Local elected officials, along with Jewish, Christian and Islamic leaders came out in force on Wednesday in Crown Heights, to address what they are calling religiously motivated assaults on Brooklyn residents.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams called the meeting that took place on the corner of Albany Ave and Union Street, the same site where a 24-year-old Hasidic man, Avrohom Wolosow, was punched last Wednesday by three black men.
“We have an obligation to raise our voice when a member of our Jewish community is assaulted for no reason at all,” said Adams. “We have an obligation as Brooklynites and New Yorkers to state that will not happen in our city.”
Over the past month, there have been at least five reported incidents police are investigating as possible faith-based hate crimes, including two assaults against Hasidic residents in Crown Heights; two separate incidents– one of eggs thrown, and another of racist chiding– outside mosques in Midwood and Bayridge; and an arson and attempted robbery of a church in East Flatbush.
“People have come to New York from all across the world to escape religious and racial persecution,” said City Councilmember Laurie Cumbo. “When we begin to attack one another because of our race, religion, or sexual orientation, we begin to erode the very fiber of this country and of Brooklyn. When one person in this community is harmed, we are all harmed.”
Members of the Jewish community reached out to Adams to call the press conference, concerned about what they characterized as a return of “the knockout game” and a rising tide of anti-Semitism across the city, adding, they felt that the mayor and the NYPD were not doing enough to address it.
“There’s very deep concern about criminal acts taking place directed against individuals in the Jewish community within Crown Heights,” said Assemblymember Dov Hikind of Brooklyn’s 48th District.
“One of the perpetrators was pursued [by police] and was let go. We don’t know why; we don’t understand. It just doesn’t make sense. No one should be afraid to walk the streets because of their religion, because of the color of their skin, because of what they believe in.”
It was unclear whether there was evidence to suggest that the attacks against the Jewish residents were in fact religiously motivated, and when pressed, the 71st Pct community affairs department could not confirm.
However, Chanina Sperling, executive director of the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council, was certain that, because the victims were not robbed, they were targeted solely because of their faith.
“This assault that took place here Wednesday night at midnight, he was attacked because he was a Jew,” spewed Sperling,. “He was wearing a black hat, a Yamaka and the perps that came over to him didn’t ask him for money, they punched him because he was a Jew!”
“The following day at 4:00pm, a young little Jewish boy minding his own business riding his bicycle on President and Troy sees a group of African Americans coming against him, so he moved to the side,” said Sperling. “When they passed him, they punched him because he was a Jew, because he had a Yamaka!”Also in attendance were Assemblymember Karim Camara, Council Member Mathieu Eugene and Public Advocate Letitia James.
“I stand with them today to say we are at peace and we want to remain at peace,” said James. “No more knockout attacks; no more attacks against individuals based upon their religious garb. It will not be tolerated. And if in fact you commit this crime on these streets or on any other streets, you will prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
“We have an obligation as Brooklynites and New Yorkers to state that [this] will not happen in our city,” said Adams. “We must match our desire to stamp out any form of hate, to come together as responsible Brooklynites.
“We believe in the concept of one Brooklyn, with Yamakas, religious collars, crosses, the Star of David, all of us are here together with one message: We will not tolerate violence against any group.”