web analytics
October 21, 2014 / 27 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance
News & Views
Sponsored Post
Meir Panim with Soldiers 5774 Roundup: Year of Relief and Service for Israel’s Needy

Meir Panim implements programs that serve Israel’s neediest populations with respect and dignity. Meir Panim also coordinated care packages for families in the South during the Gaza War.



Home » News & Views

Devorah Halberstam: From Bereaved Mother To Counterterrorism Authority

When a 16-year-old Lubavitcher named Ari Halberstam was gunned down on the Brooklyn Bridge on March 1, 1994 by a Lebanese livery cab driver, the killing seemed to be a cut-and-dried case.

The shooter, Rashid Baz, was captured the following day and confessed to police. After a trial several months later, he was sentenced to 141 years in prison.

But a murder conviction was not enough for Ari’s mother, Devorah Halberstam. She saw a terrorist conspiracy behind the shooting and criticized authorities for treating it as an ordinary homicide.

For years she obsessively campaigned for further investigation, clamoring to be taken seriously by authorities. She waited on receiving lines to buttonhole senators and congressmen, knocked on doors at City Hall, and traveled back and forth to Washington.

Twenty years after her son’s killing, Halberstam is now an authority on terrorism with close ties to law enforcement officials – a highly unusual role for a chassidic woman.

She regularly helps train security officials on terrorism-related issues, giving seminars to police and FBI agents, flying to Army bases to lecture soldiers, teaching Border Patrol agents and meeting with security officials from overseas.

Last week, a man who tried to build a pipe bomb for use in New York, Jose Pimentel, was sentenced to 16 years in prison on terrorism charges under laws Halberstam helped draft.

“If I had to use one word to describe Devorah, I would use the word relentless,” Raymond Kelly, who served as the commissioner of the New York Police Department from 1992 to 1994 and again from 2000 to 2013, told JTA. “She’s a major force in the political world, and certainly those people who focus on the issues of counterterrorism know that well.”

Halberstam acknowledges that she never could have imagined this life for herself two decades ago. Back then it was all about achieving a measure of justice for her son.

Halberstam’s campaign, which focused on having her son’s shooting recognized as a terrorist act, wasn’t merely semantic. To her, the issue cut to the heart of what she saw as the authorities’ failure to fully pursue other avenues of investigation: Who helped inspire the attack, plan it, abet it and conspire to shelter Baz in the hours after the shooting?

On the surface, the attack appeared to be an Arab gunman’s angry response to the massacre in Hebron several days earlier, when 29 Palestinians were gunned down by Baruch Goldstein, a West Bank settler.

The young Halberstam had been a passenger in a van full of chassidic boys that was trailing the motorcade of the Lubavitcher rebbe who was on a trip home from the hospital. Halberstam believes the van became a Jewish target of convenience once the rebbe’s vehicle disappeared into a tunnel.

But the lawyer for Baz, who had an arsenal of weapons with him that day, maintained the shooting was the result of a traffic dispute carried out by a lone assailant without assistance. No official motive was determined at the trial.

Halberstam wanted more. She worked to collect letters of support from powerful politicians, got a Brooklyn Bridge ramp named for her son and raised millions of dollars for the construction of a Jewish children’s museum in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn dedicated to Ari’s memory. She sued the companies that manufactured the guns used in her son’s killing (and lost). She pushed the state to pass Ari’s Law, which requires a license to possess a gun kit and is meant to curtail interstate gun trafficking.

All the while, her son’s case remained closed.

The turning point came in 1999, when media reports about the case sparked renewed calls by New York’s governor as well as U.S. senators and congressmen for a reassessment. The FBI finally responded, describing the shooting as an act of “road rage.”

About the Author: Uriel Heilman is managing editor of JTA. An award-winning journalist, he has worked in a variety of positions for publications in the United States and in Israel, including as New York bureau chief of the Jerusalem Post.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Devorah Halberstam: From Bereaved Mother To Counterterrorism Authority”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Facebook post from man believed to be Canadian convert to Islam who rammed soldiers with his car in possible terrorist attack, Oct. 20, 2014.
‘Radicalized’ Convert to Islam Attempted to Murder Canadian Soldiers [video]
Latest News Stories
Route for weapons shipment to Gaza from Iran.

After lying in coma for months, 83-year-old Ayatollah Mohammad Reza Mahdavi Kani has died, Iranian media reported Tuesday.

Facebook post from man believed to be Canadian convert to Islam who rammed soldiers with his car in possible terrorist attack, Oct. 20, 2014.

A radicalized Canadian convert to Islam rammed soldiers in what may have been an act of terrorism.

PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas speaking in Ramallah. (archive)

PA unity govt chairman Mahmoud Abbas raises the penalty for selling land to a “hostile nation” (Jew).

Israel sends supplies to combat Ebola virus outbreak in Sierra Leona.

Israel’s government is recruiting citizens to help combat the Ebola virus epidemic in West Africa.

The Beach Boys aren’t coming to Israel next month…

The Jerusalem Light Rail has finally instituted a ‘zero tolerance’ police towards Arab violence against its trains.

A 2,000 year old stone fragment bearing an official Latin inscription dedicated to the Roman Emperor Hadrian is found in Jerusalem.

The woman’s father and other ISIS members stoned the woman to death for adultery.

Hamas has created a museum exhibit, currently showing at al-Aqsa University in Khan Younis, Gaza. Hamas is showing off its weapons and propaganda pieces from this past summer’s war, Operation Protective Edge.  

A bill that would end the control of the Chief Rabbinate over conversions to Judaism in Israel was nixed Monday by PM Netanyahu.

Haaretz smears U.S. terrorism expert for being a Republican and friend of Sheldon Adelson.

Leslie W., 48, and his partner Akiwa H., 56, are charged with having sold more than 88,000 pounds of non-kosher meat for a marked-up price.

The Rabbinical Council of America said that since the arrest last week of Rabbi Barry Freundel of Washington, DC, it has been working assiduously to address the many challenges that its members and their communities now face.

It was an outright miracle: a tiny teahouse in the pass, and the equivalent of a Sherpa Pony Express to deliver a call for help.

ISIS propaganda video warns “our grandchildren will sell your sons as slaves.”

More Articles from Uriel Heilman
Heilman-100314-Obama

How do some of the other issues Obama discussed in his 2013 U.N. General Assembly speech look through today’s lens?

Gazan terrorist with a rocket.

How is it that the journalists aren’t able to get any images of Palestinians fighting the Israelis?

Despite some limited success, after every conflagration Hamas has managed to re-arm and improve its rocket capacity, as evident in the rocket range on display in this round of fighting.

Over the years, the ADL has been criticized for overstating what qualifies as anti-Semitism, with critics suggesting that some of the statements used to measure bias actually are more indicative of admiration for Jews than anti-Jewish hostility.

“Last year we took the $10,000 from him,” Jay Sanderson, president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, told JTA. “We’re not going to take it anymore.”

“More than the Jews have kept the Shabbos (Sabbath), the Shabbos has kept the Jews.”

The battle over partnership minyans is just the latest scuffle in the war over women’s roles in the Orthodox community.

Last week, a man who tried to build a pipe bomb for use in New York, Jose Pimentel, was sentenced to 16 years in prison on terrorism charges under laws Halberstam helped draft.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/devorah-halberstam-from-bereaved-mother-to-counterterrorism-authority/2014/02/26/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: