City Officials, Orthodox Leaders Confer on Problem of Arson and Vandalism

Deputy Mayor Timothy Costello of New York and top officials of the city’s Police and Fire Departments met 94 Orthodox Jewish leaders and rabbis here Monday to discuss ways of combating the wave of arson and vandalism that has hit Jewish religious institutions during the past few months and the increase in muggings and other crimes in Jewish neighborhoods.

The meeting was disclosed today by Rabbi Joseph Karasick, president of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, which convened it. In addition to Mr. Costello it was attended by Fire Commissioner Robert O. Lowery, Police Commissioner Howard R. Leary and Chief Police Inspector Sanford Garelik.

Rabbi Karasick said the officials were apprised of the growing alarm in the Jewish community for the safety of children attending Hebrew schools and the safety of synagogues and Jewish community centers hit by fires and vandalism. Initial proposals ranged from improved fire prevention and security methods in synagogues to efforts, through political channels, to bring about increased police man power, better law enforcement procedures and court action, as well as inter-racial consultation on the problems of changing neighborhoods. Most of New York’s Orthodox Jews tend to congregate in old neighborhoods once exclusively Jewish but now racially mixed.

The city officials noted that while 14 synagogues and yeshivas have had fires in recent weeks and others have been burglarized and vandalized, houses of worship of other denominations have also been victims. Police Commissioner Leary and Fire Commissioner Lowery both asserted that careful studies have shown no single pattern, such as racial conflict, could be attributed to the outbreaks. They stated that some cases had been traced to juveniles living in the vicinity of the affected synagogues, schools and churches who were apparently bent on idle mischief rather than arson. They said in some cases evidence of arson was found and others indicated the work of dope addicts. All four city officials urged the synagogue leaders to implement Police and Fire Department guidelines for building security and fire prevention. They also pointed out the problems encountered in court prosecution of those charged with the crimes, many of whom are repeaters with long police records.

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