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Shapiro, Jewish Leaders Condemn Protest Targeting Israeli-Owned Philly Restaurant

Pro-Palestinian protesters took to the streets in Center City Philadelphia Sunday night, shouting their opposition to Israel, calling for “intifada,” and demanding a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war. Some went to the University of Pennsylvania campus, a site of earlier demonstrations. Others headed to Goldie, a Jewish-owned restaurant serving Israeli food on Samson Street.

They chanted, “Goldie, Goldie, you can’t hide. We charge you with genocide.”

The protest was organized by the Philly Palestine Coalition, which earlier this year called for a boycott of Zionist-owned businesses, including Goldie and other restaurants also owned by Israeli-born chef Mike Solomonov.

The protest drew quick condemnation from Gov. Josh Shapiro (D-Pa.). “Tonight in Philly, we saw a blatant act of antisemitism — not a peaceful protest. A restaurant was targeted and mobbed because its owner is Jewish and Israeli. This hate and bigotry is reminiscent of a dark time in history,” Shapiro posted on X.

Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) added his own post. “They could be protesting Hamas. They could be protesting Hamas’ systematic rape of Israeli women and girls or demanding the remaining hostages be immediately released. Instead, they targeted a Jewish restaurant. It’s pathetic and rank antisemitism.”

The protest in Philadelphia is just one of many from pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel activists, some openly antisemitic, in the wake of Israel’s military response to the Oct. 7 terror attack carried out by Hamas. It claimed the lives of some 1,200 people in Israel, injured thousands more, and resulted in some 240 people taken hostage.

Rabbi Lance Sussman, author and rabbi emeritus of Keneseth Israel in Elkins Park, said he supports free speech. “However, targeting individuals and businesses solely based on their personal identities borders on harassment and a violation of their rights. There are many ‘public squares’ and spaces in our area to share one’s message. Good citizenship is a multidimensional responsibility.”

“Hamas seeks to carry out a genocide against Israel—that is their explicit intent, and intention is one of the two criteria that the Jewish refugee from Nazi Europe included when coining the term genocide to describe the Holocaust. Were Hamas to surrender, there would be no more Palestinian bloodshed precisely because Israel has no genocidal intentions. The perversion of language and ethics is truly Orwellian,” said Rav Shai Cherry, senior rabbi at Adath Jeshurun in Elkins Park.

Michael Solomonov, a chef and restaurateur who co-owns Goldie and several other Philadelphia eateries, declined to comment.

Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) said, “Additionally, I called Michael Solomonov this morning to share that I’m buying lunch for my SEPA team at Goldie in solidarity with him and his team.”

Dave McCormick, Casey’s Republican opponent, said, “This ‘protest’ is despicable — antisemitism, plain and simple. I call on everyone who cares about our Jewish community to support Goldie’s. There are more supporters who care than antisemites who hate.”

Shapiro added, “I’ve communicated tonight with @Mike_Solomonov and his team at Goldie to share our support, and Lori and I look forward to breaking bread there with them again soon.”

In the aftermath of the October attack, Solomonov, who immigrated to the U.S. from Israel, donated a day of the proceeds from all his restaurants to the Friends of @unitedhatzalahofisrael, a volunteer emergency medical services program in Israel.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia also condemned the protests. “As we have said before, this tactic only serves to intimidate, isolate, and scapegoat Israeli and Jewish businesses, further contributing to the alarming levels of hate against Jews nationwide,” it said in a statement. “We stand with Gov. Shapiro and other local officials in denouncing this protest for what it is: blatant antisemitism. We call on the community to counter this hatred by increasing their support to Jewish-owned and pro-Israel businesses by purchasing gift cards from them as gifts for the holidays.”

The Philadelphia Free Palestine Coalition announced Sunday’s protest on its Facebook page.

Bryan Fuller wrote on it to the group: “My two best friends are Islamic. My husband is Hindu. I have hundreds of Jewish and Islamic friends. We are celebrating my husband’s 46th birthday at a restaurant owned by an Islamic couple so our two best friends can eat halal meat. I am disgusted by your actions last night. I have always supported Gaza and Israel. Your HATE is unbearable to watch. As a devout liberal, you do not represent me and the majority. Israel is often wrong. So is Gaza. The hate you showed last night towards a Jewish business is disgusting. I would NEVER target an independent business because of the acts of people I don’t agree with. I will personally frequent every establishment you attempt to destroy. So will my Islamic, Jewish, and Christian friends. Hate has no home!”

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Lower Merion Commissioners Extend Punishment of Cop, Sparking Protests

Lower Merion Officer Charles Murphy pulled over Chaine Jordan on Jan. 8 for the relatively mundane infraction of following a car too closely.

What happened next resulted in Murphy’s suspension and generated protests by his fellow officers, who believe the punishment meted out to him went beyond what was fair and just.

