Photo Credits: Benjamin Kantor
A 16-year-old Bukharian Jewish high school student remains in Elmhurst Hospital with severe bruising and cuts to his head after being beaten by a group of teenagers in Forest Hills last Thursday, November 29. Victim David Paltielov was leaving a popular kosher eatery at 105-45 64th Road at 5 p.m. when a group of 25 to 30 Hispanic and African American teenagers set upon him, according to Rabbi Levi Mushaiev of Midrash L’man Achai, which the young man attends.
No arrests have been made and the NYPD’s Hate Crime Unit is investigating, according to the NYPD. On the following day, at about 11:30 a.m., a group of 15-18-years-olds assaulted another teenager at 64th Road and 108th Street, causing bruises and cuts. Several of the teenagers were arrested at the scene. The assault is believed to be related to an earlier incident at Forest Hills High School and not believed to be a hate crime, “based on the evidence so far,” said Detective Brown of the NYPD Public Information Division.
In response to fears of anti-Semitic violence among youths on 108th Street, a roundtable meeting with officers from the 112th Precinct, elected officials, and members of the Forest Hills and Bukharian Jewish communities was held on Monday, December 3, at the Beth Gavriel Community Center.
Captain Kevin Yam, Executive Officer of the 112 Precinct, and Community Affairs Police Officer John Maser said that on Thursday, November 29, teenagers from Forest Hills High School (Bukharian Jewish, African American, and Hispanic) had a fight. Maser said the incident is under active investigation and is confident the police will find those responsible.
On Friday, November 30, Officer Maser said that Bukharian kids assembled on 108th Street to retaliate for the previous day’s altercation. Twelve arrests were made, eight of them Bukharian Jews, for unlawful assembly and disorderly conduct for refusing to disperse. An incident of two Bukharian kids who were harassed two days earlier, and went unreported by the victims, is now being looked into by the police. None of the incidents have been classified yet as a hate crime, which drew the ire of elected officials and local Bukharian leaders.
“The kids purposely went out to 108th Street to find Jews,” said an attendee. Rabbi Levi Mushaiev spoke for the victim’s parents. Their son said that he did not say a word to the 25 to 30 kids when he exited the restaurant before being beaten. “I didn’t even get to open my mouth to say “Ah.”
“He is a yeshivah boy with no affiliation with Forest Hills High School, and who had no ties with any of these people. He was set upon “because they saw how he looked,” said Rabbi Mushaiev. David was wearing a kipah and tzitzis. “He is a boy who stays the furthest out of trouble in school. He’s a very sweet boy. He couldn’t harm a cockroach.”
City Councilman Rory Lancman said the two kids set upon in front of Munch Restaurant had nothing to do with the altercations going on among the Forest Hills High School students. The second student ran for help. “We have to get the police and the city and the D.A. to charge these crimes as hate crimes,” State Senator Toby Stavisky said. “We think this sounds like a hate crime.”
Mark Katz, of the Queens District Attorney’s Office, said that categorizing the crime is based on evidence. “The police collect the evidence and the DA’s office gathers the evidence. We have a Hate Crimes Office that determines what make a hate crime. A large factor is the victim’s identity.”
Yaniv Meirov, Operations Manager for Chazaq, watched videos of kids on 108th Street yelling, “Kill the Jews,” “Kill the Bukharians.” Mr. Katz asked for people to give statements and videos to the police.
Forest Hills High School is only one block from the Beth Gavriel. “This fighting has been going on for too long,” said David Mordukhaev of the Alliance of Bukharin Americans. Students from Forest Hills High School are getting out of classes on Saturdays when 400-500 Bukharian Jews are praying at Beth Gavriel. Worshippers and students are frequently taunted and harassed without adequate police protection.
Police Officer John Maser promised a heavier police presence, both uniformed and undercover. More meetings are planned with the police, the community, and elected officials. Captain Yam, Officer Maser, and Mr. Katz said the cases have been referred to their hate crimes units for investigation.
Meanwhile, the 16-year-old victim, who is not in a coma, wakes up, says he has a tremendous headache and falls back to sleep, said Rabbi Levi Mushaiev speaking on behalf of the boy’s parents who were in attendance but did not speak.
More meetings with the police, elected officials, and the community are planned. Also in attendance were City Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz, State Senator Joe Addabbo, and Assemblyman David Weprin, Chairman of Community Board 6 Joseph Hennessy, Queens Jewish Community Council Executive Director Cynthia Zalisky, representatives from Congresswoman Grace Meng, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, and Assemblyman Dan Rosenthal, among other dignitaries.
By David Schneier