Mother of Jewish Teen Killed on Brooklyn Bridge Speaks Out About Arrest

Muaffaq Askar Was Involved in Cigarette Smuggling Ring

A Mother’s Words: Devorah Halberstam, the mother of yeshiva student Ari Halberstam was killed as he drove on this Brooklyn Bridge ramp in 1994, speaks out.
Youtube
A Mother’s Words: Devorah Halberstam, the mother of yeshiva student Ari Halberstam was killed as he drove on this Brooklyn Bridge ramp in 1994, speaks out.

By Seth Berkman

Published May 17, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share

The mother of a Jewish teenage boy that was killed near the Brooklyn Bridge 19 years ago was grateful after learning that a man suspected of playing a key role in the murder was arrested on Thursday.

Muaffaq Askar, 46, of Brooklyn, was part of a group — with suspected ties to Hamas and Hezbollah — arrested in a multi-million-dollar cigarette smuggling ring. Askar allegedly provided the gun that murdered Ari Halberstam in 1994.

“I was very well aware of Askar since my son was murdered and the role he played in my son’s case,” Devorah Halberstam, Ari’s mother, said. “Relief is the wrong word, because it’s tragic. It’s difficult to put into words. I’ve known it for so many years.”

Ari Halberstam
Ari Halberstam

On March 1, 1994, Ari Halberstam, a 16-year-old yeshiva student, was returning from a vigil for Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson. While pulling onto the exit ramp for the Brooklyn Bridge, Halberstam’s vehicle was shot at by Rashid Baz, a Lebanese immigrant, in retaliation for the killing of Muslims in the West Bank by a Jewish settler from Brooklyn. Five days later, Halberstam died.

Askar was described as a “confidant” of Baz by New York Police Department Commissioner Raymond Kelly. Baz has called Askar his “Palestinian Uncle.”

Devorah Halberstam said that she has reviewed prison logs where Askar visited Baz in prison. Since the event, she has been keeping her son’s memory alive. A year after the shooting, the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge was renamed the Ari Halberstam Memorial Ramp. She also runs a memorial website for her son and has been an outspoken advocate of gun control. Baz arsenal reportedly included a Cobray submachine gun, a Streetsweeper shotgun, a Glock and a .380 pistol.

She told the Forward on Friday that she praised the work of commissioner Kelly, but that the actions of potential terrorists need to be more closely monitored.

“I know he’s been traveling to Jordan back and forth like a free man with my son’s blood on his hands,” Halberstam said. “This guy has the nerve, but we’ve allowed him to do it.”

In 2000, officials ruled that the murder of Ari Halberstam was a terrorist crime.

“I’m grateful for yesterday,” Devorah Halberstam said. “All I think of is they saved somebody else’s child…This is a message to would-be terrorists. We are watching. We just have to be quick enough.”

In total, 15 men were arrested for smuggling more than a million cartons of untaxed cigarettes. Currently, $55 million in sales have been uncovered, according to New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman and Kelly.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • “I don’t want to say, ‘Oh oh, I’m not Jewish,’ because when you say that, you sound like someone trying to get into a 1950s country club, “and I love the idea of being Jewish." Are you a fan of Seth Meyers?
  • "If you want my advice: more Palestinians, more checkpoints, just more reality." What do you think?
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.