After pulling over during the stop, Jordan refused orders from the officer to get out of the vehicle or roll down her tinted windows. Murphy said he would break the window and threatened to use a Taser. He tased her twice when Jordan refused to cooperate and provide officers with proof of insurance and her driver’s license.

Police officials initially moved to suspend Murphy for one day due to minor department policy violations. But on March 8, the Lower Merion Board of Commissioners extended it to 10 days.

“We had no words,” local Fraternal Order of Police President John Iushewitz told DVJournal regarding the lengthy sentence.

Between 125 and 150 Lower Merion officers protested on Wednesday in support of Murphy, with a particularly strong presence from the Fraternal Order of Police.

“I would like to thank the FOP members who showed up,” Iushewitz said, praising them for “support[ing] our brother who is being unjustly punished.”

Iushewitz claimed this is the first controversy of its kind in the town since the police department was created in 1900. To Iushewitz’s knowledge, no board in Pennsylvania has ever overturned a punishment in this manner.

“We agree the officer should face discipline, but the discipline has to match the details,” Iushewitz said on Police 1. “There was no excessive force, no bias. I’ve asked anyone to explain why 10 days, and nobody can.”

Meanwhile, local NAACP President Brian Reese-Turner argued that Jordan’s civil rights were violated. Jordan is Black, while Murphy is White.

“We’re post-George Floyd,” Reese-Turner told a local PBS station. “And I think anybody in this community has to recognize what that means when anybody is in that type of situation and the level of stress that they’re under. ”

Iushewitz indicated an overzealous environment is handicapping police from doing their work.

“The officers are afraid to do the job they love,” Iushewitz said. “Not afraid of the criminals but in fear that one viral video will lead them to be treated unfairly or unjustly.”

“They are fearful they may be seriously injured or killed,” he continued. “The officer is fearful they may have to use force to protect themselves or others and fearful they will be crucified on social media by people who have never walked in their shoes.”

Jordan was ultimately charged with resisting arrest, fleeing an officer, driving with a suspended license, and drug charges after oxycodone was allegedly recovered from the vehicle, police said.

Iushewitz said he understands public concerns with proper policing but points out that a police officer never knows if the driver of a car he pulls over might pull out a gun and be prepared to use it.

“What happens to the next officer who gets fired from this?” Iushewitz asked. “This was not about race. There were no unlawful actions taken.”

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Protestors Pray as Jury is Selected for Trial of Bucks County Pro-Life Activist

As lawyers inside Philadelphia’s federal courthouse selected the jury to pass judgment on Mark Houck in his upcoming trial, supporters outside said prayers and offered encouragement for the Bucks County pro-life activist they believe is the victim of a political prosecution.

Houck, 49, of Kintersville in Bucks County, is charged with violating the FACE Act for an altercation with abortion clinic escort Bruce Love outside a Philadelphia facility. According to the indictment Houck “verbally confronted” escort Bruce Love “and forcefully shoved B.L. to the ground” outside the Planned Parenthood Elizabeth Blackwell Health Center on Locust Street in Philadelphia.

Houck could face up to 11 years in prison if convicted.

Evangelical pastor William Devlin led the group of 30 or so protesters reciting the “Our Father” and singing “Amazing Grace.”

The case has national implications regarding whether an escort who volunteers at abortion clinics can be considered an abortion provider. Legal experts who support Houck said the entire case was a stretch of the original law and have suggested the prosecution is motivated more by abortion politics than law enforcement. Those concerns were heightened when federal authorities chose to send some 25 heavily armed FBI agents to arrest Houck at his home as his wife and frightened children looked on.

Houck was released on his own recognizance the same day.

David Walsh

Houck has garnered the support of many in the pro-life community. The Thomas More Society, a public interest law firm, is helping with his defense.

“America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, she will cease to be great,” said local pro-life leader Patrick Stanton at the gathering. “And if this kind of thing can happen to a law-abiding father and husband, America is trembling.”

“It’s important for us to stand together,” said Marlene Downing with the Pro-Life Union of Greater Philadelphia. “There is a lot of evil rising up. It’s because they feel like they can [act this way] because people who are Christian are not standing for what they should be standing for. And look at you guys out here, standing for the right thing.

Christine Flowers, a Delaware Valley Journal columnist, also spoke to the protesters.

“After a British military victory during World War II Winston Churchill was famously quoted as saying, ‘This is not the end. It’s not the beginning of the end. But it might, perhaps, be the end of the beginning.’ That’s the way I felt when Roe was overturned last year. Because I knew the battle was just beginning in the states and the increasing hysteria of abortion rights supporters led me to believe we were in for an onslaught. What is happening with Mark Houck is emblematic of that. And we need to be prepared and vigilant.”

