30 Years ago today, a Mitzvah Tank full with 13 Bochurim were on their way home from doing Mivtzoim in Manhattan, they crossed the Williamsburg Bridge and headed back to Crown Heights through Lee Avenue, when they reached Rodney Street. They were attacked my a large mob of Chassidishe Jews, their tires were slashed, and they were barred from making their way home, all the while getting yelled at and cursed, in the middle of which a massive stone came through the windshield of the Mitzvah Tank and landed very close to one of the Bochurim.
Then, after asking two Rabonim they were told that they need to Bentch Gomel, since they were in great danger. Ever since that a Farbrengen takes place on this day in R. Mordechai Nagel’s house.
The original article of the story was printed in the Algemainer Journal in Yiddish. You can see the article in the Extended Article, along with a rough translation, and pictures of the Farbrengen.
The English Translation:
“Megilas Chof Daled Teves Tof Shin Lamed Zayin”
This past Shabbos, thirteen Lubavitcher “Tankisten” benched Gomel, for the kindness that Hashem had bestowed upon them the day before.
While driving in a mitzvah tank through Brooklyn, they were greeted by a mob of religious men and students with long Peios, the mob threw stones at the vehicle, shattering its windows, slashing its tires and tearing down the speaker system, from which Lubavitcher Niggunim were played. One of the Lubavitcher was hurt when shards of glass wounded him, and was almost pulled out of the vehicle by the attackers.
The Lubavitcher victims had consulted with two Rabbis, Rabbi Z.S. dworking and Rabbi Y.K. Marlow before benching Gomel. The rabbis had ruled that they had been in great danger, and that benching Gomel was in-line with Halacha for such occurrences.
The attack had occurred while a group of mitzvah tanks (RV’s) were returning from 5th avenue and 47th street, where they helped Jews put on Tefillin, and informed people about the mitzvah of mezuzah. The tanks, returning to Brooklyn via the Williamsburg Bridge, had followed the route – with a police escort – to Lee Ave. in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. The first tank followed the police escort (continuing on Lee Ave.) but much traffic and pedestrians tailed and blocked the second tank from following the escort, thereby forcing it to make a detour on Rodney St. they were greeted with an angry and incited mob who began throwing snowballs at the tank. Incidentally, the tank had been held up directly in front of the Satmar Beis Medrash, where more people packed out of the building and joined the already enormous and angry mob of protesters.
Rabbi Shalom Eigenstein, the Tchayever Rav was standing by the mob and encouraging them to “pop the tires” while the owner of “Globe” jewelry, Pinchas Glauber, was one of the participants blocking the tank from continuing on its way. We were notified that Pinchas had gone to Israel on Monday when we tried to contact him about the incident.
While the angry mob was stoning the tank, Yeshaya Glick, son of Rabbi Azriel Glick, son of the Satmar Rov’s Gabbai, had tried to escort the tank on it’s way home, warning and cautioning the Lubavitcher never to pass the streets of Williamsburg again.
Many local puerto-ricans were also upset with the mob, and attempted to stop the attack.
The attack lasted for about twenty minutes. The tank, with its punctured tires, knocked out window panes, and wounded “Tankisten” arrived a few moments before the Shabbos, and was parked at its parking location on eastern parkway. Hundreds of people looked with horror at the tank during the past Shabbos, while the “Tankisten” where shocked and terrified by the notion of religious Chassidic Jews attacking them an hour before Shabbos.
Different reactions were seen in Williamsburg; some cried upon reporting the news, while their family cried while they were being informed, for they too could not understand how such a thing can occur in a Frum neighborhood. Some photographed the incident, while some were dancing and rejoicing about, celebrating the “victory over the Lubavitcher tank” while others said “who asked them to come to Williamsburg, anyway? – when the streets are filled with anger and hate”
There were also people who had accused the police for lightening its force, and not being watchful enough about protecting people on the street.
Many Rabbonim had proclaimed that the time had come to deal and organize the corrupt education and values that the attackers were being given in the Yeshivos, these occurrences and episodes, the attack on the tank, the vile “Pashkvill”, the anarchy and revolt had been in session for too long. They made a call for all honest and well meaning Jews to unite and put an end to the chaos, so have declared prominent Rabbonim and community activists. They had called upon “Hisachdus Harabbonim” to call their members and supporters to do Teshuva and stop allowing their youth to act and behave in such a non-Jewish manner.
In Lubavitcher circles, it was decided not to let the attacks get in the way of bringing Jews closer to torah and Mitzvos, “a little bit of light of Yiddishkeit diminishes much darkness” said some of the “Tankisten” who had endured the attack.