CROWN HEIGHTS — Police are investigating the arson of a multi-colored school bus used in a popular music video about Jewish pride as a hate crime, department officials said Tuesday.
The bus was torched just after midnight early Monday morning at the corner of Maple Street and Troy Avenue, according to the NYPD and the bus owner, artist Lev Scheiber.
Police said the NYPD’s Hate Crime Task Force is investigating the arson, which sources said was lit by a suspect seen near the bus at the time the fire started.
Scheiber had used the bus as low-cost studio space to paint portraits, and to drive between Williamsburg and Crown Heights to work, he said. But the bus — highly recognizable with its bright paint job — had a second life depicting a “mitzvah tank” in a popular music video by Hasidic singer Benny Friedman in his song “I’m a Jew and I’m Proud.”
At a news conference Tuesday afternoon in front of the hollowed out bus on Troy Avenue, Friedman sang the song and said the idea for his video was to “be loud and don’t be ashamed of who you are.”
singer Benny Friedman performs in front of the "mitzvah bus" used in his music video that was torched in Crown Heights over the weekend pic.twitter.com/c9CX2sDFkD— Rachel H. Smith (@rachelholliday) June 27, 2017
Radio host Nachum Segal described the bus as “iconic and so important to our community” because “one of the most important songs about Jewish pride — that video, that song — was filmed with this bus as the centerpiece.”
Since the fire, Scheiber said many in the Hasidic community have responded with “overwhelming sadness” about the fire on the bus.
“It’s bigger than me,” he said.A GoFundMe online fundraiser to "recover the bus" has collected more than $2,300 as of Tuesday afternoon, with a goal of $10,000.
The incident comes a year after five boys ages 11 to 14 were arrested in the neighborhood for torching a school bus from a local Jewish yeshiva, which was also investigated as a hate crime.
There is no evidence at this time the two incidents are related, police said.