When Menachem Stark still hadn’t come home late in the evening of January 2, his wife started to get scared. It had snowed several inches in Brooklyn that night, and the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Williamsburg was coated in white.
His wife Bashie Stark called a friend, who called a member of the Orthodox Shomrim security service. Soon she had even more reason to be worried: A security video showed Stark, a father of seven with piercing eyes framed by curls, bundled off into a van outside his brick office building on Rutledge Street.
The next day, the Satmar Hasidic man’s half-burnt corpse was found in a Long Island dumpster, some 16 miles away from snowy Williamsburg.
Who was Menachem Stark — and how did he wind up dying such a violent death so far outside the insular community where he had lived his entire life?
For his Satmar friends and colleagues, Stark, 38, embodied the best of their world: a generous person with an open wallet for anyone in search of aid.
“People who needed help, he was the address,” said Rabbi David Niederman, executive director of the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg and a leader in the Satmar community.
For outsiders, like some of the tenants who rented his properties, Stark was someone quite different.
News reports about one former Stark property, the Greenpoint Hotel, describe a decrepit, drug-infested building with filthy bathrooms, sloping hallways and a long history of drug-related deaths.