Haredi Orthodox man allegedly attacked for being Jewish in Antwerp

Marcy Oster

(JTA) – Police in Belgium apprehended and briefly detained a man who allegedly assaulted a haredi Orthodox man on the street in Antwerp while shouting “Jew.”

The incident happened Friday evening on a central street in the capital of the Flemish Region, the alleged victim, who spoke to JTA on condition of anonymity, said Monday.

The alleged attacker approached the man smiling and in a relaxed manner that left the alleged victim not expecting an assault, he said. “Then he hit me on the chin, said ‘Jew’ and just walked away,” the alleged victim said.

The Jewish man said he filed a complaint with police that night but would not sign it, citing a religious prohibition on writing on Shabbat. He told JTA he intends to press charges and sign the deposition in the coming days. Reports that he had been injured in the altercation were exaggerated, he said. “I was not hurt,” the alleged victim said.

The alleged victim followed the attacker as he walked away and shouted that he had been assaulted. Jewish men living in the area joined the alleged victim and forcibly detained the alleged attacker until army soldiers guarding the area due to the presence of several Jewish institutions arrived. They called police, who arrested the man on suspicion of assault.

“This incident was unpleasant but I was glad to see the immediate response both by the community and the authorities,” said the Jewish man, a citizen of a country in Central Europe who is living in Antwerp.

Police told Michael Freilich, the editor-in-chief of the Joods Actueel Jewish newspaper in Antwerp, that the alleged attacker was often loitering at the scene of the incident, and he appeared to be intoxicated at the time of his arrest. Police questioned the man and released him as the complaint lodged against him is being evaluated, police told Freilich.

Freilich added that he was not able to confirm reports that the man accused of attacking the Jewish man was of Muslim descent or a convert to Islam, as Shomrim, the emergency service of the local Jewish community, initially claimed on social media in reporting about the incident.

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