Jewish boy attacked by assailant in Belgian city of Antwerp days after mayor’s warning of “wave of anti-Semitism.”
Police in the Belgian city of Antwerp reportedly arrested a man on Wednesday night for physically assaulting a 13-year-old Haredi Jewish boy outside his home.
The assailant approached the boy on the corner of the Belgiëlei and Haringrodestraat streets in Antwerp, the Orthodox journal Hamodia reported. The paper said that the boy screamed when the assailant grabbed him by the throat, causing his father to immediately rush outside.
The attacker then turned his attention to the boy’s father, grabbing him by his peyos (sidelocks) and pulling him down to the ground. At that point, members of the Antwerp Shmira Jewish community response team “engaged the attacker and neutralized him, restraining him until police arrived,” Hamodia said.
The attack came two days after Antwerp Mayor Bart De Wever asserted that the city’s large orthodox Jewish community risked a “wave of anti-Semitism” because of the alleged non-compliance with COVID-19 social distancing and testing requirements by many of its members.
De Wever’s remark caused offense to some in the Jewish community, who charged the mayor with singling out Jews alone.
“As a member of the community, I can no longer remain silent and am writing this letter to you,” Simon Stern — a member of the Antwerp community — declared in an open letter to De Wever.
“Our community is on average no less compliant with the measures than the rest of the population,” Stern pointed out.
Stern argued that De Wever’s references to “Jewish schools” and the city’s “Jewish quarter” were simply fueling the coronavirus-related anti-Semitism that has surfaced in Belgium and other European nations.
“Instead of participating in it yourself, you should condemn it decisively,” Stern told De Wever. “And you should certainly not blame the community for anti-Semitism. You are a wise politician and we expect better from you.”
On Wednesday, De Wever was photographed at a COVID-19 testing center alongside Chief Rabbi Aron Schiff of Machsike Hadass, the umbrella organization representing Antwerp’s Orthodox Jews. Their joint appearance followed De Wever’s criticism of the Jewish community for allegedly not responding to a mailed call to 6,500 residents of Antwerp’s Jewish quarter to test for the virus over the weekend.
After being tested himself, Rabbi Schiff told journalists that “the health of the people always comes first.”
“Even on the Sabbath, the day of rest, you have to save a human life if the need arises,” Schiff said.