2003-02-01 / Front Page

3 Yeshiva Students Arrested For Harassing Catholic Girls

By Howard Schwach

3 Yeshiva Students Arrested
For Harassing Catholic Girls
By Howard Schwach

Three young Jewish students from the Yeshiva Mercaz Hatorah of Belle Harbor on Beach 130 Street were arrested last Saturday night for aggravated harassment in a case that involved three 13-year-old Catholic girls.

According to the Deputy Commissioner for Public Information for the New York City Police Department, the incident began just before 9 p.m. on Saturday night in front of 505 Beach 129 Street, just around the corner from the school's dormitory, which is located at 512 Beach 130 Street.

Police say that the three 16-year-old yeshiva students approached the unidentified girls, who were on the shopping street and began to make anti-Catholic remarks.

In the ensuing argument, one of the girls was pushed by the boys, according to police.

The parents of two of the girls involved in the incident contacted The Wave to tell what their daughters told them had happened. Both asked for anonymity on the grounds that using their names would serve to identify the girls and make them targets of reprisal.

"About 15-20 boys surrounded the girls on Beach 129 Street," a father said. "They asked her what religion she was. When she told them she was Catholic, they called her an 'Irish slut.' She laughed and said that she was Italian and they called her a "Guinea W___!' They knocked her down and punched her. One boy tried to kick her with a karate kick but missed her head. They kept calling her a 'Catholic slut' and demanded that she 'give it up' to them."

One of the boys said to her, "Your priest probably had sex with you," the father said.

The mother of one of the girls lives on the block. She saw what was happening and ran to the scene. "I stopped a serious incident from happening," she said. "When they saw me coming, yelling at them, they ran inside the school. I followed them. There were no adults present. I asked for a Rabbi, and they told me that there was no adult present."

"My daughter continues to be harassed every time she walks by the school," the mother added. They shout profanities and religious slurs."

Rabbi Levi Dicker, the head of the Yeshiva, however, told The Wave a different story.

He said that two boys were getting out of a car service vehicle in front of the school after taking part in a gymnasium program that the school runs at Beach Channel High School.

Dicker says that the two boys were accosted by a group of girls who called them names and harassed them.

The two boys reportedly went into the dormitory in which they live and told others about the incident.

Three of their older classmates decided to go outside and confront the girls.

"The original boys were shy, and they walked away, as we teach them to do. The other boys, however, were a little more aggressive," the Rabbi said. "They went out and confronted the girls, and admittedly called them names."

Dicker says that some pushing ensued and one boy pushed into another, who then pushed into the girl.

"She was never off her feet," the Rabbi said.

The girls then called their parents, who called the police.

"We cooperated fully with the police, bringing the boys down to be identified," he said. "Even though it was obvious that the girl was not sure who pushed her, she made an identification and the boy was arrested."

None of the three girls was injured. The unidentified boys were arrested by police from the 100 Precinct and charged with Aggravated Harassment.

A resident of Beach 130 Street, who asked not to be identified, said that while the police were in the front of the building, a red van pulled up at the back and took away several boys who were dressed only in t-shirts and pants despite the cold.

"I think that they took away the boys who did it," he said.

The incident has spurred an interfaith movement to insure that this does not happen again.

Dicker has met with Monsignor Martin Geraghty, the pastor of St. Francis de Sales Church and with police officials to see what can be done to bring the groups together.

"Rabbi Dicker and I have met and we are focusing on the positive aspects of the community," Monsignor Geraghty said in a statement to The Wave. "We do not want to see this unfortunate situation blown out of proportion. We want to bring the community together."

On Tuesday, however, a young Yeshiva student walking by the lot across the street from St. Francis was accosted by 8-10 young boys who were playing football in the lot.

"Are you the f____ Jew who raped the girl," they yelled at him, adding other anti-Semitic invective. The young man kept walking, but reported it to police after arriving safely at the Beach 124 Street dormitory that houses many of the students during the week.

A community activist who has been working for community unity for many years, and who asked not to be identified because of his delicate position, said, "there is no doubt that there are tensions in that neighborhood. Those involved with the kids on both sides of the issues have to sit down with them and explain about civil rights and about the fact that a police record, even for harassment, can stay with a child for a long time. Both the Catholic kids in the neighborhood and the Yeshiva boys have to understand that they should not be calling each other names."

Detectives from the Bias Crime Unit are investigating and at press time it appeared that two of the boys would be tried as adults.

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