Police Investigating Breaking of Brooklyn Synagogue Windows as Hate Crime
A recent incident has sent shock waves throughout the Brooklyn Jewish community: Vandals smashed the storefront window at Chabad of Bushwick, as about 15 congregants were wrapping up Shabbos dinner inside. People are worried about the possibility of more hate crimes.
Jewish religious leader Rabbi Menachem Heller is looking for answers after a pair of vandals smashed the window of Chabad of Bushwick – the synagogue he runs on Flushing Avenue – during a Shabbos dinner.
Heller, 39, was inside a Brooklyn synagogue with more than a dozen other people, including children, around 2 a.m. Saturday when he said he heard “a really loud boom.”
“We do a Shabbos dinner every Friday night, and it’s not uncommon for us to go until 2 to 3:00 in the morning. This being Bushwick, most of our members are young, single people,” Heller said. “My wife was sitting with our 10-month-old, maybe 7-feet away. Some of my kids were even closer, playing on the floor.”
Heller’s children were playing just feet away from the window at the time of the incident, the man noted on Facebook later.
“Thank G-d no one was injured but we easily could have been,” Heller wrote.
He managed to make out two faces through the hole before the vandals took off.
Heller’s synagogue sits between the Morgan and Jefferson L stops, a rapidly gentrified area with a large number of bars and restaurants. Debbie Perez, manager of a neighboring business, told the Times that she worries about leaving her store at night, when rowdy crowds get “pretty spicy.”
As “Bushwick is a very progressive, very welcoming place,” which skews young, Shabbat dinners frequently run into the early hours of the following day, Heller explained.
Hate crimes are “on our mind[s] all the time,” he said, adding that the vandalism caught him off guard. “We’ve had many incidents in Crown Heights,” where two attacks on Hasidic men occurred within minutes of one another in late January.
“I was up the whole night,” Heller told the NY Post. “It’s very shocking and very scary. We’re obviously going do things to increase security. We[‘re] going to keep the shul open and talk to police about what needs to be done.”
“I would like to say this wasn’t anti-Semitism, but I’m doubtful,” Heller said. “We are one of four storefronts that look exactly the same, and three were lit up the same way. Ours happened to be the one that was hit, on a Friday night, no less.”
Mayor de Blasio responded to the incident in a tweet on Sunday, saying that the NYPD will be “adding security to this synagogue and others nearby.”
“New York City stands for tolerance and we will arrest anyone involved in anti-Semitic crimes,” the mayor wrote. “Attacks like this must stop.”
The NYPD is adding security to this synagogue and others nearby. If you know anything about this incident, contact them immediately. New York City stands for tolerance and we will arrest anyone involved in anti-Semitic crimes. Attacks like this must stop.https://t.co/cR4vHTFTZI— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) February 17, 2019
Governor Andrew Cuomo described the attack as a “shocking and abhorrent act of hate.”
Heller said that in spite of the incident – and the many other bias crimes that have plaguing Brooklyn recently – he and his members are not going to give up and will continue to openly practice their faith and sharing their heritage.
“Despite the intentions of this attack to divide and intimidate, our doors will remain as open as ever, welcoming visitors to join our growing Bushwick family,” Heller wrote. “We are determined, G-d willing, to share many years of celebrations and achievements together with the wider Bushwick community.”
Dozens of community members responded to the post, offering their sympathy and support for the synagogue – one of the few Jewish places of worship in the Bushwick area.
An investigation of the attack is still underway by police, with the incident being classified as a possible bias crime. Although the synagogue does not have surveillance cameras, police are reportedly looking through footage from surveillance systems from nearby storefronts.
Anti-Semitic crimes have become more frequent in recent years, having risen 6 percent citywide in 2018. Swastika graffiti has become 76 percent more common in New York City since the 2016 election, spiking after a gunman with documented Nazi sympathies opened fire on a Pittsburgh synagogue in October of last year.