Tel Aviv – A woman who loudly mocked a Chabad rabbi and a Jewish man for putting on tefillin in Ben Gurion airport on Monday has been identified as a visiting assistant professor of Israeli studies at the University of Maryland’s Gilderhorn Institute for Israel Studies.
Dr. Pnina Peri, who earned her Ph.D. at The University of London, is a senior lecturer for the liberal arts department of Sapir Academic College in Hof Ashkelon and Levinsky Teacher’s training college.
Arutz Sheva reported that Peri was traveling home to Maryland on the morning of May 28th when she saw a Chabad shaliach helping another traveler put on tefillin at the airport.
Chabad shaliach Rabbi Meir Hertzel, told Israel’s News 20 that he was flying out of Ben Gurion, and finding himself with an extra hour before his own flight, decided to spend his time by giving Jewish passengers a chance to put on tefillin.
He approached several people with his tefillin, including Gad Kaufman, who appeared happy to take advantage of the opportunity, when Peri began her tirade.
“I continued putting tefillin on the Jewish man who asked the woman for quiet so that he could pray for a few moments,” said Rabbi Hertzel. “The woman did not give him any peace, screaming, making strange noises and bothering him until he finished with his prayers.”
Kaufman posted video of the incident to Facebook, noting that Peri had a crazy look on her face as she began to mock and disturb him and Rabbi Hertzel.
In the just over one minute long video, which includes several unnatural bouts of loud laughter, Peri can be heard asking the men repeatedly why they have to be putting on tefillin near her in the general seating area instead of moving over to the side and telling Kaufman, “you are bothering me, I am not bothering you.”
“It was embarrassing at that moment to be an Israeli Jew and to see what it is like to be chased by the Bohemian left,” wrote Kaufman. “If I were a Muslim or a Christian, would her behavior have been more legitimate?”
Kaufman’s video has 274,000 Facebook views and was shared by more than 3,700 people on the social media site. It was met with numerous comments voicing incredulity and disgust, with Facebook user Nava Markovich writing, “Simply shocking. Here in Israel, a Jewish woman showing this kind of anti-Semitism?”
After learning the identity of the woman who harassed him, Kaufman took to Facebook again, posting a collage of pictures of Peri smilingly mocking him and writing, “this is a professor of education, values and culture, with a psychiatric smile like this. Education that is anti-Jewish. Intellectuals of this sort served as informers on fellow Jews in Nazi Germany so that they could be sent to the gas chamber.”
Peri is the wife of sociology professor Yoram Peri, who chaired the new Israel fund from 1999 to 2001. Considered to be an expert on multicultural theories and cross-cultural communications, she is the author of two books, The Place of Gender in Women’s Professional Choice and Plural and Congruence Among Cultural Divisions.
Dr. Hayim Lapin, director of the University of Maryland’s Joseph and Rebecca Meyerhoff Program and Center for Jewish Studies, which includes the school’s Gildenhorn Institute for Israel Studies, said that his only knowledge of the incident comes from media coverage.
“My colleagues and I are currently working to understand the details of the situation,” Lapin told VIN News. “It is important to state than the Meyerhoff Center very highly values the right of every person to religious freedom and expression. Until we know more, it is premature to comment further.”