2 Lubavitch men suspected of vandalizing Crown Heights eruv

Cnaan Liphshiz

(JTA) – Police in New York arrested two men in connection with the vandalism of an eruv built in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn.

Yosef Kratz, 36, and Yosef Doran, 21, were both arrested on charges that they attempted to vandalize the eruv, a ritual boundary that marks off areas where Orthodox Jews may move more freely on the Sabbath, the Forward reported Thursday. The eruv was inaugurated this summer to serve members of a Modern Orthodox synagouge.

Kratz and Doran, who are both Hasidic Lubavitchers, were initially to be charged with criminal mischief as a hate crime and criminal tampering, according to the NYPD. But Kratz’s attorney George Farkas told the Forward that his client was charged on Thursday with only two counts of attempted criminal mischief. Kratz has been released from custody.

The eruv is backed mostly by Modern Orthodox Jews, most of whom have moved to the area in recent years, according to the Forward. The Lubavitcher community, which has gone for decades without an eruv, has largely opposed the new boundary.

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Amidst this feud, the eruv was vandalized multiple times this summer; since July, the police have been investigating the incidents as hate crimes.

“We told the police from the beginning that we are not looking to put anyone in jail,” Naftali Hanau, who played a major role in establishing the eruv and who belongs to the Modern Orthodox synagogue, wrote in a message to the Forward. “We just want the vandalism to stop.”

Hanau said that the damages to the eruv have cost around $11,000 to repair. “We’d be perfectly happy to have an apology and restitution for the damage,” Hanau wrote.

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the late leader of the Lubavitcher community, is said to have forbade the construction of an eruv in the neighborhood, home to Lubavitch world headquarters. Since his death in 1994, his religious rulings and opinions are rarely, if ever, questioned by his followers.