New York -- The FBI raided a Brooklyn community center today that allegedly has served as headquarters for a Jewish extremist group labeled by the State Department as a foreign terrorist organization.
Early this morning, more than 20 FBI agents arrived at the Hatikva Jewish Identity Center with a warrant to seize all materials related to the late Rabbi Meir David Kahane and his followers, said the center's director, Michael Guzofsky.
Kahane was assassinated in a Manhattan hotel 10 years ago. His son, Binyamin Kahane, was killed Dec. 31 in an ambush in the West Bank. They had been associated with two radical political groups, Kach and Kahane Chai, which were outlawed in Israel in 1994 and were designated by the State Department as foreign terrorist organizations the following year.
The Kahane-affiliated organizations have been accused of fomenting hatred against Arabs, and some of their members have been connected to attacks on Palestinians, including the slaying of 29 Muslims in a Hebron mosque in 1994. Despite the terrorist designation, some of the rabbi's supporters have continued to operate in Brooklyn, teaching martial arts, running Web sites and advocating the expulsion of Arabs from Israel.
The red brick Hatikva Jewish Identity Center is next to an Asian grocery and across the street from a mosque in a neighborhood teeming with immigrants. Leon Kryhonovsky, who identified himself as a member of the Kahane organization, said he had counted as FBI agents carted away 84 boxes, one filing cabinet, four sets of signs, six computers and eight milk crates of material.
Guzofsky appeared dazed as he stood outside the building with attorneys and supporters. Even before the FBI agents arrived, he said, he had planned to spend the day writing an op-ed piece about why the government "continues to hunt down the Kahanes." He said the community center has been open for 18 months and offers classes on judo, boxing and Jewish scripture.
"In a million years, I never believed something like this would happen in America," he said. An FBI spokesman said the search warrant was connected to an ongoing investigation and declined any other comment.
Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, speculated that the raid was prompted by "hate rhetoric" from Kahane-related groups since the killing of Binyamin Kahane on New Year's Eve. "They're calling for vengeance," Foxman said. "The level of it has reached a crescendo."