Tuesday, September 26th | 11 Tishri 5784

August 25, 2023 1:28 pm

San Diego Police Issue Call for Help in Catching Man Suspected of Attacking Rabbi


avatar by Dion J. Pierre

San Diego man implicated in antisemitic hate crime against local rabbi. Photo: San Diego Crime Stoppers

The San Diego Police Department in California has released an image of a suspect who authorities believe attacked a rabbi in an antisemitic hate crime and is calling on the public to help identify him.

A screenshot of surveillance footage shows a man who police describe as White, about 5’8″ tall, in his late 20s to early 30s, and with possible dreadlocks, local CBS affiliate KFMB reported on Thursday.

The new image and call for help are the latest developments in the case of Rabbi Aharon Shapiro, an official of a local Orthodox Union chapter who was shopping at a 7-Eleven to buy soda near San Diego State University when someone asked if he was Jewish.

“And then without taking a breath, he launched into a tirade against Israel, against the Jews — ‘all Jews should be dead, all Jews deserve to die,'” Shapiro recounted to local ABC affiliate KGTV. “Then he just ran at me and, as you can see, I wear my tzitzits [tassels worn by observant Jews] out. The tzitzits are attached to a four-cornered garment, and he pulled one of them, yanked it off, threw it on the floor, said something completely vile, and ran out the door.”

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According to San Diego police, such crimes undermine the local community and require the help of the public to be solved.

“These kinds of crimes tear at the fabric of our communities,” San Diego Police Department Lieutenant Adam Sharki told KFMB, noting that there have been recent incidents of antisemitic leaflets being spread across the city. “We investigate these incidents, and we ask for the community’s help in supporting this community and helping us solve these crimes when crimes occur.”

According to KFMB, anyone who comes forward with information relevant to the investigation will receive $1,000 from San Diego County Crime Stoppers. Meanwhile, StandWithUs, a civil rights nonprofit that has represented students who experienced antisemitic discrimination on college campuses, is offering $2,500.

The attack on Rabbi Shapiro was not the first antisemitic incident in San Diego this year. In May, an unidentified person used their own excrement to vandalize the walls of a University of California-San Diego residential bathroom with swastikas. Two months earlier, a man toppled a decorative menorah mounted on the lawn of the Chabad House at San Diego State University, the second time such an incident occurred in two years and the third time overall that the center had been vandalized.

The state of California had the second most antisemitic incidents in the US in 2022 with 518, according to an annual audit by the Anti-Defamation League. Only New York had more with 580. A major site of antisemitic incidents has been US college campuses, where concerns about the safety of students have increased.

In April, back to back antisemitic acts occurred on and near the University of California, Santa Cruz. In the first incident, a group of students organized a party commemorating the birthday of Adolf Hitler, and in the second, someone placed a flyer promoting antisemitic and homophobic ideas on the windshield of a car parked in downtown Santa Cruz.

At Stanford University, meanwhile, antisemitic incidents “keep happening,” Rabbi Jessica Kirschner of the school’s Hillel told The Algemeiner in April after someone etched a swastika into a metal panel of a bathroom and a mezuzah was stolen from an undergraduate resident.

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

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