Man sentenced to prison for ‘hateful and unprovoked’ anti-Semitic attack in Bay Ridge: DA

NYPD anti-semitic hate crime suspect
Cops immediately launched a search for the suspect, who turned himself in on Jan. 11, 2022.
File photo courtesy of NYPD

A Staten Island man will spend two months in prison for punching a man during an anti-Semitic hate crime in 2021.

According to Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez’s office, 28-year-old Suleiman Othman was sentenced to 60 days in prison and three years probation in exchange for pleading guilty. 

“Brooklyn’s diversity is our strength and we do not tolerate violence that’s motivated by bias against any religious or national identity,” Gonzalez said in a statement. “The hateful and unprovoked assault this defendant admitted to today left one victim hurt, but also shook an entire community. His conviction, jail time, and probation should send a message that this kind of intolerance has serious consequences.”

eric gonzalez anti-semitic attack
A Staten Island man has been sentenced to prison for carrying out an anti-Semitic attack in Bay Ridge in 2021, Brooklyn DA Eric Gonzalez announced Tuesday.File photo by Colin Mixson

Evidence showed that on Dec. 26, 2021, Othman approached 21-year-old Blake Zavadsky, who was wearing a sweatshirt bearing the insignia of the Israeli Defense Forces, outside a Bay Ridge shoe store and said “Why do you support those dirty Jews? What are you doing in my neighborhood? You mess with the killers. If you don’t take off your hoodie, I’m going to punch you.”

Zavadsky, who is Jewish, refused to remove the sweatshirt. 

Othman then punched him in the face twice and threw a cup of iced coffee on him, before fleeing, according to the DA’s office. Emergency responders treated the victim’s injuries on the scene.

Cops quickly released surveillance footage of the incident and launched a search for the assailant. Othman turned himself in on Jan. 11, 2022. 

“I have been waiting for this day since Othman Suleiman assaulted me for my Jewish identity in December of 2021,” Zavadsky said in a statement. “Today’s victory serves as an important lesson: speaking out and standing up matters!”

In the days after the attack, the community rose up to support Zavadsky and his friend Ilan Kaganovich, who was with him at the time of the attack — including southern Brooklyn Council Member Inna Vernikov, who led a march against anti-Semitism through the streets of nearby Bensonhurst. 

A representative for the pol told Brooklyn Paper at the time the march was initially slated to take place in Bay Ridge, but was moved out of respect for the nabe’s large Muslim and Palestinian community.

rally against anti-semitic attack
Local leaders organized a march against anti-Semitism in the days following the attack.File photo courtesy of Council Member Ari Kagan

“For close to two years, we have been appearing in court, rallying, protesting, and pressuring those in charge, to make sure that the perpetrator is held accountable,” Vernikov said in a statement. “This was a long journey, and I will not stop doing my part to make sure that criminals face consequences for their actions.”

The number of anti-Jewish hate crimes spiked in 2021, and has remained high since then. In 2021, 198 anti-Semitic incidents were reported to the NYPD, according to police data. The following year, that number spiked to 261. According to the most recently-available data, 55 anti-Jewish hate crimes were reported in the first quarter of 2023. 

“We are grateful to the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office for securing a hate crime conviction in this case, sending a clear message that those who commit acts of hate-fueled violence, including based on a victim’s perceived associations, will be held accountable,” said Anti-Defamation League regional director Scott Richman, in a statement. “ADL has documented how the Brooklyn Jewish community has been burdened with an outsized number of violent antisemitic incidents, and both law enforcement and the courts play a key role in responding and supporting communities in the wake of these attacks.”