A yeshiva student walking home late at night was attacked from behind, a towel wrapped around his head so that he could not see his attackers, kicked and punched to the moment he felt that he was surely going to die. A group of four walks into a dorm where guests are staying and steal mattresses, quilts and pillows. A Maggid Shiur gets interrupted in 770 then shoved around and bullied. This was but a handful of incidents perpetrated by a band of Tzfatis – Israeli Chabad followers from Chabad's Tzefat yeshiva in Northen Israel – in Crown Heights last week.
WEEK OF TERROR: Beatings and Thefts by Tzfatis
A Bochur walking home late at night was attacked from behind, a towel wrapped around his head so that he could not see his attackers, kicked and punched to the moment he felt that he was surely going to die. A group of four walks into a dorm where guests are staying and steal mattresses, quilts and pillows. A Maggid Shiur gets interrupted in 770 then shoved around and bullied. This was but a handful of incidents perpetrated by a band of Tzfatis last week.
During an event welcoming the Bochurim who are guests in Crown Heights for the High Holidays and the month of Tishrei, a group of these extremists walked into a dorm on Union Street, which is housing over fifty Bochurim, and were captured on surveillance cameras as they removed many mattresses, beds, quilts and pillows.
A number of the thieves were identified as being involved in attacks later on in the week.
A Shiur in 770, being given by a Maggid Shiur who is not a Mishechist, was interrupted by a group of Tzfatis. At first the group only interrupted and threatened to kill him should he continue giving Shiurim in 770, but the confrontation quickly got physical when the noise and threats alone didn’t satisfy the hooligans.
The Rabbi was lifted from his chair and was kicked, punched and shoved, all before the freighted eyes of his students.
The most frightening incident took place on Tuesday night: a Bochur was walking home late at night when he was attacked from behind, a towel was wrapped over his head and he was beaten within an inch of his life.
In the victim's own words he described feeling completely powerless and sure he was going to die with his head firmly planted into the mud patch near a tree on Carroll Street, as three assailants kicked him repeatedly.
How the attack ended the victim was not able to recall, but his attackers left a number of items behind.
One Bochur called the CrownHeights.info offices and implored us to bring attention to this ongoing onslaught. He related to this reporter that out of desperation, and he himself being one of the victims, he approached R. Braun in 770 and asked him how he should deal with the attacks and the threats.
He received a response stating that if he was threatened and he is in fear then he must go to the police immediately and file a report. He further clarified that not reporting it is within the boundaries of “shofech domim mamash” [spilling blood himself].
When push came to shove and R. Braun realized that the attackers were Tzfatis working with the Eshel organization headed by Mendel Hendel, Braun refused to back up his statements in writing.
The final serious incident took place on Wednesday afternoon as a Bochur was giving out booklets which were dealing with preparing for Yom Kippur, when he was surrounded by a group of these extremists who began to beat him, then stole his stash of booklets - “all because they don’t agree with them,” said the victim.
CrownHeights.info spoke with a number of the victims, who said that the attacks are not coming alone and that on a daily basis they are being targeted with threats: “we will make sure you remain single for the rest of your life,” “if you dare continue to cross us we will make sure to have you arrested and open a criminal file against you by the police.” The most frightening threats were more pointed: “we will catch you on a dark street and beat you to death, we will kill you,” a threat which these hooligans already made good on.
Most, if not all, of the assailants are known to be working for Hendel's Eshel Hacnosas Orchim, and have been for a number of years. These confrontations have occurred over the past years, but never have they escalated into such systematic violence.
A number of Rabbonim have been contacted on the matter, including Rabbi Avrohom Osdoba and Rabbi Yitzchok Yehuda Yeroslavsky – all of whom have issued letters supporting the victims to go to the authorities in order to put an end to this madness.
Following Attacks, Rabbis Issue Letters
Following a violence filled week, various Chabad Rabbis have issued a new set of letters with instructions on how to handle the threats and violence. The letters contrast sharply: Rabbi Osdoba along with Rabbi Yeruslavsky came out strong and decisively, saying “It is a shocking and terrible thing,” and even drew parallels to the Chabda-Satmar violence of the 1980s. On the other hand, Rabbis Schwei and Braun all but accused the victims of provoking the attacks, and warned against Messirah.
Rabbi Avorhom Osdoba and Rabbi Yehuda Yeroslavsky drew parallels from the Rebbe's Sicha in 1983 following the vicious attack on Rabbi Pinyeh Korf by a group of Satmars who took issue with the torah Reb Pinyeh learned and taught. The attack was so vicious that the Rebbe dedicated an entire Sicha about the dangers of these attacks which stem from a difference in beliefs.
In footnote number 60 of the Rebbe's Sicha [included below], the Rebbe writes that you must go to the police and inform on your attackers, even after the fact, if only just to punish them so that it does not repeat itself.
Proof came a short while later when Rabbi Mendel Vechter was attacked, beaten and left for dead, and only by miracle did he survive.
In their letters they issued clear and concise instructions to immediately go to the police and report that attacks, and not only are they permitted, they must go and report it.
Rabbi Yaakov Schwei and Rabbi Yosef Braun's letter had an entirely different tone. Braun went as far as to contradict earlier instructions he gave to individual victims last week. Together their letter was decisively indecisive, weak willed and wishy washy - sounding more like they were blaming the victims for ‘provoking’ their attackers, rather then completely condemn the assailants.
In their letter they warn that one must follow the majority in terms of opinion, and quite bluntly state that one mustn’t ‘provoke,’ then went on to elaborate on the dangers of Messirah.
The letters from Rabbis Schwei and Braun were prominently displayed, just in time for Yom Kippur, in the newly reinstalled ‘machloikes box’ - as it has become known over the years - located in downstairs 770.
[Hat Tip: The Lion.]