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Rabbi Avraham Gopin assaulted in Brooklyn speaks out: ‘It was hate’

By Aaron Bandler

(Jewish Journal via JNS, with addition reporting by the CT Jewish Ledger) – Avraham Gopin, the 63-year-old New York rabbi who was brutally assaulted in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Tuesday, August 27, told CBS New York on Wednesday, August 28 that the attack was clearly motivated by “hate.”

The assault took place at Lincoln Terrace Park in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, said Gopin. The assailant threw a brick at his face and then jumped on him, punching him “20, 25, 30 times.” Gopin fought back, and eventually, the assailant fled.

“It was hate,” said Gopin. “He said ‘Jew, Jew.’ He said something in that direction … he was for certain looking to kill. No doubt about [that].”

Gopin, who is the first cousin of Rabbi Joseph Gopin of Chabad House in West Hartford and the father-in-law of the popular American Chassidic singer Benny Friedman, suffered several injuries in the attack, including a broken nose and two lost teeth. He called the fact that he survived a “miracle from God.” 

After speaking with his cousin following the attack, Rabbi Joseph Gopin told the Ledger that Avraham was walking in the park, as he was accustomed to doing every morning before going to synagogue to daven shachrit (morning prayers), when a young man, clearly enraged, jumped out “like a tiger” and began his attack. “He was very, very angry and unstable,” said the rabbi.

Following the incident, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted that “the NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force is investigating this despicable act of violence, and we will find the attacker. This city will stop at nothing to protect our communities from hate and violence.”

Joseph Gopin said the need to take action was urgent, given the steep rise in antisemitic attacks in the Crown Heights area in recent months. 

The first step, he said, was to raise one’s voice.  

“It’s important to show what’s going on. Don’t hide it. Speak about it. That’s the only way to make change this situation,” he said. 

The second step: Bring community leaders together.

“There are a lot of angry people in our society. There has to be more security, more patrols. The local leaders of the various communities must come together and find ways to overcome what’s happening – leaders of the Jewish community, the Black community, church leaders, politicians…”

In a tweet following Avraham Gopin’s assault, Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt confirmed that the incident is “the latest in a really disturbing pattern of violence & harassment directed at Jews in Brooklyn. We need action before more people get hurt.”

The New York Police Department (NYPD) has recorded 145 complaints of anti-Semitic hate crimes in 2019; there were 88 such complaints in 2018, according to CBS New York. The NYPD has recorded 19 official anti-Semitic hate crimes so far in 2019; the NYPD recorded 33 the year prior.

Forward editor Avital Chizik-Goldschmidt wrote in an op-ed published on Wednesday that the city hasn’t taken “any real action” outside of “tweets and press releases” to stop the ongoing hate crimes against Jews.

“Is it because they do not see Orthodox Jews as real Americans, as citizens deserving of the right to live safely in their communities?” posed Chizik-Goldschmidt. “Are we too ‘other,’ too ‘apart,’ ‘disloyal,’ to earn the privilege of peaceful existence? Is it because we are politically inconvenient? If the perpetrator wasn’t a white supremacist who voted for [President Donald] Trump, then it didn’t really happen, did it?”

Chizik-Goldschmidt added that it’s time to “put political affiliations aside, and focus on the fact that in broad daylight, innocent Orthodox Jews are getting attacked – while politicians sit idly by. Our secular brethren may walk in the street and have the luxury of blending into the crowd as anonymous New Yorkers, but we wear our identities on our sleeves. And this puts us at the very front lines of anti-Semitism in the United States today.”

As for Avraham Gopin, life goes on.

“He is shaken,” said Rabbi Joseph Gopin, “but he told me, ‘I’m not scared. The only way I’m going to overcome this unbelievable experience, is to not let it take me over. I’m going to continue with my life and I’m going to walk in the park as I always do.’” 

This article first appeared in the Jewish Journal.

Main Photo: Rabbi Avraham Gopin was bloodied with this brick in an attack in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, New York. The incident is being investigated as a hate crime. (Screenshots from Twitter)

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