Members of a Crown Heights' orthodox Jewish community are recovering following a brutal attack at the Chabad-Lubavitch sect’s headquarters that left one rabbinical student seriously wounded, and the attacker shot dead by police.
"This is something that's never happened before," said Heshel Frankel, a Brooklyn resident and longtime visitor to the religious center. "It's a rare occurrence, hopefully."
In the early hours of Tuesday morning, 49-year-old Calvin Peters entered the organization's main building on Eastern Parkway and stabbed 22-year-old Levi Rosenblat in the temple. After a standoff with police, Peters was shot dead when he grabbed a knife and lunged at a cop.
Rosenblat, who was visiting from Israel, was “alert and resting in the intensive-care unit of the Bellevue Hospital Center in Manhattan” on Wednesday afternoon, said a statement from Chabad. The statement also said the victim’s medical team is “pleased with his progress and that his recovery is heading in a positive direction.”
Peters shouted he wanted to “kill the jews” before he attacked Rosenblat, said Chabad-Lubavitch spokesperson Rabbi Motti Seligson. The attack unnerved the observant community, as it followed a mid-November attack on orthodox Jewish worshippers in a Jerusalem synagogue that left five dead, including one rabbi with strong ties to New York.
The sect, which runs a network of Chabad Houses, or religious community centers across the Jewish diaspora, was struck by terrorists in 2008, when an attack on its center in Mumbai by Pakistani terrorists left nine people dead. Two of the victims in the 2008 attack were from Brooklyn.
Tuesday’s attack on the group’s Brooklyn headquarters, an important destination for followers of the 250-year-old Hassidic movement, rattled followers.
"This is the headquarters, this is where [the movement] began and this is where everyone returns annually for the conference," said 24-year-old Mendel Konikov, a Crown Heights resident and member of the sect. "It's a hub for the Chabad network. That's what brings out the strong emotions and connections to the location."
Close to a dozen cops lined the outside of the Crown Heights Chabad while a pair of police vans idled across the street.
Mayor Bill de Blasio promised increased police presence at all Jewish religious institutions in the wake of the attack.
Despite the heightened security, members of the group said they looked forward to returning to their routines.
"I came here this morning and apart from the police outside, I did not notice anything different," said Frankel, 71.
An NYPD spokesperson said that the increased police presence was a result of an ongoing investigation into the incident both inside and outside the building. He also said a motive for the crime was still being investigated.
Inside the synagogue, worshippers gathered for prayer services Wednesday and invited passersby to put on tefillin, leather boxes containing written prayers, that are bound to the arm and forehead and said to protect those wearing it.
"Going forward is obviously very important," said Konikov, who called the local group of worshippers a "close and warm community that supports each other," especially in times of turmoil.
Both men were confident the attack would not hinder the community from continuing to pray and gather with Hanukkah less than a week away.
"These people are very resilient," said Frankel, "this is not going to stop them."