‘Nobody Should Be Afraid to Walk the Streets’: Brooklyn Rabbi Addresses Growing Concern About Antisemitic Violence Following Latest Attack in Williamsburg
Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn are increasingly concerned about walking the streets following the latest assault on a Jewish man in Williamsburg this past Shabbat, a prominent leader of the community told The Algemeiner on Monday.
“It’s terrible that one doesn’t feel safe stepping out of his home at any time of the day,” Rabbi David Niederman — president of the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg and North Brooklyn — said during a telephone interview.
Niederman noted that the community’s fears were more pronounced after 6 p.m. in the evening.
“People wonder, am I going to come back home or not? And what shape will I be in?” he said.
Rabbi Niederman said that the victim of Friday night’s attack had recovered from his ordeal. The 32-year-old man, identifiably Jewish from his haredi clothing, had been returning from Shabbat services with his young son when he stopped to greet a friend on Throop Avenue. Security footage showed the assailant running up behind the victim and then landing a sucker punch to the back of his head, forcing him to collapse instantly.
Friday night’s attack was the third targeting Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn in less than a week. The previous weekend, a 9-year-old and a 12-year-old boy were assaulted in two separate incidents. More generally, the community has been on high alert for much of this year. In April, the NYPD opened hate crimes investigations into two separate frenzied assaults on Orthodox Jewish men in the Crown Heights neighborhood, while in October, a stick-wielding teenager was charged after beating a Jewish man in broad daylight.
More than 160 antisemitic hate crimes have been documented by the NYPD in 2018, an increase of almost 25 percent on the previous year.
Niederman argued that a climate of antisemitism was being whipped up on social media, resulting in violent attacks on Jews.
“What’s even more scary is that the antisemitic remarks incite violence,” he said. “We, the Jewish community, are under attack. So we are very concerned, very outraged.”
Niederman expressed confidence that the city would apprehend the assailant in Friday’s attack. He said he hoped that the assailant “will go through the system and do time, and not just go out the back door — that justice will prevail.”
He also praised local police for being “responsive at any hour” and for “being here to protect every citizen.”
Niederman urged city authorities to address the problem “on a much bigger scale.”
“Nobody, no matter what race or religion or color, should be afraid to walk freely in the streets,” he stressed.
Evan R. Bernstein — regional director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) for New York and New Jersey — said in a statement that his organization was offering a $5,000 reward for information about Friday’s incident.
“We remain increasingly concerned by the number of alleged unprovoked assaults on Orthodox Jewish individuals in Brooklyn in recent weeks,” Bernstein said.
The same statement quoted New York’s Attorney General-elect Letitia James expressing her solidarity with the community.
“Today and every day, I stand shoulder to shoulder with the Jewish community and urge anyone with information about these heinous crimes to come forward,” James declared.