Dec. 6, 2018 By Meghan Sackman
An emergency meeting was held by two Forest Hills Jewish organizations earlier this week, prompted by a number of violent episodes in the neighborhood that some viewed as hate crimes.
The meeting, which took place on Dec. 3, was called for by the Alliance of Bukharian Americans (ABA) and the Chazaq Organization, and focused on at least three attacks against Jewish teens in recent weeks and the nature of the incidents.
The meeting, attended by the 112th Precinct, Council Member Karen Koslowitz, State Senator Joseph Addabbo, and the families of some of the victims, deliberated over whether the recent events point to a potential rise in anti-Semitism.
The most alarming of the cases happened on Nov. 29, when a Jewish student from Midrash L’man Achai, a local Yeshiva, was attacked by dozens of teens to the point of him losing consciousness.
The 16-year-old teen was assaulted by a group of teens at around 4:53 p.m. that Thursday at 108th St. and 65th Rd, police say.
The victim, David Paltielov, was leaving a popular kosher eatery at the time, according to Queens Jewish Link, a local news site.
Paltielov suffered injuries including lip lacerations, contusions, and severe bruising to the body, and was rushed to Elmhurst hospital for treatment.
The local Jewish organizations at the meeting allege that the teen was assaulted by a group of teens numbering between 20 to 30, and that the attackers were chanting “Kill the Jews” during the incident.
This attack was flanked by two other incidents. One of them, according to the organizations, happened on Nov. 28, when a group of teens attacked another Jewish boy while on his way home. The attack, however, was not reported to police.
The other incident happened on Nov. 30, when police were called in for crowd control at around 11:30 a.m. at two locations—108th Street and 65th Road and 102nd Street and 64th Road.
Groups of Bukharian Jewish teenagers and Forest Hills High School students were apparently fighting at the two sites, which police believe was because of the prior attacks.
In all, 11 people were arrested after the Nov. 30 brawls. Those arrested are between 18 and 19 years of age, with charges ranging from unlawful assembly and disorderly conduct to assault and unlawful possession of weapons.
Weapons recovered from the teens include a slingshot, wooden dagger, and brass knuckles.
No arrests, however, have been made in the attack of Paltielov.
Community members at the meeting were convinced that the incidents point to anti-Jewish sentiment, and should be regarded at hate crimes.
Koslowitz, for one, noted that the incidents come as her office recently received a letter containing anti-Semitic slurs and threats, which she presented at the meeting. The letter was over a page long and contained a message of hate toward Jewish people and Israel, according to her office.
Police, however, believe that these incidents were fights between two rival groups, and that there is not enough evidence to label the attacks as hate crimes.
For Alexander Rapaport, the Executive Director of the Masbia soup kitchen off of 108th Street, and who attended the meeting, it is apparent that the incidents are hate crimes.
“For me all of this anti-Semitism isn’t new,” he said. “Police overall have the demeanor that these complaints, that appear to be motivated by hate, aren’t in their playbooks.”
The 112th Precinct noted at the meeting that the investigations are still ongoing, and that that they were doing everything in their power to put an end to the violence.
Despite a seeming discrepancy between police and the community about the nature of the incidents, meeting attendees were in agreement that the violence needs to stop, and that something needs to be done.
Koslowitz suggested a potential march for peace and tolerance down 108th street, where the bulk of the violent incidents took place.
Addabbo, meanwhile, said Forest Hills is not immune to prejudice and that the community needs to act when it happens.
“We can’t undo the past, but we can certainly make sure that we don’t see a repeat of what has happened,” he said.
He assured the group that he would be in contact with the 112th Precinct, who have visibly increased their patrol of the area.
Yaniv Meirov, CEO of the Chazaq Organization, said he was shocked by the bout of violence in the area.
“I’ve lived in the Forest Hills/Rego Park area my whole life, and that’s absurd to be afraid to walk around here,” he said.
Adam Suionov, Executive Director of the ABA, plans to take action and do whatever it takes to end this crime cycle.
“The Alliance of Bukharian Americas, along with all the attending community leaders and members will continue to pursue this issue until we can rest assured that everything that truly can be done will be done,” he said.
“The Bukharian community,” he added, “like any New York community, deserves to be safe.”