Brooklyn’s Jewish community is on edge following two “vicious” anti-Semitic attacks in Crown Heights — which unfolded early Wednesday within minutes of each other, according to officials.
“Time for a serious, and possibly, uncomfortable conversation about the face of antisemitism in America,” wrote Chabad Rabbi Motti Seligson on Instagram.
His post was accompanied by surveillance footage showing one of the early morning assaults.
“This happened last night in Crown Heights, not in Charlottesville nor at the hands of White Supremacists,” Seligson said. “I’m told they stole nothing just brutally beat the guy in what is clearly a premeditated attack.”
Cops said the second incident happened just a few blocks away.
“It was just after 1 a.m.,” recalled the 22-year-old victim, Mendel, who spoke to The Post and asked that only his first name be published. “I was talking on the phone with my father in Australia on President Street — really in the heart of Crown Heights — when suddenly, from behind me out of nowhere, I just got punched in the face really, really hard.”
The young yeshiva student, who was born in Australia, said the attack left him stunned.
“They didn’t say anything at all,” Mendel remembered. “Next thing I know, I was on the floor — my yarmulke and glasses in the gutter somewhere.”
Cops have charged two men — Nazar Walters, 18, and Teshon Bannister, 21 — with assault and hate crimes in connection to both incidents. They’re looking for at least one more person who allegedly took part.
“This happened last night in Crown Heights, not in Charlottesville nor at the hands of White Supremacists.”
Mendel told The Post that the trio didn’t even try to take anything from him after the sucker-punch.
“It was just an attack of hate and anti-Semitism,” he said. “I guess ’cause I look identifiably Jewish.”
The other victim, a 51-year-old Hasidic man, was said to have been wearing his religious garb when the goons set upon him.
“He was quite shaken up,” Mendel said, noting how he saw the man at the police station. “He was beaten up far worse than I was.”
Sources told The Post that the individual had to be hospitalized due to the extent of his injuries.
Mendel refused medical attention, but said he was feeling the effects of the punch when he woke up on Wednesday. The man didn’t let it get to him, though.
“I really wanted to take the day off,” Mendel said, explaining that he regularly works as a volunteer teacher for the city’s Released Time Program, which helps educate public school kids about Judaism. “I wasn’t really feeling that well, my head was still pounding — but I felt compelled now more than ever to go.”
Mendel added, “I wanted to teach and inspire these children…because imagine if these assailants had an opportunity like that 10 years ago. Maybe they wouldn’t be like this today.”
In the end, Mendel hopes his attackers will ultimately learn from their mistakes.
“Everyone needs to recognize that life is bigger than just you,” he said. “God created all of us. No matter what race or creed we may be, everyone is important to God. I think when we recognize that we will come to appreciate the value of each and every individual, especially if they’re different from us. But unfortunately, this isn’t a new thing in our neighborhood.”
Wednesday’s attacks were just the latest in a string of violent incidents that have been blamed on anti-Semitism.
“Some 10 people were violently attacked in the last 60 days alone,” said Rabbi Yaacov Behrman, leader of the Crown Heights-based Jewish Future Alliance, in a statement to the Algemeiner Journal. “We ask what is going wrong in Crown Heights, when innocent Jews are being beaten in the streets in 2019? Is there an atmosphere that is encouraging violence or antisemitism? And, an equally important question, where is the public outrage? Indeed, why isn’t this front page headlines?”
Instead of getting angry, however, Mendel chose to focus his energy on educating his students.
“The rage that builds up inside you, you gotta challenge that for good,” he said. “Yes, it’s happening on a daily basis…And the police are great — I’m very thankful for them and their quick response. But ultimately the solution is really prevention and educating our youths. I think people need to focus more on the educational aspect to make sure kids in school today aren’t going to be doing this when they get older.”
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