Crown Heights on Edge Following Stabbing and Assault

BROOKLYN -
L-R: Borough President Eric Adams; Michael Miller of the JCRC (in back); activist Tony Herbert; Executive Director of the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council Chanina Sperlin, at a press conference in front of the Jewish Children’s Museum in Crown Heights. (JDN)
L-R: Borough President Eric Adams; Michael Miller of the JCRC (in back); activist Tony Herbert; Executive Director of the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council Chanina Sperlin, at a press conference in front of the Jewish Children’s Museum in Crown Heights. (JDN)

Concern ran high in the Crown Heights community after a Hatzolah member was stabbed and another Jewish man assaulted in attacks suspected of being bias crimes. The first victim has been released from the hospital and is recovering; the second suffered light injuries.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams echoed the fear of many people that the seemingly random attack might be connected to recent events in the Middle East.

“With the stabbings that are taking place in Israel, we cannot be relaxed when you investigate something of this magnitude. We need to determine if it is a hate crime, and we need to use all the video footage and whatever we can to apprehend the person,” he said.

Crown Heights Shomrim volunteer Binyomin Lifshitz told Hamodia that the victim, a 34-year-old Crown Heights resident and Hatzolah member, was jogging on Eastern Parkway near Nostrand Avenue at around 8:30 Tuesday evening when he suddenly felt a sharp pain in his back and realized he had been stabbed. The assailant had passed the victim only moments before, heading in the opposite direction. According to police, the perpetrator was a black male wearing a hooded sweatshirt and mask at the time of the attack. He fled the scene of the crime and is still at large.

The Hatzolah member used his radio to call for help. Police, Hatzolah and other emergency responders rushed to the scene. The victim was brought to Kings County Hospital, where he was stabilized. He was released Wednesday afternoon and is expected to make a full recovery.

Authorities are combing the area and studying surveillance films. The police presence in Crown Heights was already much larger than usual in preparation for the annual convention of Chabad shluchim. The event, which brings thousands of emissaries to the neighborhood, commenced on Wednesday. However, in light of the attack, many more officers from various special units have been dispatched. While no motive is known, the attack is being treated as a possible hate crime.

“People are on edge and scared that copycats of terror in Yerushalayim are now reaching Crown Heights,” local activist Yaakov Behrman told Hamodia.

Compounding worry in the community was a minor assault that occurred Wednesday morning. At approximately 6:00 a.m., a 49-year-old man was on his way to shul when a Hispanic man knocked his cellular phone out of his hands and punched him in the face, saying, “I’m tired of Jews.” The victim, who suffered a bloody nose, called for help and neighbors managed to detain the perpetrator until police came. He is presently in custody.

Mr. Lifshitz, who closely monitors neighborhood crime in his position with Shomrim, said that the close timing of the two incidents was “certainly odd, but hopefully nothing more than that, which would be very frightening.”

While minor assaults are not uncommon in the area, a Jewish member of the community has not been stabbed in over a year, when a mentally disturbed man attacked a yeshivah student in Chabad headquarters at 770 Eastern Parkway.

Eric Adams held a press conference together with a broad base of elected officials and community activists on Wednesday afternoon in front of Crown Heights’ Jewish Children’s Museum to denounce the incident.

“We know how to live together in Crown Heights, and we will not allow the small number of small-minded people with their hatred to take away what we have,” Adams said. He repeated his condemnation of the crime and pledged to use the city’s resources to ensure the community’s safety. Other speakers included Assemblyman Dov Hikind, Rabbi Moshe David Niederman of UJO of Williamsburg and community activist Tony Herbert.

Jesse Hamilton, the state senator representing Crown Heights, recognized concerns while urging calm.

“All good people of New York should be outraged after such an attack. Regardless of the motive, such an act is unacceptable,” he told Hamodia. “Many people in the neighborhood have expressed their concern to me that this attack may be linked to recent violence against Jews in Israel. Though the police do not know the motive and are investigating all possibilities, still I urge the community to remain calm and refrain from speculation.”