The most recent Sabbath at the Chabad of Bushwick-East Williamsburg on Flushing Ave. was punctured by an act of violence. Around 2 a.m. on Saturday, a rock was thrown at the synagogue’s front window, shattering it while Rabbi Menachem Heller, who founded the Chabad more than 10 years ago, was inside with his family and approximately 15 community members.
NBC4 New York first reported, a group had lingered after Friday night services, as is common at the Chabad. The family spends the Sabbath at the Chabad. Heller ran outside to ask someone to call 911, as observant Jews do not use electronics during Shabbat.
The act, which targeted one of the few temples in Bushwick, is part of a wave of anti-Semitic incidents and hate crimes, with attacks in broad daylight in Crown Heights and swastikas painted in the Upper West Side. Officers from the local precinct responded promptly and no one was injured in the attack.
Elected officials responded quickly with support. Governor Andrew Cuomo tweeted, “I am deeply disturbed by the apparent attack on the Chabad of Bushwick Synagogue, where a window was smashed during the Sabbath. I am directing the State Police Hate Crimes Unit to assist the NYPD in their investigation into this disgusting act.”
Mayor de Blasio tweeted, “The NYPD is adding security to this synagogue and others nearby. If you know anything about this incident, contact them immediately. New York City stands for tolerance and we will arrest anyone involved in anti-Semitic crimes. Attacks like this must stop.”
City Council Member Antonio Reynoso, whose district includes parts of East Williamsburg and Bushwick, visited the temple with Senior Advisor in the office of the Director of Intergovernmental Affairs, Jennie Berger, and City Councilman Kalman Yeger, from South Brooklyn. Reynoso tweeted of the meeting, “Unfortunate circumstance in which to meet Rabbi Menachem after a brick was thrown through their window. The brick brought us together & we are now that much stronger for it. Hate will not be tolerated.”
A recent New York Times article about attacks on synagogues in Crown Heights and elsewhere noted that hate crimes in NYC are up 72 percent in 2019, and 65 percent of those crimes are anti-Semitic.
In a Facebook post on Sunday, the Chabad reaffirmed its mission, “Despite the intentions of this attack to divide and intimidate, our doors will remain as open as ever, welcoming visitors to join our growing Bushwick family.”
At the Chabad, rebuilding is underway as of Monday. The window, according to Heller, is being repaired and a Tanya text study class on Monday proceeded as planned.
A group of congregants launched a “Stronger Than Hate” GoFundMe to support the congregation, which is the only synagogue in Bushwick. The members acknowledge the tide of anti-Semitism in their campaign, “While there are dark forces out there trying to fright[en] us, the Jewish community of Bushwick will not be intimidated. We are determined to stand strong against hate, and to further help increase Chabad of Bushwick’s incredible work of spreading the light.”
Cover photo courtesy of Chabad of Bushwick.