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Rabbi Attacked Outside Chelsea Synagogue; Assailant Shouts “Dirty Jew”

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Rabbi Attacked Outside Chelsea Synagogue; Assailant Shouts “Dirty Jew”

Edited by: Fern Sidman

In a highly distressing incident on Tuesday outside the Chelsea Shul on West 23rd Street in Manhattan, Rabbi Chezky Wolff was attacked by a man who allegedly hurled anti-Semitic invectives before striking the rabbi with a heavy tote bag, as was reported by the New York Post.  This altercation, which took place in front of the synagogue, has heightened concerns about rising anti-Semitism in New York City.

Rabbi Wolff was standing outside the Chelsea Shul when a dog ran towards the synagogue’s open doors. Concerned for the safety and decorum of the space, the rabbi asked the dog’s owner to put the animal on a leash, according to The Post report. The owner, later identified in the media as Aleksander Janik, reacted with hostility. According to Wolff, Janik called him a “dirty Jew,” prompting the rabbi to start recording the encounter on his phone.

According to Janik, a well-known personal shopper to the stars, admitted to pushing Rabbi Chezky Wolff, which led to a heated exchange and accusations of anti-Semitism. “Yes, I pushed him. I pushed him with my bag,” Janik told The Post on Wednesday. However, he contested the severity of his actions, insisting that it was a defensive move rather than an aggressive attack.

The confrontation began when Rabbi Wolff followed him and recorded him with his phone after a dispute involving Janik’s off-leash dog near the Chelsea Shul. Feeling harassed, Janik admitted to lashing out to send a clear message. “Please go away. Don’t harass me. He was just constantly behind me and it was just inappropriate to follow me with his phone,” Janik explained to The Post.

“I protect my dog and myself. A stranger man who’s following me with their phone in my face, I ought to protect myself. I don’t know him,” Janik told The Post. He also defended his reaction by pointing out that his dog was not a cause for such intense anger. “When he opened the door, he was very angry, upset. I don’t know why. It’s just a dog. It’s not like you can be upset at a dog.”

Janik’s social media presence, filled with images of him alongside celebrities and attending high-profile events, adds another layer of complexity to the incident. His Instagram account, which prominently features the message “‘Ubuntu’ is an ancient African word meaning ‘humanity to others,’” seems to stand in stark contrast to the aggressive behavior captured in the footage.

Surveillance footage obtained by The Post provides a detailed account of the incident. The video shows Janik first slapping the phone out of Wolff’s hand and then striking Wolff in the head with his tote bag. The Post report indicated that the attack, witnessed by stunned diners nearby, resulted in Rabbi Wolff grabbing his head and picking up his belongings from the sidewalk as Janik, accompanied by his unleashed dog, walked away seemingly unperturbed.

Rabbi Wolff pursued Janik, demanding an explanation for the anti-Semitic slurs and violent behavior. Indicated in The Post report was that the footage shows Wolff persistently following the assailant, who remained indifferent and quickly ducked into an apartment building on the same block.

The NYPD and paramedics responded to the scene, but details about the incident were not immediately available from the police. The rabbi’s lawyer, Cary London of Shulman & Hill, indicated that Janik was hiding in his Chelsea high-rise apartment to avoid identification and questioning, the Post report said. “He’s hiding in his Chelsea high-rise until they identify him,” London stated.

“The assault was provoked when Wolff asked the stranger to put his dog on the leash,” London explained to The Post.

Community leaders and organizations have condemned the attack, calling for swift justice and increased efforts to combat anti-Semitism. The incident calls attention to a broader pattern of escalating anti-Semitic incidents in recent years, prompting renewed calls for vigilance and solidarity.

Despite the attack, Rabbi Wolff did not sustain any serious injuries. However, the emotional and psychological impact of the incident has been profound. Wolff, a father of six, expressed fear and concern over the hate exhibited by his apparent neighbor. Rabbi Wolff’s resilience and continued dedication to fostering unity and peace within the community are commendable.

As of the latest reports, the NYPD has yet to make an arrest in connection with the assault.

Speaking to The Post, Cary London, a member of the Chelsea Shul congregation and Wolff’s lawyer, described the incident in detail. “He stands in front so the dog obviously doesn’t go in and the guy comes up after the dog. [Wolff] says, ‘Can you please just put the dog on a leash,’ and the guy looks at him and goes, ‘Dirty Jews’ in disgust,” London recounted.

London emphasized the upsetting nature of the incident, particularly in the current climate of increasing anti-Semitism. “It’s just upsetting in this environment that this is what the Jews are going through right now,” he said.

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