New Mezuzah Burning Deepens Mystery in Williamsburg

BROOKLYN -
Assemblyman Joe Lentol speaking at a news conference on Tuesday related to the dozen mezuzah burnings in Williamsburg. At left is Rabbi Moshe Dovid Niederman and Scott Stringer, second from right is Councilman Steve Levin. (Shimon Gifter)
Assemblyman Joe Lentol speaking at a news conference on Tuesday related to the dozen mezuzah burnings in Williamsburg. At left is Rabbi Moshe Dovid Niederman and Scott Stringer, second from right is Councilman Steve Levin. (Shimon Gifter)

An additional mezuzah found burnt in Williamsburg Tuesday is adding to the uncertainty surrounding a dozen similar incidents in the area the day before.

A mezuzah was discovered burned on Clymer Street, an hour after a press conference featured top city officials decrying the spate of attacks being investigated by police as a possible hate crime.

“We had [instances in the past where] mezuzos would get stolen, and we had swastikas [painted],” Yanky Itzkowitz, coordinator of the Williamsburg Shomrim, told Hamodia, “but we never had incidents like this that dozens of mezuzos should be burned.”

In all the instances, mezuzos that were encased in plastic melted completely and wooden cases were charred.

Council Speaker Chris Quinn, as well as local councilmen, assemblymen, state senators and activists, declared their outrage at a press conference Tuesday in front of the Taylor Street building where at least 11 burnt mezuzos were discovered on Monday.

Many of the speakers noted that Monday was Israel’s secular Holocaust Remembrance Day, although the day is observed by few in the area.

Quinn, a leading candidate for New York City mayor, said she was “deeply offended by this hateful attack of religious desecration” and is “denouncing this cowardly act of hate.”

Two doorways are cordoned off with crime scene tape inside the Taylor Street building Tuesday, where the charred remains of a mezuzah were discovered. (JDN)
Two doorways are cordoned off with crime scene tape inside the Taylor Street building Tuesday, where the charred remains of a mezuzah were discovered. (JDN)

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, another contender for Gracie Mansion, called it “a sickening act of prejudice that strikes at the very core of who we are as a city.”

“In addition to their punishment,” Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz suggested, “the perpetrators should be made to visit Brooklyn’s Kleinman Family Holocaust Education Center in Borough Park or the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. to learn about the atrocities of the Holocaust and to understand the depth of their ignorance.”

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, who is running nearly unopposed to be the city’s next public advocate, said, “As I have said too many times before, hate crimes must not and will not be tolerated in the most diverse city in the world.”

Compounding the problem in catching the perpetrators is that the blazes were set in an area called the “Williamsburg Projects,” 21-story buildings consisting of hundreds of residences. There was nothing caught on video, and police have nothing to work with.

“They are still working on some leads,” Itzkowotz said, “but so far they have no information.”

In the meantime, police are boosting patrols in the area, interviewing neighbors and searching for any cameras.

Councilman David Greenfield (D-Brooklyn) offered a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the arsonist.

Burned mezuzah cases hang on the doorway inside a Taylor Street complex on Tuesday. (JDN)
Burned mezuzah cases hang on the doorway inside a Taylor Street complex on Tuesday. (JDN)
Police officers gather outside the Taylor Street building on Tuesday where the charred remains of a mezuzah were discovered. (JDN)
Police officers gather outside the Taylor Street building on Tuesday where the charred remains of a mezuzah were discovered. (JDN)