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Jewish Community Leaders Charge City Ignored Warning That Something Would Happen

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Jewish community leaders in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn today charged the city had ignored their warnings last week that “something was going to happen” unless steps were taken to halt the harassment of Jewish families. “I was tempted to send the Mayor a telegram saying ‘I told you so’ when I heard of the fire bombing of our headquarters yesterday.” Rabbi Sol Eisner, secretary to the board of the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Abraham Gelb, acting executive director of Operation Belfreye (Better Living for Residents of Yiddish-Speaking Environments), an anti-poverty agency sponsored by the Community Council, said community leaders had met with Sid Davidoff, an aide to the Mayor and head of the Crown Heights Urban Task Force, last Thursday to complain of the harassment. “The city took the attitude it was all a teenage prank. Wait and see. If anything happens we will investigate,” Mr. Gelb said.

Trouble over funding Operation Belfreye has been brewing since last April when Sonny Carson, a black militant from Bedford-Stuyvesant led a sit-in at the offices of the Crown Heights Community Corporation (the parent umbrella organization of the area’s anti-poverty organizations) and accused the director, Simon Levine, of granting more funds to “minority” Jewish sponsored programs than to “majority” Negro sponsored programs. Mr. Levine, black and Protestant, said funds were allocated on the basis of the latest (1960) census data. Most of the area’s white population are Hassidic Jews. Tension between the black and Jewish community simmered until recently when it was announced that Operation Belfreye was budgeted for $143,000 for the coming year and one black-directed anti-poverty program. Operation Discovery, was being dropped because of “fiscal irregularities.” Mr. Levine began receiving telephone warnings that “the community would retaliate” unless Operation Discovery was refunded. Mr. Gelb said the harassment and recent fire bombings were “outside directed” efforts to render Operation Belfreye inoperative. “It will not succeed.” The Community Council’s offices were back in operation today with the help of the Mayor’s office.

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