Four teenage boys, all students at Yeshivas Lubavitch, were assaulted by between 10 and 12 youths, as they were walking home on Sunday evening in Toronto.
The incident is being investigated as a hate crime, because of the verbal slurs that were used during the assault, and as a robbery, said Det. Angela Kahnt of the Toronto Police Service.
Police have one youth in custody and are still searching for the others.
The four 17-year-olds were walking home on Fairholme Avenue, near Bathurst Street, around 8 p.m., when a larger group of young people saw their kippot, started making “derogatory comments” and began punching and kicking two of the boys, according to police. A pair of sunglasses was stolen from one of the victims.
The boys were able to “fend off anything serious,” but nonetheless, “they were very shaken up,” said Rabbi Akiva Wagner, rosh yeshiva of the school the four attend.
They were walking past a small park, when they were assaulted by the larger group, who appeared drunk, and some of whom were carrying broken bottles, he said.
“The boys were capable of looking out for themselves, it is the only reason they avoided something more serious,” Rabbi Wagner told The CJN.
There have been no incidents in the area for “quite a few years,” he added.
But now, the school will be emphasizing that students travel in groups, “which didn’t use to be seen as a necessity in the area,” he said. “We’re in contact with police to see what steps can be taken.”
Noah Shack, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs’ (CIJA) vice-president for the Greater Toronto Area, said that, “We were deeply disturbed to learn of this vile assault on Jewish teens in Toronto,” and that CIJA’s security team was in communication with law enforcement.
“Jewish Canadians should never fear wearing their kippah in public. We are grateful to the Toronto Police Service for its rapid and professional response,” Shack said in a statement.
Anyone with information, or who may have surveillance videos of the area, is asked to call Toronto police at 416-808-1300, or Crime Stoppers at 416-222-8477.