Brooklyn Heights

Brooklyn Heights Rabbi Raskin leads rally after assault

Calls for more police; Guardian Angels join march

February 5, 2016 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
(Left to right) A member of Congregation B’nai Avraham, Borough President Eric Adams, Rabbi Aaron Raskin, Father John Lardas of the Cathedral of Sts. Constantine and Helen and attorney Sanford Rubenstein were among those who took part in Raskin’s march against violence in Brooklyn Heights on Friday. Photo by Mary Frost
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The prominent rabbi who was attacked on a Brooklyn Heights street Jan. 31 was joined by community members, clergy — and even members of Curtis Sliwa’s Guardian Angels — at a rally and march Friday morning.

Rabbi Aaron Raskin, spiritual leader of Congregation B’nai Avraham, an Orthodox synagogue on Remsen St., called for more police on troubled Joralemon Street and asked neighbors to report incidents to the NYPD.

“I was walking home and talking on my cellphone,” he told a crowd gathered at the Brooklyn Bar Association on Remsen Street. “I was assaulted by five individuals. One of them punched me on the head, knocking my cellphone to the ground. Thank G-d I was not harmed. After calling 911, the police canvassed the area, caught the thugs and placed the individual who did this to me under arrest.”

“I thank Detective Sal Ferrante and Commanding Officer [Sergio] Centa of the 84th Precinct for their excellent response and rapid arrest of the individual,” he added.

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Neighbors say that violence on the street has ticked up since the opening of Brooklyn Bridge Park. Joralemon Street serves as a conduit from Court Street subway stations into the park.

Raskin called for NYPD to add more police on the streets, specifically on Joralemon Street, where the attack occurred. He is also asking neighbors and friends “to refrain from using cell phones and earphones while walking in the street, and to be alert and aware.”

“If you are a victim of a crime, do not hesitate to call 911.  The police will come to your home to file a report and help you,” he said.

He also pled for parents to educate their children and students, “to teach them about ethics and values, and to remind them that there is an eye that sees and an ear that hears.”

Elected officials lined up to support Raskin, and spoke of tolerance in a diverse city. Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez said, “Violence against one of our friends equals violence against all of us.”

Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon pointed out the tremendous diversity of the area and said, “We need to be there for our brothers and sisters.”

State Sen. Daniel Squadron, in the midst of dealing with the crash of a gigantic crane in lower Manhattan, nevertheless made time to show his support.

We are a city of “many faiths, races, genders and national origins,” he said. “To target one is unacceptable.”

City Councilmember Stephen Levin called the neighborhood “a diverse tapestry. It’s based on tolerance and appreciation of one another.”

Faith leaders also pledged their support. Father John Lardas of the Cathedral of Sts. Constantine and Helen told the crowd of the Buddist saying, “Out of chaos comes opportunity.”

“All of us, as people of God, are called to respect and love our fellow human beings,” he said.

Rev. Anthony Trufant, of the Emmanuel Baptist Church in Clinton Hill, said he was attending the event in solidarity with Rabbi Raskin.

“These kinds of shameful acts affect our sense of safety. I’m glad the Rabbi has chosen to not remain silent, but to bring us together,” he said.

Rabbi Serge Lippe, Senior Rabbi at the Brooklyn Heights Synagogue, said the “strength of Brooklyn is that we are neighbors and people who watch over one another.”

Following the press conference, Raskin led a march through the blowing snowstorm to the site of his attack on Joralemon Street. Officials including Borough President Eric Adams joined him in prayer there.

“Any time anyone is a victim of assault the community comes together,” Adams said.

Guardian Angel Benjamin Garcia told the Brooklyn Eagle that a Brooklyn Heights chapter of the group was under consideration.

“If people decide to join, we’ll talk to them,” he said. Volunteers get a uniform, on-the-job training and instruction in self-defense and other skills, he said.

The Willowtown Association put out a statement calling on Brooklyn Bridge Park to join in the effort to find a solution to the violence.

“Until we are able to make it clear that Brooklyn Bridge Park Corp. must join the effort and help us find solutions, solutions they alone are able to implement, there will be no real improvement to this situation,” wrote Linda DeRosa, president of the association.

Following the attack on Raskin, the Brooklyn Eagle reached out to Brooklyn Bridge Park for a comment. A spokesperson for the park referred this paper to the 84th Precinct.

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