Who Was Menachem Stark — and Why Was He Murdered?

Contradictions Swirl Around Slain Hasidic Real Estate Man

vos iz neias

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Published January 09, 2014, issue of January 17, 2014.
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The murder itself was a thing of nightmares. A video released by the police shows Stark being hustled into a waiting van at 11:45 p.m. January 2 by two assailants. Police later found handcuffs and plastic ties discarded on the ground at the site of the kidnapping.

Stark’s wife contacted a family friend when she realized her husband had not come home. At 1:05 a.m. January 3, according to Yossi Gestetner, an Orthodox activist who was in direct contact with people involved, that friend contacted an acquaintance who is a member of the Shomrim, the local Orthodox security patrol.

It’s not unusual for the ultra-Orthodox to contact Shomrim before contacting civil authorities during emergencies.

“Their default setting is to call Shomrim,” said Michael Tobman, a political consultant who works with the community. “There’s a language issue and a cultural sensitivity issue. I think people just are more comfortable with it.”

A spokesman for the Shomrim declined to speak with the Forward when contacted on January 6.

The Shomrim member and the family friend went to Stark’s office just after 1 a.m. to try to track down Stark. They soon found the security tape that showed Stark being pushed into the van.

It does not appear that the Shomrim waited a substantial time before calling the New York City Police Department, an issue that has been a point of friction between the two organizations in the past. Gestetner said that the NYPD was called by 2:00 a.m. Earlier press reports quoted police saying they were called at 2:30 a.m. The NYPD would not tell the Forward when they were first contacted.

By the next morning, news of the abduction had spread fast through Brooklyn Orthodox networks. Connections were immediately made to the abduction of Leiby Kletzky, the 8-year-old Hasidic boy snatched from a street in the Boro Park section of Brooklyn in July 2011. Thousands of Orthodox people volunteered to help search for Kletzky, who was found murdered days later.

On the morning after Stark was abducted, organizers began putting together a similar effort to find him. But it was already too late.


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