Black, Hasidic Anti-crime Coalition Formed After a Rabbi is Murdered
Menu JTA Search

Black, Hasidic Anti-crime Coalition Formed After a Rabbi is Murdered

Download PDF for this date

Plans for a city-wide “war on crime” and a possible mass anti-crime rally at City Hall have been proposed by a coalition of Black and Hasidic leaders in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn in response to the murder of a rabbi last Thursday who was on route to services.

Police reported that no arrests had been made in the slaying of Rabbi David Okinov, a recent emigre from the Soviet Union, and that they were making an investigation of the killing, which apparently was motivated by robbery and not race. The area, world center of the Lubavitcher Movement, has been racially tense for years, a factor leading to formation last May of the coalition.

Witnesses said Okinov, 67, had been shot by a young Black man who took the victim’s embroidered prayer shawl. Rabbi Yisrael Rosenfeld, a member of the coalition, said a patrol established some years ago by the Hasidim had been disbanded and that the coalition is seeking federal funds to buy cars, radios and other equipment for a bi-racial security patrol.

The proposals were made at a news conference last Thursday at which coalition members suggested the administration of Mayor Edward Koch was partly to blame for the rabbi’s murder because it had “completely ignored” the area’s need for protection and for help to rehabilitate its abandoned housing.

At an impromptu news conference at City Hall, Koch called the murder “a special tragedy.” Asked about Crown Heights complaints of inadequate police protection, the Mayor said every community in New York City felt it was not getting “its fair share.”


The Rev. Sam Heron, a Black member of the coalition, said the security patrol was being considered because the “community has got to take the law into its own hands.” Rosenfeld said a City Hall rally would be held if “within 50-60 days “Koch did not pledge to help improve the area and to provide additional police protection. He said racially diverse communities throughout New York City would be asked to join the proposed rally.

Rabbi Elye Gross, another coalition member, said the anti-crime effort would start with meetings of community leaders throughout the city. He added that the war on crime “will include the entire five boroughs and all ethnic groups” and that “together we will figure out a plan to stop the crime.”

The murder also was denounced by Sen. Edward Kennedy (D .Mass.) in an address last Thursday at the dedication of a pavilion at the Long Island Jewish-Hillside Medical Center in New Hyde Park, N.Y. He called the killing “an example of senseless violence.”

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund