A prominent Orthodox rabbi was attacked on a Brooklyn Heights street this past Sunday evening, and community members say the incident fits into a pattern of crime on Joralemon Street.
Rabbi Aaron Raskin, spiritual leader of Congregation B’nai Avraham, an Orthodox synagogue on Remsen St., said he was approached from behind by five individuals and assaulted while walking down Joralemon Street towards his home, according to his spokesperson Warren H. Cohn.
Rabbi Raskin, 48, was punched while talking on his cell phone, according to Cohen, who issued a release about the incident and also spoke directly to the Brooklyn Eagle.
Raskin’s phone was knocked to the ground by the blow. The group laughed and attempted to pick up the Rabbi’s phone and take it with them, according to Cohn.
According to a police spokesperson, the attack took place at approximately 6:18 p.m. in the vicinity of Hicks Street and Joralemon Street.
Cops arrested a 15-year-old male, who was charged with attempted grand larceny. No injuries were reported from the incident.
This is not the first incident to take place on Joralemon Street, community members say.
The Brooklyn Heights Association said in a statement, “The BHA is very troubled to hear of this attack on Rabbi Raskin and we are relieved to hear that he is doing well. We are deeply concerned about public safety and have worked closely with the 84th Precinct on this issue, strongly advocating for increased law enforcement resources to the 84. The BHA has also formed a new Public Safety Committee and is looking forward to community input on this issue.”
Raskin is calling a press conference on the steps of Congregation B’nai Avraham on Friday at 10 a.m. for an effort he’s calling “Brooklyn Heights United” (#BHU) against random assaults and senseless violence. The synagogue is located at 117 Remsen Street.
Cohn said that there was suspicion at first that the attack was a hate crime, but it soon seemed apparent that it was just one of a series of what he called “random crimes” in Brooklyn Heights.
He added that he feels the attack may be related to teenagers who use Joralemon Street as a corridor going to or from Brooklyn Bridge Park.
A spokesperson for the park, when asked for a comment, referred this paper to the 84th Precinct.
Following previous incidents on Joralemon Street, the 84th Precinct’s Captain Sergio Centa planned for an increased police presence on the street during after school hours and weekends.
“The 84th has been great,” said Linda DeRosa, president of the Willowtown Association, which represents a small enclave at the southern end of the Heights. Last summer, DeRosa told the Brooklyn Eagle that neighbors experienced “a level of anxiety from aggressive incidents over the summer from large groups of kids” headed to or from the park.
This fall, the Willowtown Association met with Brooklyn Bridge Park and the 84th, as well as other local groups.
DeRosa said the precinct is “trying to get more officers as the weather warms up.”
Rabbi Raskin praised Det. Sal Ferrante of the 84th Precinct for his quick handling of the case, Cohn said.
Update: Leslie Lewis, head of the 84th Precinct Community Council, said on Wednesday that he has been in touch with the 84th Precinct’s Community Affairs Office about the issue.
There are “a lot of kids who are grabbing cell phones,” he told the Eagle. He said the problem is “new in the Heights,” and the cops are working on it.
He added that he recently saw in the news that Curtis Sliwa and the Guardian Angels — a group dedicated to combating violence and crime on the city’s subways during the city’s bad old days — are going back into the subways in uniforms because of similar lawlessness.
According to 1010 WINS, the Guardian Angels are returning to the subways for the first time since 1994 after a series of recent slashing incidents.