Two teenagers have been arrested and charged with first-degree felony gang assault and second-degree felony assault last week for the Wednesday, November 28, beating of a young Bukharian Jew on 108th Street. But these two arrests have not calmed leaders in the Bukharian Jewish community who feel certain that the attack was motivated by bias against Jews. “Looking at the video of the attack, I am 100 percent certain that it was a hate crime,” said Chazaq Operations Manager Yaniv Meirov, who helped organize a forum last week for the victim’s parents, community leaders, and police officials.
Among the witnesses to the beat-down on 64th Road and 108th Street was Waleska Mendez, a volunteer at the Forest Hills Masbia food pantry. “When I went out, I saw the kid next to the tree, already on the floor. All the gang was kicking and punching him,” Mendez said in an interview with the Gothamist news site. “So I started screaming ‘Leave him alone!’”
Mendez ran back inside the pantry, grabbed a broom, and chased away the attackers. She recalls one of them wearing a ski mask, but what really upset her was seeing nearly 20 of their peers standing by and recording the attack on their phones rather than intervening. “I came outside with a broom because there was nobody stopping them,” she told Meirov, who stopped by to hear her account of the incident.
“I’m amazed by her. We have to take it to heart,” said Meirov. He plans on organizing a community response for Mendez to honor her for stepping in. Masbia Executive Director Alexander Rapaport said that Mendez volunteers three days each week at the Forest Hills pantry, walking from her home in nearby Corona. “She is very hands-on. The other volunteers and clients love her. She is brave but also upset that the other students stood by, making videos, and did not call police.”
Rapaport shares Meirov’s desire to honor Mendez. “We want to use her act as a teachable moment to show how New Yorkers help each other, regardless of race and religion.”
By Sergey Kadinsky