Close this search box.


Rabbi slain on Crown Heights Street

Rabbi slain on Crown Heights Street

New York Post

Thursday, October 25, 1979
By Joe Cotter and pat Smith

A 60-YEAR-OLD retired rabbi was shot to death early today and robbed on his way to a synagogue in the racially tense Crown Heights section of Brooklyn by an assailant witnesses described as a black man, police said.

David Okunov, a Hasidic Jew walking to morning services, was killed with one shot fired into his head at 7 a.m. halfway between his home at 880 Montgomery St. and Congregation Anash two blocks away.

The black-clad, bearded widower was carrying his prayer shawl in a blue velvet zippered bag embroidered with Hebrew lettering in gold thread.

Okunov, who came here from Russia eight years ago, has four children, Mayer, Hirschel, Mendel, and Ida who is engaged to be married next month.

A man leaving the synagogue saw a young black man walking across the street carrying the richly embroidered prayer shawl, neighbors said.

He followed the apparent killer for several blocks, witnesses said.

Neighbors said a police officer was writing parking tickets just one block from the killing and that the suspect casually walked within 100 yards of the cop.

“Just think it’s a $10 dollar item, maybe a $5 item and for that he died,” said one congregant referring to the theft of the prayer shawl.

Mendel Shemtov, chairman of the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council, arrived at the scene of the killing, saying that blacks and Jews had been working together lately to improve the neighborhood and free it from crime.

“We made a successful coalition with the black people here,” he said, “but we never got one word of encouragement from City Hall.”

tanding next to Shemtov was a black man who termed Okunov’s murder “tragic. I didn’t know him but I saw him out there every day. It’s not a matter of race. It’s a matter of greed.” The black man, in his 40’s, has owned a home in the neighborhood for 11 years. “We’re all human beings. We can live together. Even animals can live together in the jungle,” said the man who refused to give his name.

He pointed to a rundown apartment which he said was full of junkies and said “I’m afraid of them. I’ve got to live here.”

Neighbors on his block talked bitterly of the police. One woman attacked Mayor Koch for cutting back on police protection in the area. But another man said: “So who needs more police. They just write tickets, anyway. Just hire more ticket writers. It’s cheaper’

The killing took place in an area where incidents, have frequently exploded into hostilities.

Only last May leaders Of the community’s black and Hasidic populations sought to establish a “hot line” between the two groups as one way to stem violent clashes. It was that alliance which Shemtov today said was “successful.”

Last summer Victor Rhodes, 16, was allegedly beaten and stomped by a an enraged mob of Hassi-dim when they rushed out of their homes in answer to cries for help after the black teenager allegedly knocked the hat from an elderly Jew.

Rhodes denied he was the culprit and two defendants arrested for beating him denied attacking him.

 See the article:

Thank You

Successfully Processed your Donation