The savage beating of a 14-year-old Orthodox teenager by a half-dozen men and youths in Lakewood, N.J., Saturday evening is being investigated as a bias crime because his attackers shouted “f—ing Jew” as they punched and kicked him in the head, according to police.
“He was beaten pretty good,” said Det. Lt. Joseph Isnardi, commander of the Detective Bureau.
He said the victim, who was wearing a yarmulke and whose identity was not released, did not know his attackers. He was jumped from behind at about 6:30 p.m. as he walked on Spruce Street in the heart of town heading for a friend’s house.
Police said there were no witnesses and that the assailants used only their fists and feet.
Rabbi Moshe Zev Weisberg, a community leader, said he spoke with the teenager after the attack and that the youth clearly remembers what happened.
“There was no provocation” for the attack, he said, adding that two of the six assailants were black and the other four white. “He was beaten to the ground and repeatedly punched and his glasses were knocked off and broken,” Rabbi Weisberg said.
“While they were punching and kicking him in the head, they yelled ‘f—ing Jew’ at him,” Isnardi said.
Weisberg said the teen “fell unconscious during the attack.” When he awoke, he walked about a mile to his home and his mother called Hatzoloh. He was taken by ambulance to the hospital with bruises and blood on his face. X-rays found he had no broken bones, but he was held overnight for observation.
The teen was released on Sunday and on Monday returned to his 10th-grade class in a local high school yeshiva.
“Beyond the physical injuries he was traumatized,” Weisberg said. “This was not something you easily forget.”
Warren Sherard, president of the local chapter of the NAACP, pointed out that initial reports said the teenager was attacked by six black men. But in further questioning of the victim, he said he believed four of the men were white.
“We really need to let the police do their job and get all the facts and then we can see what is going on here,” Sherard said. “This was a terrible incident. It’s a little frustrating that we continue to have these [crimes]. We at the NAACP are committed to standing against acts of hate and bigotry.”
Etzion Neuer, the New Jersey regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, pointed out that his group’s compilation of police data revealed that New Jersey has the “second-highest level of hate crimes in the United States and the second-highest number of anti-Semitic incidents.”
In 2006, the state recorded 244 anti-Semitic incidents. The greatest number of cases in the state in one year — 297 — was recorded in 2004. “Certain areas of the state report a disproportionately high number of such incidents and Lakewood is one of them,” Neuer said. “It has a very large and visible Jewish community.”
Rabbi Weisberg said Lakewood has about 85,000 residents (including about 10,000 illegal immigrants). He said there are about 50,000 Orthodox Jews there, about 8,000 blacks and between 15,000 and 20,000 Hispanic families.
“Our community is shaken by this deplorable crime,” Neuer said in a statement. “This reprehensible hate crime is evidence of the tragic reality that hate remains a force in New Jersey and it must be fought. Hate crimes resonate throughout the victim’s community and threaten the safety and well-being of every member of that group.”
Saturday’s attack was the third violent incident in Lakewood in recent weeks. Last week, a dozen people were arrested after a fight erupted in the local public high school that was reportedly gang-related.
On Oct. 9, Rabbi Mordechai Moskowitz, 53, a teacher, was viciously beaten with a baseball bat as he walked along the street. A 37-year-old Lakewood man with a history of mental illness was later arrested and charged with the assault.
And in yet another bias-related crime last week, someone spray-painted the words “Heil Hitler” on the passenger side of a car owned by an Orthodox Jewish family.
“We need to do a big push in the schools to do a better job of educating our youth to teach the values of respect to children,” Rabbi Weisberg said.
All of these incidents come against the backdrop of the Aug. 23 acquittal of Elchonon Zimmerman, an Orthodox Jewish teacher, on charges of beating a 15-year-old black youth in the spring of 2006.