RIO DE JANEIRO, Aug. 28 (JTA) — A controversial rabbi who wants to be chief rabbi of Rio de Janeiro has been beaten by gang members inside a synagogue, where the rabbi’s family also resides.
Rabbi Jacob Israel Blumenfeld said the three men who invaded his home in the Copacabana section of Rio de Janeiro on Sunday morning likely followed him after he withdrew $100 from an automated bank-teller machine.
After tying Blumenfeld up and beating him, gang members forced his mother to open a safe on the second floor of the residence. The trio got away with $1,000 and antique jewelry.
“I was calm. I asked the whole time for God to keep me alive,” Blumenthal said of his ordeal.
The 45-year-old rabbi was treated at a local hospital and released. His mother was not injured.
Before leaving, the robbers damaged the Torah scroll and scrawled the initials of their gangs on the synagogue walls.
One group, the Terceiro Comando, or Third Command, is known for its drug- and gun-trafficking operations. Not much is known about the second group, Amigos dos Amigos, or Friends of Friends.
Though one gang member remarked while searching the home that “Jews must have much more” money, neither group is known to have anti-Semitic leanings.
The unguarded synagogue keeps its doors open and has been vandalized before.
Blumenfeld’s troubles reach beyond the beating and robbery.
The controversial rabbi, who inherited his post upon the death of his father, Rabbi Israel Blumenfeld, considers himself chief rabbi but is not regarded as such by community members, many of whom believe he should have been elected rather than appointed to his post.
Even fellow Lubavitch rabbis in Rio don’t ask Blumenfeld to perform marriages or other services that would normally be done by a chief rabbi.