An antisemitic attack in Crown Heights

February 7, 2019 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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His name is Mendel and he is from Melbourne and a yeshivah student in New York. Mendel made the papers across the Jewish world last week when he attacked by thugs in Crown Heights, He tells J-Wire what happened…

Mendel’s story:


I was walking down President St – really in the heart of Jewish Crown Heights – speaking on the phone when out of nowhere, I didn’t see it coming, I get punched in the face, really really hard. The force of the punch brought me to the ground, scraping my knees quite badly. My Yarmulke and mangled glasses were scattered in the gutter.  I quickly got up, and briefly gave chase.

They didn’t say anything, nor did they try to take anything.

The police came in less than a  minute. I believe a witness called them. I am amazed by the professionalism displayed that night by the NYPD, and the officers of the 71st Precinct. They helped me find my Yarmulke and glasses and rushed me into the patrol car so I could assist in locating the assailant. There was a huge and rapid police response, and they had apprehended two people within minutes.

I later found out that several minutes before I was attacked, an older man was viciously beaten by the same gang of three. He was hurt far worse than I.

While patrols have been stepped up in the area,  the police can’t be everywhere all the time. Ultimately, the solution is prevention. Children must be instilled with a sense of purpose, and respect for one another from a young age.

In the 1980s, the Lubavitcher Rebbe of righteous memory addressed the rising crime rates among youth. He encouraged having a moment of silence and reflection at the beginning of each school day when a child would be taught by their parents to think about a Supreme Being, and an “eye that sees, and ears that hear” everything that he does. Good values don’t come about in a vacuum, they must be taught.

While a message needs to be sent that violence like this has to stop, I think it’s important that during the duration of their sentence, and after, a strong rehabilitative effort is made. If a criminal sits behind bars for several years and is not rehabilitated, what have we gained in the long run, besides for keeping him off the streets? I wish for them to lead productive lives, and learn from their mistakes, and maybe even educate others on the importance of self-respect, purpose, and respect for others.

Motives behind the recent spate of attacks, and why they’re occurring in Crown Heights specifically:

Antisemitism. Our traditional Chasidic garb, our hats, dark jackets, yarmulkes and untouched beards make us easier to identify as Jewish; making us an easy target of hate. It’s something that’s been going on for decades.

Growing up in Melbourne, I have encountered antisemitism before, being yelled at from passing cars on the way to Shul wasn’t unheard of. But to come face to face with violent and senseless Antisemitism was a shock. I’m still trying to come to terms with it. Why would anyone do that?! How can anyone do that?! It’s just so disturbing and senseless.

I’m a volunteer teacher in the Released Time program, weekly Yiddishkeit classes for children in public schools. The next morning I really wasn’t feeling up to it, and I could’ve just taken the day off. But because of what had happened, I felt compelled even more than before to get out there and teach, to instil within the children a sense of purpose and respect, and educate them in the ways of our Torah. Imagine if these assailants were given a similar opportunity ten years ago, they wouldn’t be like this today.

I feel it’s important to convey a positive message and make the most of a dark situation by adding light, channelling the rage that wells up inside of you for good.

Mendel has supplied his family name but he prefers it to be omitted in this report. In to protect his identity, J-Wire has chosen to publish only Mendel’s back.

Mendel will return to Melbourne for Pesach.

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