Two gunmen who tried to hold up a worshiper inside a Baltimore synagogue after Sabbath services were forced to flee after the intended victim fought back.
The men entered the Khal Chassidim Synagogue in the Park Heights neighborhood on Friday evening. One of the suspects pointed a handgun at a congregant and tried to rob him, police told the newspaper. The intended victim and a suspect then engaged in a “struggle,” which caused the would-be robbers to flee, according to police. The victim was not injured, the local CBS affiliate WJZ reported.
“Suddenly, I pick up my head and about 3 feet away, I see a man brandishing a gun at me,” Rabbi Zalman Spitezki told local station WBAL.
“He wasn’t asking me anything. He wasn’t telling me, ‘Give me your money’ or anything. He was just standing like that, so I thought he’s going to pull the trigger any second,” he continued, linking the incident to a recent spike in anti-Semitic violence in the greater New York area.
In New York City, which hosts the largest Jewish population in the United States, anti-Semitic incidents increased significantly in 2019. Through September, according to the New York Police Department, there were 163 reported incidents — an increase of 50 percent from that period the previous year.
“So I just felt either I sit and do nothing or fight for my life, so I just jumped at him,” Spitezki continued.
Photos of the men have been obtained from surveillance video. They also are suspects in two other robberies in the area, the Baltimore Sun reported.
Police reportedly have increased patrols in the area.
In November, the FBI reported that hate crimes against American Jews decreased 11 percent overall in 2018, with Jews once again the victims of the majority of hate crimes that were based on religion that year in the United States.