Just days after a Forest Hills man was arrested for allegedly scrawling anti-Semitic graffiti on the Rego Park Jewish Center, another man was assaulted in the area.
A 56-year-old Rego Park resident was on his way to a local synagogue for evening prayer services just before 7 p.m. on Saturday, April 17, when he was confronted by a 35-year-old man in front of the Neighborhood Chemists Pharmacy at 66-02 99th St.
The assailant launched into an anti-Semitic tirade before allegedly kicking the victim, according to authorities. A formal report was filed at the 112th Precinct and the NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force opened an investigation into the attack.
Councilman Robert Holden joined Rego Park community leaders for a solidarity rally against hate at Queens Borough Hall on the morning of Sunday, April 18, calling for an end to anti-Semitic hate and all forms of bigotry across the city.
“The slogans like ‘Stop the Hate’ are great, but they have to be backed up, especially with regards to mental health,” Holden said. “This hits home. My wife was born in Japan [and is] Asian American. I witnessed the hate against her when someone called her an Asian slur. It’s been a constant for my over 47 years of marriage. If anyone says the hate is recent, it’s really just being publicized more, and we are not dealing with it. It is paramount that we take care of the mental health issues.”
The latest attack comes after Ramtin Rabenou, 41, was arrested on Thursday, April 15, and charged with aggravated harassment and criminal mischief as a hate crime for allegedly scrawling a swastika on a sign in front of the Rego Park Jewish Center as well as graffiti at multiple other locations in the area in February, according to the Queens district attorney’s office.
Following Saturday’s attack, Rabbi Nachum Kaziev of Congregation Ohr Natan met with the victim at the 112th Precinct.
“We cannot tolerate a hate crime like this in our community,” Rabbi Kaziev said. “Every Jew — every person — should feel safe walking to a synagogue, their house of worship, or just walking the streets. It is something that should not happen in Forest Hills, Rego Park, or any neighborhood. We do not take this incident lightly.”
Queens Coalition for Solidarity co-founder Ethan Felder helped organize the Borough Hall rally against hate.
“So many in our community are living in a state of fear walking on our streets by themselves without a family member to look over them and that is just not a tolerable situation to be in,” said Felder, who is also a district leader. “It is not something we can accept; it’s not who we are in the most diverse borough in the world. Our diversity here in Queens is our strength.”
City Council candidate Avi Cyperstein joined the victim and Rabbi Kaziev at the 112th Precinct Saturday and spoke of Rego Park as a neighborhood that is heavily populated with religious Orthodox Jewish residents, many who have escaped persecution from the KGB and the former Soviet Union.
“This anti-Semitic incident is another classic example of how hate is rearing its ugly head yet again. Crime is on the rise here in New York City and random attacks against minorities, be it Asian, Jewish or others cannot be tolerated,” Cyperstein said. “This cannot be the new norm. We need to bring attention to these incidents so it gets the proper attention and does not go unanswered. This is the only chance we have to stop this. This is not the time to be complacent as these acts continue and that’s why these anti-hate rallies are important — to put a spotlight on these hate incidents.”
The NYPD has not made an arrest in the attack and detectives from the Hate Crimes Task Force continue to investigate, according to a police spokeswoman.
Congresswoman Grace Meng, state Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi, and Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz released a joint statement on the attack Tuesday.
“The 112th Precinct and Hate Crimes Task Force are investigating an incident in which a Jewish male was subjected to anti-Semitic hate speech and physically assaulted by an unidentified man,” they said. “This occurred only days after another individual was apprehended by the 112th Precinct in relation to an anti-Semitic act of vandalism that took place outside of the Rego Park Jewish Center this February. We stand united with our neighbors in condemning these abhorrent, anti-Semitic attacks upon our fellow residents. And we trust, that once again, the NYPD will find the assailant quickly and bring him to justice.”
Following the Borough Hall rally, Holden said it was heartening to see political opponents and people of many different backgrounds come together to stand against bigotry and violence in the city.
“I know the terrible burden of fear that all racism causes and it has no place in New York,” Holden said. “We showed that the great diversity of Queens County is a strength, not a weakness.”