Malvern resident David Walsh who was protesting said, “I’m here to support Mark Houck and his family and pray for the successful relief of these charges and pray the federal government steps up in the Department of Justice and does what they should be doing (to bring charges against those vandalizing pro-life maternity centers and churches).”

Walsh often does sidewalk counseling for pregnant women outside the Planned Parenthood clinic in West Chester. Houck had been a sidewalk counselor for many years before his arrest.

Ted Meehan of Newtown Square said he had been involved in the pro-life movement for 40 years.

“I’m here because of the injustice of what’s going on to Mark Houck and what was done,” said Meehan. “And compare that to the ongoing, almost daily Churches and pro-life centers…It’s a grotesque double standard.”

A Lower Moreland resident, Devlin is affiliated with Infinity Church in the Bronx and is the director of Widows & Orphans, which goes into war zones to help. He is a Vietnam veteran who received a Purple Heart.

He and his wife Nancy assist formerly sex-trafficked girls “so the pro-life commitment goes beyond just saving babies,” said Devlin.

“I’ve been a colleague of Mark Houck for 20 years,” he said. “My organization and Mark’s organization have worked together on a number of issues. I’ve known Mark as a father, as a husband, as a Christian believer.”

Houck has pleaded not guilty to the charges, and his attorneys plan to argue that the FACE Act does not cover a clinic escort in any case.

The trial before Judge Gerald Pappert is expected to last through the week.

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Houck Arrest ‘Just the Beginning,’ Pro-Life Protesters Warn

Supporters of anti-abortion activist Mark Houck, taken by FBI agents from his Bucks County home last month, turned out Friday outside the U.S. Attorney’s office to protest his arrest and warn the public:

Houck’s arrest was just the beginning of the Biden administration’s targeting of pro-life Americans.

Houck, 48, of Kinternsville, was charged with violating the federal Freedom of Access of Clinic Entrances Act (FACE) regarding an October 2021 incident outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in Philadelphia. Despite local authorities declining to prosecute, and a private legal action that was also rejected, the Department of Justice chose to arrest Houck and pursue the case.

On Sept. 23, numerous armed FBI agents stormed the Houck’s home, frightening his seven children and wife, Ryan-Marie, even though his lawyers had informed the Department of Justice he was willing to turn himself in, said Peter Breen with the Thomas More Society who represents Houck.

Ashley Garecht, who has prayed outside the clinic in the past, told the 100 or so people who gathered Friday, “Mark has stood in front of that facility for years. He has prayed and counseled often in the face of vile harassment…Sadly this storyline fits all too well in Philadelphia.”

And, she noted, they were just a block away from where President Joe Biden gave his controversial speech about American extremism. Bathed in blood-red lighting and with Marines behind him, Biden spoke ominously about “MAGA forces”  that he called a threat to “the very foundations of our republic” and who are actively working to “undermine democracy itself.” Garecht pointed out Biden included prof-lifers in his remarks as well.

“President Biden made his intentions toward the pro-life community crustal clear in his alarming and malevolent speech in front of Independence Hall,” Garecht said. “Shame on him.”



In a video message released by the Thomas More Society, Breen echoed the message that Houck’s arrest is part of a larger agenda.

“Right here, right now, this is the first big case from the [Biden administration] DOJ,” Breen said. “Let’s beat the DOJ, beat them soundly in a public case that everyone’s following. And then Lord willing, you’ll have Merrick Garland, the Attorney General of the United States, called in front of Congress, to answer those tough questions: Why did you put the health family in such danger? Why are you prosecuting this peaceful man for what is at worst, a local matter at best to local matter?

“And I hope that at that point we will be finished with our trial and we’ll have gotten a not guilty verdict.”

Prominent anti-abortion activist and Fox commentator Kathy Barnette, a candidate in the GOP U.S. Senate primary earlier this year, told the crowd she thought long and hard about whether she should speak because it might lead to the government targeting her.

“What does it say about a nation who would look at the most innocent people and say, ‘You don’t matter. You don’t count?’ And then weaponize the government to intimidate those who understand that that is a life,” Barnette said.

“It is going to cost us from this point forward to say there is such a thing as truth. And I am going to stand and not cower. Ten years ago it would not have cost us what it will cost now,” she added.

Speaker after speaker called on the crowd to pray and at the end of the hour-long protest, most of those present kneeled on the hard sidewalk and prayed the “Our Father.”  Some of the speakers also told the protesters to be sure to vote in November.

Houck’s mother-in-law, Kathleen McCarthy, who also lives in Bucks County, came to the protest, along with some of Ryan-Marie’s eleven siblings.

Asked by Delaware Valley Journal how the Houck family is handling events, McCarthy said, “I will tell you God’s grace is always sufficient. They are trying to bring back what they have built all their married life, a home filled with peace, strength, and grace. And one day at a time.”

