Vandals smashed the storefront window at Chabad of Bushwick early Saturday morning, as about 15 congregants inside were wrapping up Shabbat dinner. Rabbi Menachem Heller told the NY Times that he heard a loud crash around 2 a.m. and immediately told his children, who had been playing in the synagogue's front room, to go hide. The glass had been shattered, and through the hole, he made out two faces before the vandals took off.
"I was up the whole night," Heller told the NY Post. "It's very shocking and very scary. We're obviously going do things to increase security. We['re] going to keep the shul open and talk to police about what needs to be done."
Heller added that, because Bushwick skews young, Shabbat dinners frequently run into the early hours of the following day. But because "Bushwick is a very progressive, very welcoming place," he told the Times, the vandalism caught him off guard. Hate crimes are "on our mind[s] all the time," he explained. "We've had many incidents in Crown Heights," where two attacks on Hasidic men occurred within minutes of one another in late January.
Anti-Semitic crimes have become more frequent in recent years, having risen 6 percent citywide in 2018. Swastika graffiti has become 76 percent more common in New York City since the 2016 election, spiking after a gunman with documented Nazi sympathies opened fire on a Pittsburgh synagogue in October of last year.
On Saturday, a number of the synagogue's neighbors—including some who aren't Jewish and don't belong to the synagogue—showed up to offer their support, while Governor Andrew Cuomo later described the attack as a "shocking and abhorrent act of hate." An NYPD spokesperson told Gothamist that the department sought two men in connection with the "criminal mischief" report, which they are investigating as a bias incident. Although Chabad of Bushwick lacks security cameras, investigators are reportedly reviewing footage from other businesses nearby.
"I would like to say this wasn't anti-Semitism, but I'm doubtful," Heller told the Post. "We are one of four storefronts that look exactly the same [on that stretch of Flushing], and three were lit up the same way. Ours happened to be the one that was hit, on a Friday night, no less."
Heller's synagogue sits between the Morgan and Jefferson L stops, a rapidly gentrified area with a large number of bars and restaurants. Debbie Perez, manager of one neighboring business, told the Times that she worries about leaving her store at night, when rowdy crowds get "pretty spicy."
"Especially over the weekends," she told the Times, "I always hear of something."