHO WE ARE. The NYPD must investigate. Enough is enough!”
During both nights of protests, no arrests were made, despite at least one person being assaulted. While holding up Trump signs, protesters can be seen blocking a police car from coming through, with little push back from the police. Hardly any force was shown on either night of protesting, with one video on Twitter showing the police standing by as the fire in the street continued to rise, leaving the crowd soon after.
“Do not touch my police officers. They are our friends,” Tischler said in his Instagram video before last night’s protest. “They are our neighbors. They are our brothers. They are our guardians. They will not hurt us.”