Crown Heights community on high alert following antisemitic violence

Brooklyn’s Jewish community is on edge and initiating action following two antisemitic attacks in Crown Heights.

Hassidic Jews arrive at a mass gathering in Brooklyn (photo credit: REUTERS)
Hassidic Jews arrive at a mass gathering in Brooklyn
(photo credit: REUTERS)
NEW YORK – Brooklyn’s Jewish community is on edge and initiating action following two antisemitic attacks in Crown Heights, which reportedly occurred last Wednesday morning within minutes of each other.
“I posted online and in our Whatsapp group that we need to start setting up watch groups ourselves in the streets,” Zaki Tamir, chairman of the board of the community council, told The Jerusalem Post.
Tamir divided the area into 14 sectors and said that beginning Tuesday, February 5, residents will patrol from 5 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. He said the team has already recruited 30 volunteers. The volunteers do not have any form of self-defense training, so are being told by Tamir to just “observe and report.”
Last week, three assailants knocked over a Hassidic Jewish man before punching and kicking him. The victim, 51, required hospitalization for his injuries. The incident was caught on a surveillance camera.
A 22-year-old yeshiva student from Australia identified only as Mendel was the second victim.
“They didn’t say anything at all,” Mendel told the Post. “Next thing I know, I was on the floor – my yarmulke and glasses in the gutter somewhere.”
Neither of the victims were robbed.
“These attacks are a revolving cycle,” Sholom Simon, a Crown Heights resident and executive director of development of Friendship Circle, a charity for children with special needs, told the Post.
“My wife and I no longer feel comfortable allowing our kids to walk to school or to a friends house on Shabbat,” Simon continued. “Our 11-year-old and nine-year-old should be able to walk in their own community and not be afraid that they will get punched.”
Simon is the parent of six children.
Simon was hopeful that the watch groups will help prevent future attacks, but also noted that the New York Police Department could do more.
“I think the police need to take it more seriously that these are antisemitic attacks,” he said, adding that his community needs to make changes as well. “We could be out there watching every day, but the core root is not a police effort, it’s an education effort.”
Vincent Martinez, an NYPD detective in Crown Heights said that the department has started running programs in local schools to teach youth about diversity.
“We take these attacks very seriously and have added extra patrols to the area,” he said.
Last week’s assaults were the latest in a string of violence in Crown Heights that has been tied to antisemitism.
“Some 10 people were violently attacked in the last 60 days alone,” said Rabbi Yaacov Behrman, leader of the Crown Heights-based Jewish Future Alliance, in a statement following the latest incident. “We ask what is going wrong in Crown Heights when innocent Jews are being beaten in the streets in 2019? Is there an atmosphere that is encouraging violence or antisemitism? And, an equally important question: Where is the public outrage? Indeed, why isn’t this front page headlines?”
Tamir said residents are beginning to face a harsh reality.
“People are just realizing that they had a false sense of security, which is worst of all because we’re not all used to having to use precautions,” he told the Post. “We thought we were safe and suddenly people are being attacked for no reason. Not even to take your money, only because you’re Jewish.”
The three men who perpetrated Wednesday’s attacks – identified as Nazar Walters, 18, Teshon Bannister, 21, and Joshua Peters, 20 – were charged with hate crimes on Friday morning.
In 1991 riots took place in Crown Heights resulting in the beating death of Yankel Rosenbaum, a 29-year-old student from the University of Melbourne.