Close this search box.


Grief and Anger for the Slain Rabbi

Grief and Anger for the Slain Rabbi

New York Post

Friday, October 26, 1979
By Pat Smith

A coffin of a slain Rabbi david okunov is carried through the streets of Crown Heights

More than 2000 Hasidic Jews escorted the body of Rabbi” David Okunov to the spot where he had been murdered yesterday and charged that the blood of their community was on Mayor Koch’s hands.

“It is not just the blood of Rabbi David that was -shed here. Our blood is being spilled here,” said an impassioned Rabbi David’ Fisher as he stood on the porch at 808 Montgomery St. in Crown Heights and looked down at the chalk outline on the sidewalk.

Throughout the day, young Hasidic boys, their books and prayer bags under their arms, had stopped to brush fallen leaves from the spot, saving those marked with the rabbi’s blood.

Now, a group of men stood at the spot, the coffin on their shoulders, as Rabbi Fisher of Congregation Anash delivered an angry prayer of politics in sharp Yiddish tones, laced repeatedly with the English phrase, “city officials.”

He blamed Koch with stifling efforts to clean up the community by not providing federal funds.

“He has completely cut off the hands of Crown Heights,” Fisher said.

Aides to Koch said they were puzzled by the charges and said the mayor would have no comment.

Mendel Shemtov, chairman of the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council, echoed Fisher’s charges and said Koch “has to be a leader now” and not in two years when he runs for reelection.

“You said, ‘Vote for Mayor Koch’!” an angry man shrieked from the crowd. “The Community Council said vote for Koch and he would help us,” the man shouted.

This set off several political arguments, mixed in English and Yiddish, as Shemtov led most of the crowd in the “Michtam L’David.” Scattered bitter arguments continued as the black-hatted men chanted the ancient psalm.

Shemtov and other community leaders pointed to the black families watching sadly from their porches up and down the street and insisted that Okunov’s murder was not a racial incident.

Okunov, 66, a widower who came from Russia about eight years ago, had three sons and a daughter, Ida, who was engaged to be married next month.

The rabbi was walking to services at Congregation Anash at 6:55 a.m. when a young black man grabbed at his blue velvet prayer case, containing his prayer shawl and phylacteries, according to police and neighbors.

The 5-3 rabbi struggled with the robber, who shot him once in the eye with a .32-caliber pistol, police said.

Thank You

Successfully Processed your Donation