Meet the Hasidim who went to DC after Jan. 6 to give thanks — and chocolate — to the National Guard
On the day Joe Biden was inaugurated as president, the streets of downtown Washington were nearly empty of well-wishers and tourists. In their place: National Guard troops. The nation was still reeling from the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol earlier that month.
But there was one group of visitors who were not sporting camouflage. A handful of Hasidic men from New York spent the day –- and well into the night –- driving around the edges of the security zone in a pickup truck stocked with $10,000 worth of energy drinks, chocolate bars and toiletries, and handed them out to the troops deployed to protect the inauguration and federal buildings. Those soldiers were pulling tough 12-hour shifts in cold weather and taking rest breaks in parking garages.
“I felt that these soldiers, being in Washington to protect and defend democracy, were owed a tremendous amount of gratitude and appreciation and therefore needed our support,” said Aron Wieder, a Rockland County legislator who was part of the group, in an interview ahead of the anniversary of the Jan. 6 riots.
Wieder, a Democrat, said watching video of the Capitol under siege was just “chilling and eerie and the feeling was of complete chaos.”
He decided he had to do something — support the soldiers guarding the city.
Wieder teamed up with Alexander Rapaport, a Hasid from Borough Park and founder of Masbia Soup Kitchen, as well as the Colorado Security Agency, a D.C.-based firm that footed the bill for the PPE, toiletries, energy drinks, energy bars and chocolates which they loaded up in a van and drove to D.C.
“We just went around the outer perimeters and said, ‘We brought you some love from Brooklyn,’” Rapaport recalled.
The reaction was overwhelming, Wieder said. “They really enjoyed it and said, ‘This is just what we needed.’ Some even wanted to take pictures with us.”
Wieder noted that his four grandparents were rescued by the 3rd Infantry Division of the U.S. Army during the liberation of the Dora-Mittelbau concentration camp in 1945. “I will never miss an opportunity to say thank you to you guys and what you are standing for,” he recalled telling the troops.
Rapapport said that while he was shaken by the riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6, he felt hopeful with the eventual transition of power. He returned to D.C. days later after restocking the van in New York.
Both he and Wieder said that they hoped that their obviously Jewish appearance sent a message, that “the Jewish people support our servicemen and women and value the stability of our nation.”