Man cuffed for anti-Semitic graffiti and fires was a former city intern with reported mental-health issues

Man cuffed for anti-Semitic graffiti and fires was a former city intern with reported mental-health issues
Photo by Colin Mixson

The man police cuffed for allegedly scrawling anti-Semitic graffiti and lighting fires at synagogues in Prospect Heights and Williamsburg last week once worked as a former Council speaker’s intern, an opportunity the one-time city lawmaker said she gave the suspect to help him rise above a childhood spent in foster care.

But the suspect’s rough start in life shouldn’t excuse him from the terror he inflicted upon Brooklyn’s Jewish community, according to his one-time boss, former Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

“While he has experienced hardship that most people can’t ever imagine, his actions are inexcusable,” Quinn wrote in a Nov. 3 Twitter post. “The actions he is accused of break my heart and devastate all of us who tried to help him get on solid footing over the years.”

Police on Friday slapped the 26-year-old Bedford–Stuyvesant resident with hate-crime charges after arresting him for setting fires that day at Bedford Avenue’s Rachmistivka Congregation, an Orthodox synagogue between Ross and Rodney Streets, and a Hewes Street yeshiva near Kent Avenue, and for allegedly writing such foul statements as “Die Jew Rats” within Union Temple on Eastern Parkway near Underhill Avenue on Thursday, forcing “Broad City” actress and comedienne Ilana Glazer to cancel a planned event there.

And cops sent the suspect, whom police released a photo of hours before cuffing him, to the psych ward at Woodhull Hospital following his arrest, according to authorities.

Last year, the New York Times profiled the suspect in a story that described his childhood spent bouncing between foster homes, including no less than 10 during his high-school years alone, and recounted his desire to attend college after working for Quinn, whom he interned for in 2008, before going on to volunteer for her 2009 Council reelection campaign and 2013 mayoral bid.

The man eventually enrolled at Massachusetts’s Brandeis University, but his habit of smoking pot there resulted in a mandatory leave of absence, during which he administrators required he attend a rehab program, and after which they rejected his application to return to the college, according to the Times.

His anti-Semitic spree inside Union Temple led Glazer — whose Comedy Central television series has filmed in the borough, including inside a Clinton Hill food co-op — to cancel her planned interviews with journalist Amy Goodman, along with Democratic state Senate candidates Andrew Gounardes — who hopes to oust incumbent Republican state Sen. Marty Golden from his seat representing a swath of Southern Brooklyn in Tuesday’s general election — and Jim Gaughran, who is running to unseat a Long Island Republican.

Felt unsafe: “Broad City” actress Ilana Glazer canceled a Thursday event at the temple following the gross graffiti's discovery.
Associated Press / Daniela Kirsch

The actress told a crowd waiting for the event to begin that it would not take place shortly before its 8 pm start time, after the anti-Semitic remarks that reportedly also included “Jew Better Be Ready” and “End it Now” were found scrawled in black marker inside a stairwell within the 1927 synagogue.

Following the event’s cancellation, Glazer told Goodman in a segment for her television program “Democracy Now!” — which included shots of the graffiti — that the sinister statements made her feel the temple wasn’t safe, and that she called the event off to keep the audience out of harm’s way.

“I can’t put these 200 people who came to listen in a safe space, I can’t put them in that danger,” she told Goodman in the interview.

Authorities stationed armed guards outside the Prospect Heights synagogue on Friday, but its leaders continued to host services as usual, according to its president, who thanked community members for supporting the congregation following the act of vandalism.

“We at Union Temple are disgusted and dismayed at the hateful graffiti that was scrawled on our walls last night, but we are also heartened by the tremendous outpouring of support from the community, Jewish and non-Jewish alike,” Beatrice Hanks said.

The foul graffiti was discovered two days after another creep drew swastikas and wrote a racist slur on several buildings in Brooklyn Heights, and less than a week after a gunman killed 11 and injured six when he opened fire inside a Pittsburgh synagogue — in what was reportedly the largest-ever massacre of Jews on American soil.

And the day after the suspect defiled the temple, he allegedly lit the fires at the Jewish centers in Williamsburg, acts the neighborhood’s councilman said are becoming all to frequent.

“We condemn these anti-Semitic attacks, and I thank the NYPD and FDNY for their prompt response to these life-threatening incidents,” said Councilman Stephen Levin. “Tragically, it would seem these types of attacks are becoming all too common.”

Face of hate: Police on Friday arrested this man for scrawling the anti-Semitic inside the Prospect Heights synagogue.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixs[email protected]glocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.

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