Site of Deadly Jersey City Attack, a Changing Neighborhood

David Cruz, NJTV News | December 12, 2019 | More Issues
Growing Orthodox Jewish community has settled in rapidly transforming city

Martin Luther King Drive, the Jersey City artery that was the address of the kosher supermarket authorities believe was targeted in Tuesday’s deadly attack, runs through two neighborhoods in this rapidly transforming city on the Hudson River waterfront.

Greenville and Lafayette, where most residents are black, are part of that transformation, and one of its iterations is the emergence in recent years of a growing community of Orthodox Jews.

Word came early Wednesday that the shooting had not been random, when Mayor Steve Fulop said that authorities believe the JC Kosher Supermarket at 223 MLK Drive had been deliberately targeted.

The news was a shock to members of the Orthodox community. Rabbi Mosche Schapiro of Chabad of Jersey City and Hoboken, who said he had spoken with the husband of one of the victims, said the store had been patronized by Jews and non-Jews alike.

“Very surprised, and everyone’s afraid. But the way he describes it, it’s a complete shock. I mean, non-Jews come into the store, they get along. It’s a total shock to them,” he said.

Police identified the victims as Mindy Ferencz, 32, Moshe Deutsch, 24, Miguel Douglas, 49, and Joseph Seals, a Jersey City police detective. Schapiro told nj.com that Deutsch and Ferencz were members of the Orthodox community, and that Ferencz and her husband owned the bodega.

Community members estimate that, as recently as three years ago, there were just a handful of Orthodox families living in the area. Today, that number is over 100.

The Orthodox community tends to keep to itself, and the black community there tends to be wary of newcomers. But most evidence is that the two have co-existed without major conflict.

Schapiro stressed the importance of the community building on that relationship.

“When we have terrible attacks like this, people come together because we have a common cause, where we’re all endowed by God, we’re all created in God’s image — young Jewish men, young African American men. We’re all the same,” he said. “So if we could bring back this message that we’re getting along, and that’s what the people feel like here, so we can have great relations going forward.”