Talk radio Host Dom Giordano reminded the crowd Houck is represented by Brian J. McMonagle, “the number one defense attorney in Philadelphia.” And while this case is about the Houck family, Giordano said he hopes the “FBI agents who don’t agree with this stuff do everything in their power to slow down this weaponization against average Americans exercising their rights.”

Giordano noted the irony of Houck’s home “being raided by the FBI with that amount of force while violence and criminal behavior in Philadelphia is out of control.

“In a way, Mark Houck is doing a service not just for those potential kids at the abortion clinic. He’s doing a service for every one of us here.”

Among the protesters was Terrisa Bukovinac carrying a sign that said she is atheist, progressive, and anti-abortion. A Washington, D.C. resident, she started the nonprofit Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising after heading a similar group in San Francisco.

Many Democrats agree that some restrictions are needed on late-term abortion, she said. “There is a lot of common ground.”

And protester Liz Madden of Radnor said she felt compelled to protest after that township passed an ordinance forbidding police to investigate abortion providers, which could result in another Kermit Gosnell, she said, referring to the infamous Philadelphia abortion provider now serving 30 years in prison for serial murder.

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Neighbors Come Together in Opposition to Lower Merion School District’s Planned Athletics Complex

Opponents of the Lower Merion School District’s plan to locate new athletics fields in the heart of their neighborhood voiced their concerns and called on the school district and township to find a suitable alternative location. They say it would result in increased pollution, safety problems, traffic congestion, and the destruction of nearly 500 historic trees and 13 acres of critical woodland habitat in a generations-old canopy shared with Stoneleigh.

The neighborhood gathering that would have preceded Lower Merion Zoning Hearing Board’s scheduled Oct. 14 meeting, however it was but the zoning hearing was postponed and a new date has not yet been set. Multiple appeals were filed by residents who oppose the district’s plans for the new athletic field.

To date, 2,179 people have signed a petition calling on township officials and the school district to work together to explore other options and avoid the parcel’s complete deforestation, including clearcutting the vast areas of mature trees.

When neighbors and other supporters of the public gardens at Stoneleigh in 2018 successfully blocked the Lower Merion School District from seizing its land and taking part of the property for its then-proposed new middle school’s playing fields, the district looked at other sites. Eventually, it settled on land (1800 W. Montgomery Avenue and 1835 County Line Road), which include a forest and wildlife habitat. There are nearly 500 historic trees on the site near Stoneridge, Clairemont, and adjoining streets in the Rosemont-Villanova section of the township, the opponents contend.

Lower Merion School District residents sounded off on the ongoing issue and how it would impact their community.

“The issue with this proposal by LMSD is multi-faceted and unfortunately severely impacts the community it supposedly serves,” said Andrew Abramson, a Lower Merion resident. “The biggest impact to those of us who live in the immediate neighborhood is safety. But unfortunately, safety is being thrown out the window, and for those of us who have followed the process we just don’t understand why.”

“First, there is the safety of the children in an unsecured field. LMSD touts how safe the new school will be with high walls, security lights, cameras, and more,” Abramson continued. “It feels like they are pushing an agenda that in no way serves our community when there are a lot of better options.”

Another resident agreed.

“The LMSD was well aware of the limitations of that purchase and the challenges of making that property viable, with only one field and a few tennis courts, fitting into the unusual configuration,” Ann Gelfond said. “Their seizing of the County Line property for fields has many issues as well.”

“Both the school and proposed fields will impact the entire neighborhood, as well as our neighbors across Montgomery Avenue, with additional cars as both locations have minimal parking,” Gelfond said.

“The Lower Merion Board of School Directors and Administration strongly believe that every child in our district deserves the opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities that will enhance their social/emotional growth and connection to their school community,” said Amy Buckman, a spokeswoman for the district. “For many of our students, participation in athletics supports these goals.

“That is why in December 2018, the district paid more than $12.9 million for the contiguous properties at 1800 W. Montgomery Avenue and 1835 County Line Road, which had both been offered for sale by their owners,” she said. “Since then, the district has invested significant capital in designing the project and going through the land development process, including a successful appeal of the township’s conditions of approval. The additional fields also support the township’s comprehensive plan, which noted the need for more playing fields in the community.

“Prior to finalizing the field location, the district looked at numerous other sites that ended up not working out,” Buckman added. “These included properties on Spring Mill Road, which contained protected wetlands; the area of Stoneleigh that’s currently being used for composting, the acquisition of which was blocked; Ashbridge Park, the acquisition of which was also blocked; and other sites that were deemed unsuitable for a variety of reasons, including topography, amount of acreage and distance from the school.

“While LMSD understands that some neighbors are concerned about having athletic fields for children near their homes, we believe that providing ample opportunities for children from our community to practice, play, compete and learn serves a greater good,” she said.