Jonathan Lipnicki, the child star best known for stealing hearts in movies such as Jerry Maguire, Stuart Little, and Like Mike has found a new passion: using mixed martial arts to prevent antisemitic attacks from taking place in Los Angeles.
The 31-year-old began training in MMA when he was a teenager, eventually working his way to a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu in 2020. Then, following an incident where a group of Jewish men were attacked outside an LA restaurant last year, Lipnicki and his fellow actor Remy Franklin set up makeshift stations outside synagogues to make sure worshippers could get to and from the temple safely.
“There have been a lot of anti-Semitic hate crimes and violence towards Jews,” Lipnicki told TMZ. “[Remy] started this group where we decided to make sure people got home and to the synagogue safely.
“A lot of us are martial artists or own martial arts gyms and not all of us are Jewish. It’s just people wanting to help other people. Everyone should have the right to worship without being discriminated against.”
In 2021, antisemitic attacks reached an all-time high in the United States, with more than 2717 incidents reported. The increase was partially due to the war between Israel and Gaza, which began on May 6, 2021, when Palestinians in East Jerusalem protested the planned eviction of six Palestinian families from Sheikh Jarrah, a prominent Palestinian neighborhood in East Jerusalem.
As tensions continued to rise, Israeli forces stormed the al-Aqsa Mosque compound—a holy site—on May 7 and violently attacked protestors with tear gas, rubber bullets, and stun grenades. Approximately 300 people were injured, mostly Palestinians. Overall, at least 72,000 Palestinians were displaced throughout the course of the Israel-Palestine crisis in May.
Following more than a year of relative peace, Israel restarted its operation in Gaza last week, when Israeli air strikes hit a senior commander of the militant Islamic Jihad movement. More than 360 people were wounded in raids that continued all weekend, among them 151 children and teenagers, according to Gaza health officials.