Video­taped Beat­ing Spot­lights Ortho­dox Con­flict With Po­lice

Forward Magazine - - News - By Seth Berk­man

Jewish lead­ers’ re­ac­tion to a video of New York po­lice beat­ing a young man re­sist­ing ar­rest re­cently in an Ortho­dox-spon­sored cen­ter high­lighted a com­plex re­al­ity about the community’s re­la­tions with law en­force­ment.

For many, the po­lice are seen as a cru­cial source of pro­tec­tion from threat­en­ing neigh­bors, but also as a force whose con­duct when act­ing within the community can of­ten be a source of con­cern.

“We have so many is­sues here that need to be ad­dressed, and the New York Po­lice Depart­ment ig­nores our pleas for as­sis­tance, for co­op­er­a­tion, for un­der­stand­ing, for com­pas­sion,” Barry Su­gar, founder of the Brook­lyn based Jewish Lead­er­ship Coun­cil, told a press con­fer­ence Oc­to­ber 15, one day af­ter the video was posted.

Su­gar’s or­ga­ni­za­tion aptly ex­em­pli­fies the two-edged na­ture of the Ortho­dox community’s stance to­ward New York’s finest. While ag­gres­sive in push­ing the NYPD to bet­ter pro­tect Ortho­dox Jews, the Jewish Lead­er­ship Coun­cil has strongly protested sev­eral cases in which the po­lice have gone af­ter Ortho­dox Jews for al­leged wrong­do­ing. In 2008, when the po­lice ar­rested Yitzhak Shuchat for al­legedly beat­ing An­drew Charles, the son of a black po­lice of­fi­cer, on the streets of Brook­lyn’s Crown Heights, Su­gar’s group de­nounced the NYPD’s ac­tions as “out­ra­geous if not il­le­gal.” Sub­se­quently, when Shuchat fled to Is­rael af­ter be­ing charged, the group con­demned the ex­tra­di­tion re­quest filed with Is­rael by Dis­trict At­tor­ney Charles Hynes as “a gross mis­car­riage of jus­tice.”

At the press con­fer­ence, State Assem­bly mem­ber Dov Hikind said he was a “great sup­porter of the New York Po­lice Depart­ment” but termed the be­hav­ior of the two of­fi­cers in­volved in the ar­rest de­picted on the video “un­con­scionable.” “There has been a break­down be­tween the Jewish community in Crown Heights and the 71st precinct,” Hikind said. “Things are not good be­tween the precinct and its com­man­der in be­ing re­spon­sive to the community in Crown Heights, and that needs to change as of to­day.”

In Novem­ber 2011, Hikind also wrote a let­ter to the Is­raeli Min­is­ter of Jus­tice to block the ex­tra­di­tion of Shuchat, claim­ing that the lo­cal au­thor­i­ties had wrongly tar­geted the Crown Heights res­i­dent. Hikind went on to say that since the 1991 Crown Heights ri­ots, when po­lice failed to pro­tect the community from at­tacks by oth­ers, in­clud­ing some from the neigh­bor­ing black community, there had been a “rel­a­tive, har­mo­nious co-ex­is­tence and mu­tual re­spect be­tween the AfricanAmer­i­can and Jewish com­mu­ni­ties,” in large part due to the NYPD.

In the silent video, which was posted on Jewish web­sites on Oc­to­ber 14, po­lice are seen pum­mel­ing a barech­ested young man, Ehud Halevy, on the night of Oc­to­ber 8 af­ter he re­sisted an at­tempt to hand­cuff and ar­rest him at the Aliya In­sti­tute, a cen­ter for trou­bled youth in Crown Heights. In­sti­tute of­fi­cials said he was sleep­ing there that night with their per­mis­sion, though it was a guard at the cen­ter who called the po­lice in re­gard­ing Halevy for un­clear rea­sons. The NYPD an­nounced they are in­ves­ti­gat­ing whether ex­ces­sive force was used.

Among lo­cal Jewish groups, the video gen­er­ated de­bate over the ef­fec­tive­ness of the po­lice depart­ment. Zaki Tamir, a mem­ber of the Crown Heights Jewish Community Coun­cil, said at the press con­fer­ence, that “over the past few years, we re­ally haven’t had an op­por­tu­nity to de­velop a re­la­tion­ship with the po­lice and it’s re­ally set us back.”

But Eli Co­hen, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Crown Heights Jewish Community Coun­cil, told the For­ward that he gen­er­ally thought

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