BUSHWICK – The Jewish community of the Chabad of Bushwick showed their resilience on the Sabbath Friday night, February 22, by lighting candles in the very window of the synagogue that was smashed by a bat-wielding fiend only a week before.
The night of the incident was reminiscent of “the night of broken glass” known as “Kristallnacht” which occurred on Nov 9, 1938, in which the Nazi’s waged an anti-semitic campaign of terror against the Jews of Germany smashing windows, burning buildings, and beating Jews or even killing them for just being Jews.
Nearly 80 years later, anti-semitism keeps rearing its ugly head – this time, last week at the Chabad of Bushwick on Flushing Avenue. Police continue to hunt for the bat-wielding man who struck the window of the occupied synagogue.
Surveillance cameras captured the attacker approaching the store-front synagogue, but no arrests have been made nor is there a motive for the attack.
As is Jewish custom, the women in the family light the Sabbath candles bringing in the day of rest and prayer, so the women of the synagogue lit candles in the window in a show of faith. Led by the head rabbi’s wife, Rebbetzin Hanni Heller, women gathered around a table in the window to rededicate the synagogue.
“How does one deal with darkness? The Lubavitcher Rebbe taught us the way to deal with a dark situation is not by fighting darkness, but by adding light, a spiritual light and that is why we choose to rededicate the synagogue by lighting the Shabbat candles,” Rebbetzin Heller said as her husband, Rabbi Menachem Heller stood with his children and many community members.
“As Jewish women, we light the candles and they bring blessing to her family and peace to the world. I want to thank everyone from all over the world for their overwhelming support – we are grateful,” she said.
Her son Shalom, 9, was sitting at a table near the window with his 2-year-old brother Meyer when the window was smashed at about 2 a.m as his parents were cleaning up from a late night sabbath celebration.
“I was sitting with my 2-year-old brother talking when it happened, and all of a sudden, it got cold,” Shalom said of the frightening incident. “My father then ran out to call the police – the person who did it walked away like nothing happened. Someone saw him, but he got away.”
Rabbi Heller said he was also sitting at the table when the attacker struck.
“It was getting late and the kids were sitting playing on the floor and all of a sudden the boom happened right over there,” Rabbi Heller explained. “The glass mostly fell out of the window because it looks like the thick curtains mostly held it from coming in. We ran out to see what was going on out of shock – the noise was so loud that we didn’t hear the glass actually break. We saw people across the street at the Dunkin Donuts and we asked them to call 911.”
Rabbi Heller said he thought the story was just a private incident, but then, “all the media and police showed up and we realized it wasn’t just about us.”
“The surveillance cameras showed the men approach from over there (Knickerbocker Avenue), smash the window and then return the same way they came from,” Rabbi Heller continued. “The evidence suggests a hate crime – I hope it’s not. I hope it was just people doing something stupid. We will wait for the police to do their job, but it is really scary.”
Rabbi Heller said businesses and community leaders came to offer support after the incident and “so we open our doors to the wider community in gratitude.”
He believes whoever was responsible may be “mentally ill.”
“They don’t know how to deal with the hate – you must deal with it the way you should and go to a therapist or get help, and not hate should not be expressed towards someone you feel is weaker or different. Hate is hate and you can direct it anywhere you want, but I think if there is more awareness of it. Anti-semitism in New York is not new and nobody spoke about it, so maybe this is a way for people to talk about it and make it not cool.”
Councilman Antonio Reynoso showed to support the rededication of the windows of the synagogue.
“The incident that happened is a one-off and not a reflection of the sentiments of this community and the rest of Bushwick,” Councilman Reynoso said. “This is a welcoming place as is this Shabbat and the real Bushwick way is to show love and support for each other.”
Reynoso talked about recent anti-semitic graffiti that was scrawled on a local park at PS 139 in Rego Park. The graffiti included swastikas and hate messages.
“The hate crimes in New York City are increasing across the board, especially in the Jewish community,” Reynoso continued, “we want to stand up and tell everyone that this is unacceptable and we must have a partnership to fight the hate and so we are here to support them. Regardless of who you are or where you worship or whether you worship at all, it is important that folks see us fighting against intolerance and we are united.”
The Chabad of Bushwick was founded in 2007 who’s storefront is part of a larger commercial strip of coffee shops and mom and pop stores. The Chabad, also known as Lubavitch, is an Orthodox Jewish, Hasidic movement promoting Jewish learning and prayer.
Anyone with information in regard to this incident is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74782). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the CrimeStoppers website at WWW.NYPDCRIMESTOPPERS.COM, on Twitter @NYPDTips or by texting their tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577.
All calls are strictly confidential.