WEST NYACK, N.Y. (AP) — An Orthodox Jewish man credited as a hero for attacking a knife-wielding man who stabbed five people during a Hanukkah celebration north of New York City is refusing to take a $20,000 reward from established Jewish groups because he considers them Zionists, according to a rabbi who knows him.
Officials with the Jewish Federation and the Anti-Defamation League told The Journal News that they were caught off guard by Josef Gluck's decision to turn down the reward, the newspaper reported Friday.
"The reward would have been for anybody who offered information that would lead to an arrest," said Miriam Allenson, spokesperson for the Jewish Federation & Foundation of Rockland County. "That was what was on our minds."
Allenson said that there were no strings with the money and that the groups had “no idea" regarding Gluck's decision to turn away the funds.
The reward presentation event was scheduled for Feb. 6, but Gluck said he had a family emergency, Allenson said.
Rabbi Dovid Feldman of Monsey said Gluck's decision stems from the discomfort he and some other Hasidic and ultra-Orthodox Jews have with organizations like the Jewish Federation and Anti-Defamation League. Feldman said Gluck was preparing to notify the groups in writing to explain in more detail his reasons for declining the reward.
Rabbi Feldman is a leader of Neturei Karta International. Its Orthodox Jewish members believe "the entire concept of a sovereign Jewish state is contrary to Jewish Law.”
"It was his choice not to accept," Allenson said Monday. "We're letting it go. There's nothing else to say."
Gluck is credited with throwing his body in front of the machete-wielding man and using a wooden table to try and stop the Dec. 28 assault in Monsey, the newspaper reported. He then lured the attacker outside and documented the attacker's license plate number and alerted police.
Gluck has received several honors for his heroism, including a congressional certificate presented by U.S. Democratic Rep. Nita Lowey, of Harrison, the Town of Ramapo's Freedom Award and a New York State Senate Liberty Medal.
Evan Bernstein, an Anti-Defamation League vice president, said that while the group is disappointed Gluck decided not to accept the award, it will continue to work closely with the Orthodox Jewish community in Monsey and elsewhere and offer rewards when merited to assist law enforcement in the investigation of hate crimes.
Grafton Thomas, the man accused in the stabbing, pleaded not guilty on multiple hate crime charges. Investigators found anti-Semitic writings in Thomas's journals and articles on Jews and Nazis on his cell phone, according to a complaint filed by the U.S. Attorney's Office. Thomas' defense attorney said last month that a psychiatrist found Thomas incompetent to stand trial.
The attack left five men wounded, including a 72-year-old who remains in a coma with a fractured skull and other injuries.