NEW YORK (Apr. 10)
A Passover trip to Germany for two young American rabbinical students began as a celebration of the Jewish exodus from Egypt.
It ended as a nightmare when they were attacked in a Berlin hate crime.
Both students have returned to the United States and are preparing to return to yeshiva, one in New Jersey, the other in Chicago.
Shneur Zalman Teldon, who sustained injuries to the head and face in the attack, is recovering well, according to his father, Rabbi Tuvia Teldon, of Long Island.
Shneur Zalman Teldon could not be reached for comment.
The attack came as a series of anti-Semitic incidents swept across Europe, particularly France, in connection with Israeli-Palestinian violence.
Teldon and Zev Goldberg, both 21, had traveled to Frankfurt an der Oder, two hours east of Berlin, to help Russian immigrants hold a seder through the Lubavitch movement’s “International Seder Program.”
On the night of March 30, Teldon and Goldberg had been walking down a busy shopping street in a posh Berlin neighborhood when someone shouted “Juden” from an Internet cafe, Teldon’s father said.
The two continued walking.
One youth from the cafe caught up with the pair and asked Teldon if he had any money. Approximately seven more young men who appeared to be in their early 20s then approached Teldon and Goldberg.
One of the young men asked Teldon if he was a Jew. When he confirmed that he was, the men began punching him.
According to German police, the men had a “Southern” appearance — a term often used in Germany to describe Arabs.
The attackers did not harm Goldberg, who is slightly taller than Teldon.
“I was standing in shock,” Goldberg said. “He was screaming for help.”
No one stopped to help, and, according to Goldberg, no one called police.
The beating lasted approximately 45 seconds, Goldberg said, until the assailants let Teldon go.
Teldon sustained injuries to his head, stomach and face and had to have four stitches to his lip, Goldberg said. The attackers also smashed Teldon’s glasses and stole his hat and yarmulke.
German police are investigating the incident. The fathers of both men say they are pleased with the attention police are giving the case.
There have been several cases of anti-Semitic vandalism in Berlin in recent years, according to Werner Schmidt, a spokesman for the German consulate in New York, but anti-Semitic assaults in Berlin have not been reported.
“To my knowledge, this is the first time a person has been attacked in Berlin for looking Jewish since 1945,” Schmidt said.
Teldon’s father said: “Germany in general should not be held at fault for this particular incident. Our hope and prayer is that people will realize that problems in the Middle East cannot be resolved by random acts of anger in places around the world where Jews and Muslims coexist.”
The attack will not keep Teldon and Goldberg from returning to Germany to help the Russian emigre community there, Goldberg said.
“Everyone was telling us that it is a safe place, but it left a bad taste in my mouth,” Goldberg said. “If you asked me to do the seder again, I wouldn’t say no. Of course not tomorrow, but eventually I would go back.”