On Sunday, NYC elected officials, Jewish community leaders and dozens of residents marched in Brooklyn after three cars were set on fire in Midwood and a Hasidic man was attacked in Williamsburg on Friday. The Midwood neighborhood looked like a “war zone“: Cars had been spray-painted with the letters “KKK,” four public benches had been defaced with swastikas and other anti-Semitic messages had been written on the sidewalk before dawn on Friday.
Social worker Nochum Elek had his nose broken when he was attacked by a group of Hispanic men in Williamsburg in what he and police described as a mugging.
The swastikas had been removed within hours of being found. Police had not made any arrests as of Sunday afternoon; they are currently lifting fingerprints and DNA from 27 Corona beer bottles found near the scene. The NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force is also investigating.
The marchers and others noted that both attacks had occurred on the day after the 73rd anniversary of Kristallnacht, when Nazis attacked synagogues and Jewish communities on November 9 – 10 in 1938.
On Sunday, standing near the site in Williamsburg where Elek was mugged, City Councilman Stephen Levin (D-Brooklyn) and Assemblyman Joseph Lentol (D-Brooklyn) called for an increased police presence. Marchers carried an Israeli flag. Among them were Rabbi Chaim Gruber, New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, civil rights lawyer Norman Siegel and some 25 people from Occupy Wall Street in Manhattan, which issued a statement condemning the vandalism.
Lentol emphasized that the Jewish community “has to be protected now” and said that
“We see a pattern going on. Whatever it takes. I think that the mayor of the city of New York and the police commissioner should understand that this is going to require not only police presence here, but in every Jewish community.”
The New York Daily News said that, as politicians ended their speeches, a “vigilante group” yelled “get lost.” Rabbi Nauchem Rosenberg said that the politicians were only there “to get votes.”
Also on Sunday, State Assemblyman Dov Hikind, state Sen. Eric Adams and others gathered in Midwood near where the cars were torched. Said Hikind:
“I’ve never seen this level of violence here. This goes beyond the pale — blowing up cars in the middle of the Jewish community.”
Afterwards, Hikind “rushed to see his 90-year-old mother,” who is an Auschwitz survivor. Noting that he walks with her past the very benches that were defaced with swastikas, he said “All I could think about was my mother sitting on a bench with a swastika.”
Chaim Deutsch, the founder of the Flatbush Shomrim, said that, “When you see swastikas in New York City, it’s often a bunch of kids,” but the torching of the three cars and “all the hate stuff” suggests that what happened last Friday is “a lot more serious.”
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