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Death of a Rabbi

Daily News

Thursday, October 25, 1979
By Albert Davila

Grief and anger spill into the streets of Brooklyn

Slain for his prayer shawl and other religious articles on his way to his temple in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, yesterday morning, Rabbi David Okinov, 67, was, as Judaism dictates, buried yesterday afternoon. Hundreds attended his funeral at the Lubavitch synagogue on Eastern Parkway, as well as a procession along Montgomery St., where he was shot between the eyes seven hours earlier on Montgomery St. moments after he had left his home. Rabbi Okinov, who had survived Siberian imprisonment, had fled. Russia in the ’60s seeking religious freedom here.

A 67-year-old rabbi who survived imprisonment in Siberia was shot and killed yesterday as he went to meet a friend before going to his Brooklyn temple. His young assailant fled with only a prayer shawl and a few religious articles.

Rabbi David Okinov, who fled the Soviet Union in the late 1960s and came here seeking religious freedom, was gunned down in front of 808 Montgomery St.

in Crown Heights just minutes after he had left his home at 656 Crown St. He was shot once between the eyes and died immediately police said.

Friends said, the rabbi regularly attended morning religious services at the Lubavitch synagogue on Eastern Parkway near Kingston Ave., a few blocks away from where he was killed.

“A very kind man”

“He went to services every morning and every night,” said Leah Lipsker. “He was a very kind man. If anybody needed a favor you could always count on him day or night.”

Okinov, a widower, was very active in a group called FREE, a Lubavitch organization that helps Soviet Jews who have come here. His four sons, in their 20s and 30s, all work at FREE’s headquarters.

“Isn’t it a shame?” said Mendel Shimiov, chairman of the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council. “He survived all those years in Russian prisons only to meet death here.” Okinov was jailed in the Soviet Union, said Shimiov, “because he was a very religious man and in Russia it is a crime to pray.”

Witnesses told police they saw a youth running away from the shooting carrying a small briefcase containing the rabbi’s religious articles.

“They say he screamed when he got shot,” said Lipsker, who lives just three doors from where the rabbi was slain. “Then he died.”

“The problem here is with the junkies,” said Shimiov. “We all try to get along, blacks and whites, but the junkies are ruining the neighborhood and killing its people.”

Seven hours after Okinov was killed, hundreds took part in a procession along Montgomery St. and religious services at the Lubavitch synagogue. Okinov was buried before sundown.

Okinov was killed a short distance from where a 17-year-old Hasidic youth was stabbed to death three years ago.

Yesterday was the first day of jury selection in the trial of three suspects connected with the death of a Hasidic man in Borough Park last year. That death sparked a riot at the -Borough Park stationhouse that led to the arrest of several community leaders.

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