NEW YORK (Dec. 10)
A 38-year-old Jewish man charged with smashing the windows of 21 Jewish-owned shops during two rock-throwing sprees in the Boro Park and Flatbush sections of Brooklyn last month, will be arraigned in Criminal Court this afternoon on 13 counts of felony and misdemeanor, a spokesperson for Brooklyn District Attorney Elizabeth Holtzman informed the Jewish Telegraphic Agency today.
If convicted on all counts, the suspect, Gary Dworkin, could be sentenced to up to 18 years in prison, according to the DA’s office. One of the misdemeanor counts is violation of civil rights and discrimination because Dworkin’s alleged vandalism was carried out specifically against Jewish property.
He was arrested at his Boro Park home yesterday and reportedly confessed. Capt. Donald Bromberg, commander of the N.Y. P.D. bias unit which was assigned to the case because of its anti-Semitic implications, said Dworkin “is Jewish and has a history of psychological problems.”
He is accused of throwing rocks through the windows of 13 Jewish-owned shops during the night of November 9-10 along a seven-block strip of 13th Avenue, the main shopping center of Boro Park where the population is 80 percent Jewish, mostly ultra-Orthodox and Hasidic.
He is accused of repeating the act two weeks later, during the night of November 23, when five more shop windows in Boro Park were smashed and three shop windows on Avenue J in the adjoining Midwood section of Flatbush, also heavily populated by Orthodox Jews.
INFORMATION BY PUBLIC LED TO ARREST
Bromberg noted in a prepared statement that Dworkin came under suspicion as a result of information supplied by members of the public and that his arrest was based on that information and on statements by the suspect. He said police found rocks in the trunk of Dworkin’s car similar to the rocks thrown through the shop windows.
The vandalism gave rise to tension in the tightly knit Jewish communities of Boro Park and Flatbush where racial incidents have been rare in recent years. A new wave of anti-Semitism was feared, especially because the date of the first rock-throwing coincided with the 47th anniversary of Kristallnacht, November 9, 1938, when rampaging Nazis smashed the windows of Jewish homes, businesses and synagogues all over Germany, littering the streets with broken glass.
The attacks in Brooklyn were carried out on Sabbath nights when the streets of the Orthodox neighborhoods were deserted. The rocks apparently were thrown from a passing car. The windows of non-Jewish shops were spared. But one ingredient common to anti-Semitic vandalism was missing: There were no swastikas or anti-Semitic graffiti and no anonymous telephone calls to the police or the media boasting of the deeds.
Nevertheless, New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind, a Boro Park resident who represents the district, said yesterday that he was “95 percent sure” that anti-Semitism motivated at least the first attack because it coincided with the Kristallnacht anniversary. Hikind said he was “convinced that Mr. Dworkin was not responsible for the first attack.”
But New York City Councilman Noach Dear, who also represents the district, told the JTA he believes Dworkin was responsible but that he could not have acted alone given the wide area over which the windows were smashed and the size and weight of the rocks.
Dear said he asked police to continue the investigation and to continue their tight surveillance in the neighborhoods lest would-be vandals take Dworkin’s arrest as a signal that it is now safe to commit similar acts.
According to Dear, Dworkin was motivated by a personal vendetta with several Israelis and Hasidic Jews and took revenge on the entire community. He said the police, acting on a tip, questioned two youths in their early twenties. The latter, he said, led them to Dworkin.
JCRC PRAISES POLICE EFFORTS
The New York City Council and the Jewish Community Relations Council posted rewards totalling $15,000 last month for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrators. Yesterday, Peggy Tishman, president of the JCRC, had high praise for the round-the-clock police efforts during the past four weeks, leading to Dworkin’s arrest.” We are thankful that we seem to have a resolution in this matter,” Tishman said.
Malcolm Hoenlein, executive director of the JCRC, praised Police Commissioner Benjamin Ward and Police Chief Robert Johnson Jr. for their “major commitment in detectives, uniformed and anti-crime officers in this case.” He also praised Capt. Bromberg who was in charge of the investigation and the “exceptional cooperation” between the detectives of Brooklyn South and Bromberg’s bias unit.