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Crown Heights Eruv Vandals Under Arrest, Police Say

By Rachel Holliday Smith | October 27, 2016 2:05pm | Updated on October 28, 2016 2:25pm
 Flyers posted along Kingston Avenue in Crown Heights after the new
Flyers posted along Kingston Avenue in Crown Heights after the new "Greater Crown Heights" eruv was erected explain "there is no eruv in our community."
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Andrea Karshan

CROWN HEIGHTS — Police have arrested two men in connection to the vandalism of a controversial eruv built in the neighborhood this summer, the NYPD said.

Yosef Kratz, 36, of Crown Heights, who sources say is a member of the Lubavitch Orthodox community, was arrested on Maple Street near Kingston Avenue Wednesday on charges that he attempted to tear down the religious enclosure built in his neighborhood by members of a Modern Orthodox synagogue.

Kratz's attorney George Farkas said his client was charged on Thursday with two counts of attempted criminal mischief, both misdemeanors, and has been released from custody.

Prosecutors said Kratz was seen with another man trying to cut the wires of the eruv with a knife attached to a pole and a ladder on Clarkson Avenue near Nostrand Avenue, according to court documents.

Police originally charged Kratz with a hate crime when he was arrested Wednesday, Farkas said, but the district attorney's office dropped those more serious charges in court. A law enforcement source said the evidence did not support hate crime charges.

A second man, Yosef Doron, 21, turned himself in to police on Thursday and will be charged with two attempted criminal mischief misdemeanors, as well, according to sources and court records. It's unclear if he is accused of being Kratz's accomplice.

The NYPD Hate Crime Task Force has been investigating the vandalism since July when the eruv — a symbolic boundary made of string hung between light poles and walls that delineates where observant Jews may carry items on the Sabbath — was cut several times in Crown Heights following an uproar over the structure in the Lubavitch Jewish community, which does not traditionally use or approve of eruvs.

At the time it was installed, many in the Hasidic Lubavitch community were offended by the eruv, built by members of Congregation Kol Israel, a synagogue of the less conservative Modern Orthodox faith.

As the eruv went up in June, Lubavitch rabbis wrote letters condemning the enclosure and flyers appeared in the neighborhood forbidding its use by the Lubavitch community in Crown Heights.

Following the controversy, the see-through lines of the eruv were torn down and tampered with in multiple locations over several weeks in July, police said. After the vandalism, Kol Israel trustee Naftali Hanau asked those responsible to “have the respect to leave it alone.”

After the arrest in the case, Hanau told DNAinfo New York the synagogue was never “looking to have anyone thrown in jail.” To him, the bigger concern is the damage done to the eruv, which he said cost about $11,000 to repair.

“In my book, pay for the repairs and apologize and we’re good,” he said.

It’s unclear how many suspects the NYPD is investigating in the case. At the time of the incidents, sources said multiple people were likely responsible for the vandalism.