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Lubavitch Spokesman Denies Hasidic Youths Arrested for Attack on Black Were Involved in Incident

June 21, 1978
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

A spokesman for the Lubavitch community in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn said today the two Hasidic youth arrested in the beating of a Black youth in Crown Heights last Thursday at midnight had not been involved in the incident. Rabbi Elya Gross, director of the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council, in a telephone interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, strongly denied that up to 50 Lubavitcher youth had attacked Victor Rhodes, who has been in a coma with head wounds since police found him.

Rabbi Gross said that news reports that Rhodes had been mistaken by the Hasidic youth for a Black who had beaten one of the Hasidim were untrue. He claimed Rhodes, without provocation, had struck an elderly Hasidic Jew with a stick and that the elderly Jew was felled by the blow. At that point, Rabbi Grass said, 10 Hasidic youth chased Rhodes, caught him and attacked him. Rabbi Gross said “we are saddened by this” and declared it was the first Black-Hasidic incident in a year, “proving we can live peacefully side by side, “in the Crown Heights area.


He added, however, that Blacks “know” that if they attack Hasidim, “we will defend ourselves.” He said the arrested youths, Louis Brenner, 24, and Jonathan Hackner, 25, were arraigned on charges of attempted murder and assault and released on $40,000 cash bail. Rabbi Gross said a hearing has been set for June 29. He said the defense will be based on the Lubavitch claim that the two arrested youths had nothing to do with the attack on Rhodes.

Rhodes, 16, was born in Laurelton, but lives with an uncle in Brooklyn. He is in Kings County Hospital. Mayor Edward Koch, who visited the youth, called the beating “vicious,” and promised a full investigation. A Black preacher, Rev. Herbert Daughtry, speaking at a Crown Heights community meeting, called over the Rhodes incident, said “We’ll get the Jews and the people in the long black coots,” a reference to Hasidic garb.

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