The “mitzvah” bus, a symbol of Jewish pride in Brooklyn, was destroyed in a fire over the weekend, police said.
The repurposed school bus, decorated elaborately with religious imagery, was a prominent cultural fixture in Crown Heights.
The charred shell of the bus was all that remained on Monday.
Leviticus Schieber, the owner of the bus, used the vehicle as both an art studio and to transport his two daughters to school. He considers the vehicle a community message on wheels.
“It represents the Jewish spirit and sort of old-school Crown Heights,” Schieber said.
The rolling art project has appeared in many New York parades, and most recently, it was featured in a music video by Benny Friedman, a popular Jewish entertainer, in his hit song “I’m Jew and I’m Proud.”
Some people believe the wreckage could be more than just a case of property damage—authorities are currently considering the possibility that it’s also a hate crime.
Schieber has his own suspicions.
“My first instinct was that it was targeted for some reason, maybe just because it’s a funny-looking bus,” he said. “But it’s obviously the only bus on this block that’s destroyed.”
Schieber frequently parked his bus on the street and had no concerns doing so, but he said he did find one of its tires slashed about a year and a half ago.
Schieber said the practical issues aren’t his main concern; he’ll get another bus since his was insured, and he won’t have to transport his daughters to school this summer.
But he worries this act of vandalism may give other vandals ideas.
While the fire department initially ruled the damage to be a product of an electrical fire, they are now investigating other causes, as well as motives.