‘People are shaking’: Thousands gather in Williamsburg for funeral of Jersey City victims
More than 1,000 mourners streamed onto a Williamsburg street Wednesday evening to pay their final respects to two of the civilian victims of the Jersey City shooting. The crowd carried the bodies of the dead through the street before they were taken to their final resting places in the town of Kiryas Joel.
Boys stood on top of a shed and women packed onto tall stoops, crying. Children living in the brick buildings above the street gathered onto balconies and at open windows as a police-led hearse brought the bodies — first of Leah Mindel Ferencz and then of Moshe Deutsch — to Congregation Yetev Lev D’Satmar, where the Satmar Grand Rebbe Zalman Teitelbaum eulogized, through tears, under a nearly full moon.
Ferencz and Deutsch were two of the three civilians killed during a targeted attack on a kosher supermarket in Jersey City on Tuesday. The other victim was Douglas Miguel Rodriguez, who worked at the store, according to police.
The killing spree began before the attack on the market. The pair of gunmen shot a Jersey City police officer to death in a cemetery before heading to JC Kosher Supermarket. The shooters were also found dead in the market. The mass murder left six total dead — and one of Brooklyn’s Orthodox Jewish communities reeling with fear and confusion.
“People are shaking,” 65-year-old Williamsburg retiree Jacob Cohn told the Brooklyn Eagle at the funeral. “Targeting Jews, it’s not the first time. But in this magnitude, I don’t remember. I don’t remember anything like this in New York.”
“It’s impossible what’s going on. Impossible. [Deutsch] was such a young boy, why? He didn’t do anything to anyone. It’s ridiculous,” said Emma Weiss, a Williamsburg resident who knew the decedents. “[Ferencz] was such a young woman. The mother of two children. Can you imagine what we feel? Is this normal? We’re afraid to live our lives here.”
Ferencz has three children, according to the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg and North Brooklyn.
“She was a caring and nurturing mother for her three children, and at the same time helped her husband who ran the first kosher grocery in the area, to ensure that the community’s families have were to shop and feed their children,” the UJO said in the statement. Ferencz co-owned the supermarket in Jersey City that was attacked along with her husband.
Deutsch was 24 years old, a rabbinical student living in Williamsburg who happened to be in Jersey City at the time of the shooting. He was the son of Abe Deutsch, a community leader and friend of Rabbi David Niederman, the executive director of the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg. Deutsch helped his father organize a food drive that helped feed about 2,000 people during Passover over the past few years.
The attack came as anti-Jewish hate crimes are on the rise in New York City. The mayor and NYPD announced the creation of a new unit to track hate groups immediately after the attack.
Anti-Semitic incidents spiked 53 percent citywide this year as of October statistics, according to the Wall Street Journal.
“When you look at the categories of crime, it continues to be anti-Semitic, which is driving the overall,” said former Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea at an NYPD crime briefing in October.
Hate crimes overall in the city are up 23 percent so far in 2019 compared to 2018, according to NYPD statistics.
“Terrible. It’s horrifying,” said Chaim Pollack, a Williamsburg consultant, about the increase.
Councilmember Brad Lander — who attended the funeral — said he fears anti-Semitic incidents are becoming predictable.
“We see anti-Semitism on the rise. We saw the murders last year in Pittsburgh. We have the rise in violent incidents in Brooklyn,” Lander told the Eagle. “On the other hand, of course it’s always a shock.”
After the attack, the NYPD announced increased presence at Jewish houses of worship as well as in Jewish communities, though they said there is no credible copycat threat at this time.
“This horrible act of senseless violence, this act of terrorism, anti-Semetic hate has come right home here to this neighborhood in Brooklyn and to our city. It happened across the river but the folks I saw when I came in here, out on the street, upstairs when we met, everyone felt like it happened right here because their loved ones were taken from them,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a press conference in Williamsburg Thursday. “If it happened in isolation it would still be horrible, it is not, however, happening in isolation. There is a larger danger and it is growing and we have to be aware of it and we have to confront it.”
At the funeral, police blocked off Rodney Street on both sides, at Bedford and Lee Avenues. Cops with automatic rifles stood watch over the somber scene, NYPD helicopters hung overhead and members of the Shomrim moved through the crowds.
But the increased police presence at the scene did not necessarily make the Satmar community feel safer. For some, it just reminded them of the danger they face simply by existing as Jews.
“I see helicopters sitting in the sky for hours. What does that mean? I think it makes me feel less safe. You can’t go out in broad daylight without getting attacked,” said Lily Rosman, who went to the same synagogue as Deutsch.
Another man said that even the increased police presence can’t stop attacks on Jews.
“There’s a lot of officers doing stuff and we appreciate it a lot,” said Isaac Hirsch, a 25-year-old Williamsburg resident who went to Yeshiva with Deutsch and remembered how he would visit sick children in the hospital. “But it keeps on happening all the time. There’s nothing we can do about it.”
“Moshe was a person with a heart,” said Yisroel Czin, who went to yeshiva with Deutsch. “I saw him, like, 24 hours ago. I asked him how was his day. He said he had to go home to sleep because it was like 4:30 a.m. And that’s the last time I told to him good night.”
Additional reporting by Scott Enman
Update (11:50 a.m.): This story has been updated to include a quote from Mayor Bill de Blasio.
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