Young rabbi narrowly escapes anti-Semitic attack in NY

Rabbi Uriel Vigler was verbally assaulted on his way to morning prayers but saved from physical harm due to the presence of a synagogue guard.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

A Chabad rabbi on his way to synagogue early Tuesday morning in New York City was verbally attacked by a large man and believes he only escaped physical harm due to the appearance of a security guard.

Rabbi Uriel Vigler said that an African-American man spewed anti-Semitic slurs at him on the street, calling him a “f***ing Jew” and following him when he crossed the street to get away, saying “Are you nervous, are you scared?”

He told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that as he got close to his Upper East Side synagogue the man lunged at him, but then moved away when he saw the Chabad Israel Center’s security guard, calling Vigler “the devil.”

The rabbi posted a short video on Facebook of the last part of the episode, which shows a clear picture of his assailant, and said he was going to the police with it.

“I was verbally assaulted (viciously) this morning on my way to pray Shachrit by this human being,” he wrote. “My only crime is that I look like a Jew. If you know who this person is please let me know so I can include with the police report I will file today.”

The police have begun an investigation into the hate crime.

The incident occurred only two days after his California colleague, Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein narrowly escaped death when a gunman shot him at almost point-blank range in his Chabad synagogue in Poway, wounding him and two others and killing one.

Immediately after the attack, Goldstein talked of the importance of spreading light to counter the darkness of hatred, and Vigler echoed these sentiments in an interview with The Jerusalem Post.

“The Lubavitcher Rebbe [Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson] taught that we have to learn something from incidents like this,” he said. “We have a person who sees me sees and sees I’m Jewish. He hates me. Now I have to find a Jew that I don’t know and bring him unconditional love. Go from darkness to light. We don’t succumb. We don’t bow down.”

This latest anti-Semitic assault joins the nearly 50 serious incidents tracked so far in the United States in 2019 by the Coordination Forum for Countering Antisemitism, which keeps track of cases of anti-Jewish hatred worldwide. The American episodes ranged from threats and harassment to acts of desecration and physical attacks.

A report released Tuesday by the Anti-Defamation League noted that violent attacks against the Jewish community doubled last year in the United States, with 59 victims in 39 physical assaults among an overall tally of nearly 1,900 anti-Semitic incidents.