After Khaled Awad, a 24-year-old Egyptian citizen, was charged with multiple counts of assault and battery following a stabbing attack on a Boston rabbi, the local Jewish community is waiting to see if the incident is officially declared a hate crime.
The attack took place Thursday afternoon outside Shaloh House, the Chabad-run Jewish center and day school that was operating as a summer camp in the Brighton neighborhood. The authorities have launched a civil rights investigation.
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According to the police, Awad approached Rabbi Shlomo Noginski, pointed a gun at him and ordered him to go inside the school’s van parked outside. Noginski refused and fled; the police say Awad chased him and stabbed him before Noginski fought him off and escaped into the school.
Awad was arrested while fleeing the scene, allegedly pointing his gun at the officer who arrested him and later kicking an officer who took him into custody. He has been charged for attacks on Noginski and the two officers.
Noginski, a father of 12, is a resident of Kfar Chabad in central Israel, where he once served on the local council. An immigrant to Israel from the former Soviet Union, he became a Chabad emissary to Brighton’s Russian-speaking community two years ago.
Noginski has a black belt in judo, having studied martial arts in the former Soviet Union so he could fight back against antisemitic violence. The training apparently helped him on Thursday.
Noginski, who told reporters that he tried to get away from the school to spare the children the trauma of witnessing the attack, was released from the hospital Friday.
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At a vigil that day at the spot where the assault took place, Suffolk County District Attorney Rachel Rollins told the Jewish community that “I stand with you, I will get answers and accountability for you.” She said her office’s civil rights unit was investigating with the police.
Acting Boston Mayor Kim Janey said at the rally attended by 500 people that it was “important that we understand what the motives of this hate, of this violence are.” She vowed to “get the answers that we seek.”
Jeremy Burton, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston, told Haaretz that the statements by law enforcement officials were “quite strong,” adding that they were “taking all the appropriate steps at this point.”
But he said the community would be watching whether hate crime charges would be filed.
He said the community would also be observing the outcome of a July 8 “dangerous hearing,” a Massachusetts procedure that takes place within seven days of the filing of charges. In such a hearing, at the request of the prosecution, a judge determines if a defendant should be detained without bail for up to 120 days.
Robert Trestan, regional director of the New England Anti-Defamation League, told the vigil that “the Jewish community is angry, living in fear and needs answers, accountability and security” following an attack that had “indicators that point toward antisemitism.” In a statement, he said that the stabbing “sent a shock wave of fear and anxiety” through the community.
The attack was condemned by a long list of Massachusetts politicians, including the state’s governor and congressional delegation, many of whose members attended the Friday vigil.
Meanwhile, a Boston television news outlet reported that over the past year Awad was a chemical engineering student at the University of Southern Florida and showed “violent” and “antisemitic” behavior.
A former friend of Awad’s, Eric Valiente, told WBZ that Awad was “very much” antisemitic. “He would say, like, all types of Jewish jokes. I thought he was joking at first and then I started to see seriousness in his comments.”
Awad’s former roommate, Aidan Anderson, who is Jewish, added that Awad had been his friend until an incident in which Awad attacked him in their kitchen and Anderson later took out a restraining order.
Valiente said that after that attack he was “scared of what [Awad] was capable of because I realized he was a very dark person.”
The CBS affiliate said Awad had once been charged with battery and theft in Florida and spent time in a mental health facility in that state.