Man ID’d as cousin of controversial assassinated Rabbi Meir Kahane arrested for ramming NYC pro-Palestine protester with car

A man identified as a cousin of Rabbi Meir Kahane — the controversial founder of the Jewish Defense League assassinated in a Manhattan hotel — has been arrested for ramming his car into a pro-Palestinian protester on the Upper East Side.

Reuven Kahane, a 57-year-old real estate developer, was arrested at Park Ave. and E. 72nd St. by police following the clash with protesters picketing the home of a Barnard College trustee Tuesday morning, cops said.

Protesters quickly identified Reuven Kahane as a cousin of Meir Kahane, and on Wednesday the Times of Israel reported the same. Reuven Kahane has also been identified as a cousin of the firebrand rabbi in past media reports through the decades.

Kahane and his lawyer declined at court to discuss the case or his relationship to Meir Kahane.

“We haven’t seen his family tree so we can’t comment,” said the lawyer, Sara Shulevitz.

Meir Kahane was barred from Israel’s parliament for anti-Arab views before being gunned down in 1990. His assassin El Sayyid Nosair was an adherent of the blind sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman whose sect was linked to the 9/11 attacks. Nosair was also convicted of involvement in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

The homes of four Columbia and Barnard College trustees were picketed early Tuesday. At Park Ave. and E. 72nd St., the police said about 25 pro-Palestinian demonstrators started protesting about 8:45 a.m.

“The arresting officer observed the incident and witnessed the defendant continue to move into the crosswalk in spite of multiple people crossing at the crosswalk,” the prosecutor said during Reuven Kahane’s arraignment in Manhattan Criminal Court Wednesday morning.

“The allegation is that the victim placed her hands on front of the vehicle to signal the defendant to stop and the defendant nonetheless moved forward with his vehicle, causing her to suffer back pain, leg pain and other injuries.”

Reuven Kahane, wearing a blue hoodie that read “In Jah we trust and find peace,” was arraigned on felony assault charges and released without bail. He did not speak in court or to reporters.

Prosecutors requested supervised release, noting though it was his first arrest, the seriousness of the charge merited more stringent monitoring.

Reuven Kahane (in blue hoodie and mask) is pictured leaving Manhattan Criminal Court. He was flanked by his two attorneys, Mindy Meyer (in white) and Sara Shulevitz (in black). Kahane is accused of deliberately striking a pro-Palestinian protester with his vehicle on Monday, May 6, 2024. (Tom Tracy / )
Reuven Kahane (center, in blue hoodie and mask) is pictured leaving Manhattan Criminal Court. He was flanked by his two attorneys, Mindy Meyer (in white) and Sara Shulevitz (in black). Kahane is accused of deliberately striking a pro-Palestinian protester with his vehicle on Monday, May 6, 2024. (Tom Tracy / )

The victim, identified by police sources as Mary Ellen Novak, 55, was charged with criminal mischief for banging on the hood of Reuven Kahane’s car, police said. She was treated at New York-Presbyterian Hospital Weill Cornell.

Prosecutors ultimately declined to prosecute Novak and another protester hit with the same charge.

A statement from the protester group CU Apartheid Divest described the victim as a “de-escalator” there to prevent confrontations. The statement accused Kahane of purposefully driving into the woman.

The group also pointed out Kahane is related to radical rabbi and political leader Meir Kahane.

“Reuven Kahane is a relative of the late Israeli fascist leader,” the statement said. “Followers of (Meir) Kahane have been responsible for numerous violent attacks against Palestinians.”

Past media reports have tied the name Reuven Kahane to activist activities.

Kahane was identified as a cousin of the rabbi in a 1990 Los Angeles Times article after the assassination. “This is the final sacrifice,” Reuven Kahane, then 23, was quoted as saying. “He’s been receiving threats since day one.”

A 2003 Jewish Week article also identified him as a cousin of the slain rabbi.

Rabbi Meir Kahane, a controversial Israeli political leader and founder of the Jewish Defense League, outside Manhattan Criminal Court in 1971. (Charles Ruppmann / )

In 2018, he wrote an op-ed in the Jewish News of Northern California on an issue involving Jewish schools in the Bay Area. That article identified him as a real estate developer based in New York and Oakland. He has a J.D. and rabbinical degree from Yeshiva University.

“There’s a lot to take in on this case but we maintain our client’s innocence,” Reuven Kahane’s lawyer Sara Shulevitz told the Daily News.

Protest organizers in a statement said “Kahane’s actions follow a round of incendiary claims from public officials urging violence against student protesters.”

They pointed to a comment on X by Council Member Vickie Palladino who called protesters “monsters” and said “It’s our job to slay them.”

“Oh my God,” Julie Friedkin, Kahane’s wife told the Daily News by telephone. “I’m sure it was an accident.”

The Pro-Palestine protesters picketed the home of Barnard trustees Francine Lefrak of the LeFrak real estate family, which donated to a center for well being at the college.

Kahane founded the defense league in 1968 to mount armed responses to anti-Semitic acts. He moved to Israel and was elected but banned from Parliament after Israel passed a law barring parties with a racist platform.

With Roni Jacobson

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