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‘Turn hate into love’: Marking 30 years since fatal Brooklyn Bridge terror attack

BY THE VILLAGE SUN | Mayor Adams, Attorney General Letitia James and Council Speaker Adrienne Adams joined family members of Ari Halberstam to mark the 30th anniversary of the teenage yeshiva student’s murder in a terrorist attack at the Brooklyn Bridge.

On March 1, 1994, Rashid Baz, originally from Lebanon, drove his car up next to a van full of Orthodox Jewish students as they were climbing a ramp on the bridge’s Manhattan side. Blasting with two guns, including a machine gun, he strafed the van with 40 bullets, striking four students. Halberstam, who was 16, was hit in the head, and died five days later. Another student who was also shot in the head was left with a permanent speech disability.

The attack happened in moving traffic on an on-ramp to the Brooklyn Bridge. (Mayor’s Photography Office)

Initially, authorities deemed it a road rage incident before, 10 years later, reclassifying it as terrorism. During the assault, Baz reportedly yelled, “Kill the Jews!” in what was ultimately seen as a revenge attack for religious fanatic Baruch Goldstein, four days earlier, having killed more than two dozen Muslim worshipers in Hebron.

Baz is currently serving 141 years to life in prison.

Speaking at the commemoration, Halberstam’s mother, activist Devorah Halberstam, said, in part, “Today, as I stand here with you, I want to be clear: Hate has seeped into our society like a plague, and we need to make changes. … We have to turn the hate and anti-Semitism that has a life of its own into love.

“I have not seen Ari for 10,957 days, but I will always remember my first-born child, 6 feet tall, with eyes that were crystal blue as the ocean and shined like two diamonds, with a basketball in one hand and a prayer book in the other, always with a smile.

Ari Halberstam and his fellow students were returning to Brooklyn after visiting their spiritual leader, the Grand Rebbe, Menachem Schneerson, in a Manhattan hospital, when the gunman opened fire. (Mayor’s Photography Office)

“Hope springs eternal; and Ari loved the spring, and as the hint of spring is in the air, I could see Ari hopping down the street in his size 13-and-a-half sneakers.

“Ari was murdered and his friends were targeted because they were identifiably Jewish,” his mother said. “Today, we need to have Jewish pride. We stand here now on holy ground. Every time I cross the bridge, I stop and say a prayer for my son. His blood is entwined in the steel beams of this bridge. His stature was as majestic as this bridge, and this bridge needs to remind us all to accept and respect each other, no matter who we are or what faith we follow.”

Mayor Adams said, “We know how important it is for our city to live in a level of diversity and commitment, to weed out hate no matter where it is, no matter where it shows itself. It is unbelievable when I reflect on the fact that 15 young children, Chabad children, were merely traveling back home to their community in Crown Heights over 30 years ago, March 1st, 1994 [when they were fired on].”

“We find ourselves now in this nation more divided than ever, and it breaks my heart,” Attorney General James said. “And the only way that we can come together is to speak about our commonalities. … And it’s up to each and every one of us: If we are to honor [Ari’s] legacy then we must leave this place together, united and in strength and as we stand up against hate.”

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