Hasidic teacher brutalized in possible hate crime

Hasidic teacher brutalized in possible hate crime
Community Newspaper Group / Aaron Short

Three thugs brutally assaulted a Jewish school teacher in South Williamsburg last Thursday evening, taunting him with an anti-Semitic slur, a source said.

Joel Weinberger, 26, was knocked unconscious with a broken jaw in a horrific encounter as he was walking home on Harrison Avenue at Wallabout Street at 7:20 pm from the Be’er Torah Yeshiva, cops said.

During the beating, at least one of the three suspects said, “We hate you” or, possibly, “We hate Jews” — prompting the NYPD to investigate the case as a hate crime.

The suspects tore up his clothing and punched him in the face, but did not take his wallet even though he offered it to them — another sign that this crime was a bias incident rather than a mugging, a source close to the family said.

The thieves did take the teacher’s cellphone, but also left his religious garments in tatters.

“His religious hat was removed, his jacket was removed and his fringes were ripped,” said Isaac Abraham, a Hasidic community leader. “This guy was really beaten, he was punched by someone with rings on his hands who smashed his facial bones.”

Abraham and his former rival, Councilman Steve Levin, were first to call the incident a hate crime.

“Mr. Weinberger is an important member of the Williamsburg community, and it is my hope that his attackers are brought to justice quickly,” Levin said.

On Monday afternoon, leaders of United Jewish Community Advocacy Relations and Enrichment, a Hasidic social services organization, offered $5,000 for any information regarding the identity or whereabouts of the suspects.

Weinberger was treated at New York Downtown Hospital where he received extensive reconstructive surgery for his face before returning home yesterday.

“Most of the injuries of his face were internal so doctors inserted a metal plate into his cheek bone and wired it in place,” said Sara Stern, a patient advocate with Williamsburg Outreach who visited Weinberger last week. “He looked all swollen up, his eyes were shut, and he was in and out of consciousness.”

This was not the Hasidic community’s first brush with violence this year — but it may be its first hate crime.

A 25-year-old rabbi’s son was shot outside a corner store on Driggs Avenue and S. Eighth Street on Aug. 11 in an attempted robbery, which prompted the United Jewish Organizations to offer a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.

The victim’s family declined to characterize the shooting as a hate crime and police did not classify it as such when they arrested one suspect two weeks later.

But community members remain alarmed at two incidents of anti-Semitic vandalism where police found numerous swastikas written inside a Harrison Avenue building and a Penn Street building earlier this month, according to Yeshiva World News.

“The last couple of weeks we’ve had some near misses,” said Gary Schlesinger, executive board chairman of UJCare, who believes there has been a rise of gang activity in the area. “People out there are afraid to go out at night which is terrible.”