An elderly couple have relived the moment they were robbed and viciously attacked for being Jewish as they walked to Beverly Hills Synagogue on Saturday.
Raphael Nissel, 75, was beaten with a belt buckle and left with cuts on his head after Jarris Jay Silagi, 44 from Los Angeles, allegedly struck him around 9am on December 9 as he walked with his wife, Rivka.
A tearful Rivka recalled how the suspect came from behind near to attack her husband as she called for him to ‘watch out!’
‘All of a sudden I saw the guy hitting my husband with the belt and screaming, “Give me your earrings, Jew”‘, she shared with NBC.
‘First there was the shock. There was a huge, hard knock on my forehead here… I decided we can’t just let it go,’ Raphael said, explaining how he chased the suspect down.
Silagi tried to make a getaway as his pants started to slip. As he ran, a Beverly Hills cop saw the commotion and stepped in, apprehending the attacker.
Charges against the suspect include assault with a deadly weapon, attempted robbery, hate crime and elder abuse.
The attack comes amid a spike in reports of anti-Semitic abuse across the nation as amid the conflict between Hamas and Israel in the Middle East. The Anti-Defamation League advocacy group reported a rise in incidents of nearly 400 per cent in the first weeks immediately after Hamas’ assault on southern Israel.
The couple shared how Raphael was assaulted and chased down his attacker on Saturday
Raphael received lacerations to the head after he was hit with a belt buckle on December 9
The incident took place just after 9am on Saturday, on the Jewish Sabbath, with officers responding to the area of N. Rexford Drive and N. Santa Monica Boulevard after receiving a report of an assault with a deadly weapon.
The victim was treated by the Fire Department at the scene, police said. He was left dazed and bloodied by the attack.
Alan Nissel, their son, shared a picture of a bloodied shirt on X on December 10, writing ‘Yesterday, on way to shul, my father (75) and mother (70) were attacked.
‘After being struck from behind on head by belt and called out as Jew, my father recomposed himself and successfully chased down perp with help of nearby Beverly Hills PD.’
Raphael regularly attends the synagogue and had been expected to participate as a ‘lay reader’ of scripture on Saturday, Rabbi Pini Dunner, of Beverly Hills Synagogue, said.
He added that he had been in touch with the victims since Saturday and explained the couple were recognisable as Jewish in black-and-white clothing and with the victim wearing a yarmulke.
‘He went home, changed shirt and came to synagogue’ after the attack, Dunner said.
The victim’s wife was unharmed, police said.
Silagi is being held on $100,000 bail and is due to appear at the Los Angeles Airport Court on Tuesday.
‘This despicable act of hate against a member of our community will not be tolerated,’ said BHPD Chief Mark Stainbrook in a statement.
‘Our officers quickly apprehended the suspect and he is in custody,’ he added.
‘After a search by the Beverly Hills Police Department personnel, an individual matching the suspect description was witnessed fleeing by a BHPD Senior Forensic Specialist,’ police said.
‘Police officers used the information provided to quickly find, detain and identify the suspect.’
Alan Nissel said his parents had been attacked on Saturday as they walked to the Synagogue
‘All of a sudden I saw the guy hitting my husband with the belt and screaming, “Give me your earrings, Jew”‘, Rivka shared with NBC.
The conflict between Israel and Hamas has prompted strong international reactions, ranging from peaceful protests to acts of violent anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.
The Anti-Defamation League reported a nearly 400 percent spike in anti-Semitic incidents in the US between October 7 and October 23.
Of the 312 incidents, ‘about 190’ were related to the conflict.
A recent report shared by the advocacy group found 73 per cent of college students surveyed had experienced or witnessed some form of anti-Semitism since the beginning of the 2023-2024 school year alone. Hamas attacked Israel on October 7.
Prior to this school year, 70 per cent of Jewish college students had experienced at least some form of anti-Semitism throughout their entire college experience, the ADL reported.
Since October 7, the number of students who felt ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ comfortable with others knowing they were Jewish has fallen from 63.7 per cent to just 38.6 per cent.
The ADL also tracked a surge in reports of anti-Muslim hate nationwide as the war rages on.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said it had also received 774 complaints of incidents motivated by Islamophobia and bias against Palestinians and Arabs from October 7 to October 24.
The group said this was the highest level since 2015.
Around 1,200 Jews have been killed in Israel, mostly as Hamas launched its bloody assault east on October 7.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has responded with a devastating bombardment of the Gaza Strip, displacing an estimated 1.4 million from their homes – of 2.3 million native to the Strip – and killing about 18,000