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Rabbi attacked outside synagogue

He says a teenager on bicycle hit him over the head and yelled a racial slur
Posted at 3:16 PM, Oct 12, 2020

SAN DIEGO — A University City rabbi says a teenager on a bicycle hit him over the head and yelled a racial slur Saturday, steps from his synagogue.

Rabbi Yonatan Halevy, of the Shiviti Congregation, says this was the latest in a series of incidents by a group of teenagers targeting his congregation that has increasingly escalated.

"Everyday they come by here, taunt us, throwing bottles at us, sitting on our roof blasting music, and then breaking a window to my van," Halevy said. "Last but not least, what happened on Saturday."

Halevy moved the congregation of 44 families into a 3,300 square-foot space on the southwest corner of the UC Marketplace shopping center to allow for enough social distancing to celebrate the High Holy Days amid the Coronavirus outbreak. He says the group of teenagers routinely causes a nuisance on the property, but seems to single out his congregation, formally called Kahillet Shaar HaShamayim.

On Saturday, Halevy says he was walking to synagogue with his father on Governor Drive, when one of the teens recognized them. He says the teen biked over, hit the rabbi over the head with a closed fist, called him the N-word and yelled a variation of white power before biking away.

"I felt very scared, definitely unsafe for the first time in my life in this neighborhood," he said.

Halevy called 9-1-1 and said police officers arrived 45 minutes later. They did not make an arrest, but he told them about the series of incidents. The congregation has also designated some of its members as security guards.

The incident comes amid an increase in anti-Semitism in the United States. Last year, a 19-year-old allegedly entered the Chabad of Poway Synagogue, killed one congregant and injured three others, including a child.

On Monday, Halevy said he met with four officers, including a San Diego Police detective and a community relations officer. He says they pledged to increase resources to the case and are going to search for the teens, getting school police involved.

A police spokesman said it would be investigated as a hate crime.

Halevy estimates the teens are between 12 and 17 years old. He says he hopes to get a message to their parents before it is too late.