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Special Interview Ferment in Crown Heights

July 21, 1978
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A spokesman for the Lubavitcher Hasidic community of Crown Heights criticized recently-announced Police Department plans which would remove the special patrols guarding the Lubavitcher world headquarters and the house of the movement’s spiritual leader, Rabbi Menachem Schneerson. The police cars, which have been stationed at these sites since 1966, will be replaced by patrol units of a more general nature designed to monitor the neighborhood on a geographic basis. The changes are reportedly being instituted in response to charges by black leaders that the Lubavitcher movement wields undue political influence and receives special police protection.

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman, a member of the Crown Heights Jewish community, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the new police department moves represented an attempt by the City Administration to divert public attention from the recent death of black businessman Arthur Miller allegedly at the hands of police. He said that pressure for the changes has come not from “responsible black leaders but from rabblerousers and radicals. If the Mayor bows to this kind of pressure,” he warned, “who knows what they’re going to do next.”

Butman maintained that the world headquarters of the Lubavitcher movement, located at 770 Eastern Parkway, is entitled to special police protection for a variety at reasons. He noted that the building is surrounded, at least three to four times a week, by “the largest concentration of people in the Crown Heights area,” who attend meetings there.

Asserting that the headquarters has the “unparalleled” status of an “international mission” because it serves as host to Hasidic and foreign dignitaries from around the world, Butman reiterated the necessity for police presence in the area. Finally, he asserted that having a police car stationed outside one of the neighborhood’s most prominent public buildings contributes to the security of the entire community.


Butman also strongly protested the removal of the special police car from Schneerson’s house, which he said would “constitute a slap in the face to all Jews throughout the world, since Schneerson is recognized as the foremost Jewish authority.” He maintained that Schneerson was entitled to special privileges since “The rebbe saved this city millions of dollars in real estate revenues by maintaining the Jewish community in Crown Heights.”

Butman reported that Schneerson was the only Jewish individual mentioned by name in the speeches of black leaders addressing last Sunday’s rally held in front of the Lubavitcher world headquarters, in which some 2,000 blacks participated. In Butman’s words, “In view of what happened on Sunday, the reasons for protection in front of 770 and in front of the rebbe’s house are now stronger than ever.” He termed the statements made by speakers at the rally “inflammatory and anti-Semitic, reminiscent of the diatribes in Czarist Russia instigating against the Jews.”

Sunday’s demonstration, sponsored by the Black United front and supervised by the newly-formed Brooklyn Civilian Community Patrol, was organized to protest Miller’s death and the beating on June 16th of 16-year-old victor Rhodes, allegedly by a group of Hasidic Jews. As many Hasidim watched from rooftops, the black marchers assembled at a rally opposite the Lubavitcher headquarters. There were no incidents.

The Rev. Herbert Daughtry, chairman of the Coalition of Concerned Leaders and Citizens to Save Our Youth, told the rally that the Crown Heights community was “sandwiched between the 77th and 71st Precincts in the shadow of the yeshiva. The 77th represents police oppressiveness; the 71st represents the absence of police protection,” he said. And he added, “It’s a known fact that the Police Department doesn’t control that but the Hasidim does.”


The new police plan, released Tuesday, does away with the exclusive 24-hour protection for the headquarters and Schneerson’s home, which has been provided since 1966, at an estimated cost of $4 million to the city. Instead of the unit which has guarded his home, the 71st Precinct will, beginning next Monday, assign a “house of worship” patrol car to cruise the area bounded by Franklin Avenue east to Utica Avenue and Eastern Parkway south to Empire Boulevard in which 61 houses of worship of all faiths are located.

At the end of October, the car now stationed in front of the Lubavitcher headquarters will be replaced by a special sector car patrol of the 12-square block area bounded by Albany Avenue west of New York Avenue and Eastern Parkway south to President Street.

In a related development, Rabbi Jacob Kassin, president of the Sephardic Rabbinic Council, which represents the Syrian and Near Eastern Jewish community in America, blamed Mayor Edward Koch for aggravating racial and religious tensions in the Crown Heights area. He referred to Koch’s “ill-timed and foolish” order ending round-the-clock police protection for Rabbi Schneerson.

Meanwhile, two leaders of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America (UOJCA), reacting to the recent clashes between Jews and blacks in Crown Heights, called for an end to “the exploitation of racial hatred in our neighborhoods.”

Harold M. Jacobs, president of the UOJC, noted that “the Jews of Crown Heights have been victimized for years by numerous acts of violence which went unreported in the media, while a single incident in which a black youth (Rhodes) was injured attracts sensational news coverage.” Dr. Jacob B. Ukeles, representative of the UOJC to the New York Jewish Community Relations Council, accused “politically motivated outsiders” of “stirring the coals of racial strife in a Crown Heights community which, until now, has been a successful model of inter-racial cooperation and neighborhood stabilization.”

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