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14-year-old boy charged with hate crime after 'punching a rabbi on the head'

A 14-year-old boy was charged with a hate crime after allegedly punching a rabbi near his San Diego synagogue last week. 

The unidentified teenager was booked into Juvenile Hall on Friday on battery and hate crime charges, The San Diego Union Tribune reports.

The arrest came one week after the boy allegedly hurled racial slurs and assaulted Rabbi Yonatan Halevy, of the Shiviti Congregation, and his father. 

‘I was shocked, stunned, and hurt, but was grateful that my father was unharmed,’ Halevy wrote on the synagogue’s website. 

An unidentified 14-year-old boy was charged on hate crime and battery charges for allegedly assaulting Rabbi Yonatan Halevy (pictured)

An unidentified 14-year-old boy was charged on hate crime and battery charges for allegedly assaulting Rabbi Yonatan Halevy (pictured)

Halevy, 31, told the Union-Tribune that the incident happened on October 10 while he and his father were walking towards the synagogue.

According to Halevy, a teenager rode past the pair on his bike, suddenly turned around and launched his fist atop the rabbi’s head.

The hit was so hard it sent Halevy hurtling to the ground.

He told the Union-Tribune that the teenager shouted slurs at the pair and mentioned ‘white power’ before he rode off.

Halevy added that his Shiviti congregation has been targeted by a group of local teens prior to the alleged assault.

He said that members had been heckled by the teens and a car window was smashed.

Halevy and his father took shelter inside the synagogue, where they called 911 and waited nearly 45 minutes for any police response.  

The rabbi presented officers with a description and photos of the assailant, but the responding officers maintained there was little that could be done.

But they quickly reversed course after Halevy received a call from top brass at the San Diego Police Department’s Northern Division. 

Rabbi Yonatan Halevy

Pictured: Rabbi Yonatan Halevy

Rabbi Yonatan Halevy (left and right): ‘I was shocked, stunned, and hurt, but was grateful that my father was unharmed’

Halevy (pictured) said the teenager rode past him on a bike, turned around and then punched him on top of his head on October 10

Halevy (pictured) said the teenager rode past him on a bike, turned around and then punched him on top of his head on October 10

‘It went from “They can’t do anything” to “This is No. 1 priority,”‘ Halevy told the Union-Tribune.

Authorities on Friday admitted that Halevy’s case deserved better initial response.

Capt. Matt Novak, of the Northern Division, told Union-Tribune in a statement that he ‘spoke to the rabbi personally, and acknowledged that the initial response could have been better. ‘ 

 He added that ‘going forward, we will be having discussions and possibly training with officers to help them better understand and better respond to incidents like these.’

Tammy Gillies, director of the Anti-Defamation League in San Diego, urged people to not be dismissive of the behavior because it came from a minor.

The alleged hate crime took place while Halevy and his father were walking towards their synagogue in San Diego

The alleged hate crime took place while Halevy and his father were walking towards their synagogue in San Diego

‘We don’t want to be dismissive and say it was just kids,’ she told Union-Tribune. We have to take hate and any hate incident very seriously.’

She labeled the incident a ‘message crime,’ adding ‘it doesn’t just impact the target, but it’s a message to the whole community that says, “We don’t want you here.” 

‘That is the double impact of the hate crime.’

The Union-Tribune reports that the San Diego District Attorney’s Office filed hate crime charges against 30 in 2018 and 2019. Local officials have filed 39 possible hate crime cases to prosecutors.  

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