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4 Held in Slaying of Orthodox Jew; Koch Wants Probe of Police-hasidim Clash; Jewish Groups to Meet W

December 4, 1978
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Four suspects, identified as Hispanics, were apprehended today in the pre-dawn street robbery and stabbing death yesterday of a 65-year-old Orthodox Jew, Irving Sussman, in the Borough Park section of Brooklyn, and a fifth suspect is being sought, according to a police department spokesman.

At the same time, Mayor Edward Koch has pledged a “full and complete investigation” of the violence that erupted following the slaying between police and thousands of Hasidic residents in the area at which at least 70 people were injured, several seriously.

Meanwhile, the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) has scheduled a meeting tomorrow with its constituent organizations and with representatives of the police department, the Borough Park Community Board and the Borough Park Jewish Community Council. Malcolm Hoenlein, JCRC executive director, said today that “we are concerned about this specific incident, but while we are concerned about this incident we are also concerned about the state of relations between the police and the Jewish community in New York.”

According to police and other witnesses, what began as an orderly though angry demonstration by some 3000 Hasidim who milled around the 66th Precinct station house to protest the alleged delayed response by police to the slaying, turned ugly when about 200 Hasidim entered the station house and began to smash furniture, overturn file cabinets and, allegedly, assaulted the three police officers on duty.

About 100 police reenforcements were summoned and bloody fighting spilled into the streets as police wielded clubs and protestors punched, clawed and hurled bricks. First Deputy Police Commissioner Joseph Hoffman estimated damage to the station house at more than $10,000. No arrests were made but a police spokesman said charges might be lodged against some of the demonstrators.


Koch rushed to the scene as did his community liaison officer, Rabbi Edgar Gluck, and Democratic State Assemblyman Samuel Hirsch, who represents the 48th Assembly District that includes Borough Park. Hirsch was badly battered–by police clubs he claimed–and both he and Gluck supported charges by the Hasidim that the police used unnecessary violence to disperse the protestors.

According to police, 62 of the injured were police officers and only eight were civilians, including one who suffered a heart attack during the melee. Hirsch and Gluck disputed that figure. One police officer was reported partially paralyzed after being struck by a brick. The injured were treated at Maimonides Medical Center in Borough Park and in Kings County, Lutheran, Methodist and Coney Island hospitals also in Brooklyn.

Koch, who visited the injured in the Maimonides emergency room, spoke at length to Hirsch and Gluck. “This is going to require a full, complete investigation,” he told a reporter. Hirsch, who said he went to the scene in an attempt to calm the protestors, agreed that the assault on the precinct house was an illegal act but insisted that the injury of civilians by the police was “more serious.” Gluck claimed that the police knew there was a community reaction to the killing and should have “taken proper measures in a non-violent way.”


Sussman, a plumber who lived alone, was stabbed to death some time after midnight yesterday on his way home from Sabbath services at the Bobover Synagogue several blocks from his home. An Orthodox Jew, he carried neither money nor identification. The Hasidim charged that the police took 45 minutes to respond to the crime after Sussman’s body was found by another Hasid, Moses Benfield. They claimed that homicide detectives failed to arrive for more than two hours. Police attributed the delay to the fact that Benfield does not speak English, did not know how to call the police and wandered around the empty streets looking for help. They said the first call come in at 1:17 a.m., 27 minutes after the body was discovered and that officers were on the scene 13 minutes later.

Relations between the police and the 250,000 Orthodox, mostly Hasidic, Jews concentrated in Borough Park have been generally good according to police and some community residents. But underlying tension between Hasidim and the increasingly large numbers of Hispanics and Blacks who have moved into the neighborhood has sparked incidents in the past. Street crimes, generally, have been committed against Hasidic Jews.

Demands for improved police protection have become a rallying cry. Most protests in the past were peaceful but there have been some violent confrontations. Five years ago five police officers were bruised and cut when Hasidim tried to storm the station house after some Hasidic youths were allegedly beaten up by Italian-American youths from the adjoining Bay Ridge section.

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