Man arrested in hate crime assault of elderly Jew in California

Ralph Nissel (75) tried to chase down the perpetrator after being struck on the head.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Los Angeles police arrested a man Saturday after he allegedly bloodied an elderly Jewish man on his way to synagogue, charging him with a hate crime as well as assault.

Ralph Nissel, 75, and his wife Rebecca, who looked like the religious Jews they are, were walking to their Beverly Hills house of prayer, when Jarris Jay Silagi whipped his belt buckle at Nissel, opening a deep cut on his forehead.

Rebecca told KTLA5 News that Silagi “hit my husband over the head, and he yelled, ‘Give me your earrings, Jew.’”

However, he got nothing and ran away as her husband shook off the momentary daze he was in from the blow and gave chase.

The police came quickly when called about the assault, and found the 44-year-old after a short search, having a description of the attacker in hand.

“Our officers quickly apprehended the suspect and he is in custody,” said Beverly Hills Police Chief Mark Stainbrook in a press release Sunday. “This despicable act of hate against a member of our community will not be tolerated.”

Silagi, who has been convicted of robbery before, was booked on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon, attempted robbery, elder abuse and a hate crime.

Silagi knew he was a Jew, Nissel told KTLA 5 News.

“I immediately connected the dots together and understand,” he said. “I’m wearing a kippah and a white shirt, which Jews wear on Saturday. He knows I’m Jewish and wants to hit me because I’m Jewish.”

Nissel was treated on the scene, with four staples closing his head wound. He said he hadn’t understood what he was struck with, just that “it was very heavy, very hard and very painful,” he noted. “But I didn’t fall down.”

Scheduled to read the Torah as is traditionally done on the Sabbath during the service, he went on to do his task instead of going home to rest.

“I don’t want a guy like that to change my life, to change other people’s [lives],” Nissel explained. “I don’t want to give another victory.”

California Governor Gavin Newsom called the attack “appalling,” posting to X that “Antisemitism has no place in this state” and saying he was glad the perpetrator had been caught.

L.A. Mayor Karen Bass said Silago “must be held fully accountable to the law” for his “vile act.” She vowed that her city would “continue to work with our partners throughout the region to actively combat antisemitism.”

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A city report last month said that the vast majority of local hate crimes that were based on religion in 2022 consisted of antisemitic offenses, which had shot up 59% over the year before. Officials have also seen a huge jump since Israel declared war on Hamas after its October 7 invasion in which the terrorists massacred 1,200 people, the vast majority of them civilians.