In the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, some residents dial 911 to report a crime in progress. Others call a Jew.

That’s unusual enough. But the fact that Crown Heights boasts a Jewish security patrol – complete with police cars, a riot van and fast fists – is just the beginning of the remarkable story of one the most insular communities in the United States. Crown Heights actually has two Jewish security forces, the product of a cleft in a sect of Hasidic Judaism that’s obsessed with the impending arrival of the messiah.

Tensions between the two security forces, each devoted to keeping the peace, degenerated into a violent clash in 2007. The bloody confrontation deepened Jew-vs.-Jew tensions and culminated in a bitter courtroom battle.

The whole complicated, convoluted and captivating saga unfolds in the smart and perceptive Among Righteous Men: A Tale of Vigilantes and Vindication in Hasidic Crown Heights. The book is by former Christian Science Monitor staff reporter Matthew Shaer, who embedded himself in a Brooklyn enclave united by men in beards and black hats but torn by religious conflict.

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