Orthodox Jewish Rabbi Assaulted With Brick in N.Y.C. Park

Attack on 64-year-old Rabbi Avraham Gopin took place in Crown Heights, an area that has seen uptick in anti-Semitism in recent years

Gopin's bloodied tzizit, traditional fringed underclothes worn by Orthodox Jewish men, August 27, 2019.
Courtesy of the Gopin family

NEW YORK — A 64-year-old Orthodox Jewish man was attacked with a stone brick on Tuesday morning in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights neighborhood, an area that has seen an uptick in acts of violent anti-Semitism in recent years. 

The victim, Rabbi Avraham Gopin, is a dual Israeli-American citizen. He was exercising in Rochester Park in Crown Heights around 8:30 A.M. when a man threw a stone brick at him, injuring his face and knocking out two of his teeth, his son-in-law, Rabbi Getzy Markowitz, told Haaretz.

Local media reports said Gopin fought back and that witnesses came to his aid. The perpetrator fled the scene. The New York Police Department Hate Crime Task Force confirmed to Haaretz that it is investigating the matter. 

Gopin's injuries also included contusions on his leg and a head injury that required three staples. "The guy threw the bricks and they scuffled," Markowitz said. "My father-in-law defended himself."

The brick used in the attack
Courtesy of the Gopin family

>> 'Anti-Semitism has become mainstream': NYC Orthodox Jews face surge of violence

Markowitz added that the assault was not a "playful" attack. “This was with the intention to kill. It is a massive cinderblock bigger than a hand. The man was going to kill him.”

Gopin is “a very devout scholar, religious man” who “gets along with everyone,” Markowitz said, adding that he goes to Rochester Park, a block and a half away from his home, multiple times a week and had just returned from a trip to Israel. 

Following the attack, the Anti-Defamation League announced that it is offering a reward of up to $5,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the individual or individuals responsible for the assault.

Evan Bernstein, ADL's regional director for New York and New Jersey, said he was “alarmed and deeply concerned” by the incident. “The sheer brutality of this attack is beyond shocking and profoundly upsetting.”

“At a time when violent assaults against Jews increased by 55 percent last year, we must not become complacent. All New Yorkers should be outraged by these incidents and come together to end this disturbing trend once and for all,” Bernstein said.

For Orthodox Jewish residents of Brooklyn, such incidents have become routine over the past few years. According to the ADL’s last annual audit, released in April, Brooklyn is a “hot spot for anti-Semitic activity.” All reported New York state anti-Semitic assaults in 2018 took place within New York City, with the vast majority — 13 out of 17 — occurring in the borough.  

Local activist Yaacov Behrman said that although the frequency of these events has increased, “The good thing is that the police department is absolutely 100 percent dedicated to stopping the violence, and they have taken these incidents very seriously and they have made arrests in some cases." 

Earlier this month, New York police arrested two teenagers in connection with a string of attacks on Orthodox Jews in Williamsburg, another neighborhood in Brooklyn. Police also apprehended a suspect in connection with an alleged assault on two Jewish men in Crown Heights, during which the attacker insulted the victims before spraying them with a canister of mace. 

“I think in general it’s been a very wild summer, a dangerous summer, and not just in the Jewish community. There have been many shootings in Brooklyn and the broader Brooklyn community,” Behrman said, urging the city and state to invest resources in stopping hate crimes and general violence alike. “All residents in Brooklyn are concerned with what’s going on. We do not want to go back to dangerous times.”