It was not clear if the attack was premeditated and connected to last week's mosque massacre in Hebron, in Israel's West Bank. Baruch Goldstein, responsible for the Hebron massacre and who was later beaten to death by Arabs, was born in Brooklyn and emigrated to Israel 12 years ago.
The New York mayor, Rudolph Giuliani, said the attacking car had given three bursts of fire at the van carrying students. He said the van had been followed the day before, and the students had complained to the police. The mayor ruled out earlier police speculation that the shootings were triggered by a traffic accident.
The four wounded, all young students, had been visiting Rabbi Menachem Schneerson in hospital, where he was undergoing an eye operation. The rabbi is the spiritual leader of the Lubavitcher sect. The students were returning to their yeshiva in Brooklyn when the gunman opened fire at the foot of the Brooklyn bridge. One student, 23, was shot in the head and is in critical condition. A second, 18, was shot in the neck and was in an unstable condition. A third, 19, was shot in the hand. The fourth victim was said to be in a stable condition.
Mr Giuliani called for calm and telephoned Rabbi Schneerson and promised to increase security in Brooklyn, which has the highest concentration of devout Jews in the United States. Goldstein came from the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn, a middle-class area with residents of Jewish and Italian descent.
Most Hasidim live in the working-class Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, scene of riots between blacks and Jews in the summer of 1991. A rabbinical student, Yankel Rosenbaum, was stabbed to death by a gang of black youths yelling 'Get the Jew'. The riots started when a car in a motorcade of Rabbi Schneerson accidentally hit and killed a black child.