Members of Forest Hills’ Bukharian community stood together on Sunday to condemn anti-Semitic violence and called on the NYPD to stand with them by charging hate crimes where they claim it is evident after a November attack on a local Yeshiva student.
David Paltielov, 16, made an appearance at the Bukharian Jewish Community Center rally, but stood quietly on the sidelines as elected officials and community leaders spoke regarding the rise of race hate across the borough and praised the woman who leapt to his defense during the attack wielding nothing but a broom. Paltielov was in Elmhurst Hospital for up to a week following the attack.
Although there were two arrests, the NYPD did not charge the two with a hate crime.
Councilman Rory Lancman referred back to an incident from 2016 in which the police did not charge a man with hate crimes after storming into the Jamaica Muslim Center and began assaulting congregants.
“We’re confronting a very, very serious problem in this city – in this country. An explosion in hate crimes against Jews, African-Americans and Muslims,” Lancman said. “Speaking truthfully, we are having a very, very difficult time getting law enforcement to focus on hate crimes. In my own district two years ago, we had a man enter a mosque during Friday services, shouting ‘Allah, Allah,’ attacking people. We could not get law enforcement to either charge or prosecute him for a hate crime.”
A meeting at Beth Gavriel Jewish Center on Dec. 3, 2018, was also a source of frustration, according to Lancman, as members of the Jewish community attempted to persuade law enforcement to see the attack on Paltielov as a hate crime since Paltielov had no connection to the assailants.
The Nov. 29, 2018, attack took place near Masbia of Queens, a kosher food pantry, where Paltielov was ganged up on by over 20 people, some of them students from Forest Hills High School who may have mistaken him for a member of another group who had previously attacked them.
Waleska Mendez, who was volunteering at the soup kitchen, saw the fracas and stepped in in an attempt to disperse the crowd.
Jonathan Torres, 18, and Victor Hidalgo, 17, were taken into custody days later and both were charged with felony gang assault following an investigation by NYPD’s Hate Crimes Task Force determined that it was not a case of bigotry.
“I’m angry, because intimidation and violence for practicing and living one’s faith – one of our most basic American values – is under attack, here in Queens, throughout New York and across the country,” Congresswoman Grace Meng said. “So what gives me hope? It is the partnerships across faiths, like this one between the Jamaica Muslim Center, the Bukharian Jewish Community Center, and Abraham’s Children Interfaith Program that serve as proof that we will continue to work shoulder to shoulder, as a city and as one country, to stand up for the right to practice any faith freely and proudly.”
NYPD stats show that there were 31 anti-Semitic hate crimes across the city in October, which is an increase from the 22 logged in the same month the year prior and includes vandalizations depicting swastikas, even while overall crime rates drop.