The attack on four Manchester Jewish youths on Saturday night that left one of them in a coma may have been related to drugs, rather than anti-Semitism, the London-based Jewish Chronicle reported on Tuesday.
Moshe Fuerst, 17, who was wearing a kippa, has emerged from his coma, the report said. He and three friends were attacked by three men at the Bowker Vale Metrolink station, in the heart of north Manchester's Jewish community.
Police initially confirmed that they were treating it as an anti-Semitic crime, but the Chronicle reported that the attack may have been triggered by a row over marijuana.
“This was not an anti-Semitic attack,” a family friend of Fuerst was reported as saying. “They might have said something about him being Jewish – but it all started because of drugs. He smokes a lot of weed.”
Fuerst's father, Rabbi Michael Fuerst, told the Jewish Chronicle in an exclusive interview that he would not be surprised if the attack on Saturday night came after a disagreement over cannabis.
“He is on the fringes of society and that is what kids on the fringe do," Rabbi Fuerst said. "He was not involved in hard drugs – he’s not any different to any other middle classes.”
He added: “Drugs are a problem in the Charedi community. I would say that the most amazing thing is that thousands of people are praying refua shlema [healing prayer] for my son."
Fuerst confirmed that his son, who was born in Israel, has dyslexia and ADHD.
“He was never successful in the Charedi school system [in Manchester],” he added. “The community has forced him to the fringe.”
It has emerged that Fuerst was initially discharged from a Manchester hospital after the attack on Saturday night. He was readmitted to hospital on Monday night after complaining of headaches and dizziness and put into an induced coma.
A source close to the family said Fuerst is believed to have suffered a brain hemorrhage.
A Greater Manchester Police spokeswoman said that the investigation into the attack was continuing and no arrests had been made.
Meanwhile, Community Security Trust, an organization entrusted with ensuring the security of the United Kingdom Jewish community, is sending a security notice to synagogues and other Jewish organizations in the region.
“CST utterly condemns this assault, which appears to have been the consequence of the type of random and thuggish street anti-Semitism and violence that is all too common: even if it does not usually have such an extreme outcome," the trust said in a statement.
“There is no reason to suggest that the attack was either pre-planned or in any way connected to international terrorism, but it has understandably caused much concern and distress within the Jewish community of north Manchester.
“CST entirely shares these worries, and we will continue working with the victims’ families, our Jewish community and local police in every way possible at this time.
“The assault confirms the need for security measures as already fully planned by CST, synagogues and Greater Manchester Police for the imminent High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur."
In response to the attack, Communities Minister Baroness Williams of Trafford said that she was appalled by the attack, and urged anyone with information to come forward.
“Let me be clear, this Government takes fighting anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim hatred seriously and anyone found guilty of these vile crimes will feel the full force of the law," the minister said in a statement.