SDPD Investigating Alleged Attack on Rabbi as Possible Hate Crime

NBC Universal, Inc.

San Diego police have identified the person responsible for an alleged attack on a University City rabbi and his father last Saturday while they were on their way to their synagogue.

The suspect is a young juvenile. He has not yet been charged with a crime, but police are investigating the alleged attack as a hate crime.

Rabbi Yonatan Halevy claims the juvenile and his friends have been terrorizing the congregation since the assembly moved to the shopping center on Governor Drive.

On the day of the alleged attack, Rabbi Halevy, dressed for the Jewish celebration of Sukkot, was walking his father to service.

About a block from the synagogue, they caught the attention of a handful of teens on bikes and skateboards. 

"He called me a racial slur for black people, the N-Word, then screamed something about white power. We're still trying to figure out what he said,” Halevy said.

The Halevys attempted to avoid a confrontation, but in an instant, one of the teens rode by and punched the rabbi on his head so hard he fell to the ground, according to the rabbi.

"It hurt but the most important thing was to get somewhere safe. Thank God, I was wearing my turban. It sort of cushioned the physical impact," Halevy said.

The kids, between 12 and 17 years old, followed the rabbi and his father to the synagogue and circled the building for 25 minutes, according to Halevy, who then called police.

"I was born and raised in this neighborhood and I have never in my life experienced something like that,” he said.

To help limit the spread of COVID-19 the rabbi moved his congregation to this much larger facility just three weeks ago.

"Since the first day we moved in here we've been heckled, had things thrown at us and bottles thrown at my security guys," the rabbi said.

Halevy showed NBC 7 a photo of his van's back window, which he said was smashed just days after moving into the new building.

“I have concern for not only myself but my family and my congregants. They're scared," Halevy said.

The University City Community Association invited police to its virtual meeting Wednesday night for an update on the case.

Police told participants they are investigating the attack as a hate crime and that a suspect has been identified and found.

They are assuring the community there will be no further attacks.

"I don't know that these guys have the intelligence or the wherewithal to be organized and hate something," the rabbi said.

Halevy said the congregation has not met since Sunday. They have removed all valuables from the synagogue and hired more security.

Police say they are making regular stops there as well.

Contact Us