BLOOMFIELD HILLS — Senior Rabbi at Temple Beth El in Bloomfield Hills, Rabbi Mark Miller described to 7 Action News how Friday mornings anti-semitic assault began:
"He came into the parking lot driving a white van, and at first innocently came up to one parent and her kids and asked her calmly, ‘Excuse me, do you support Israel?’ She thought it was someone she knew and sort of said, 'Yes’ and turned around. Then she finds this guy in her face from his van and he just started yelling at her and her two young kids."
The man he is talking about 35-year-old Hassan Yehia Chokr from Dearborn who was charged Sunday with two counts of ethnic intimidation.
According to Rabbi Miller Chokr yelled racial slurs to children between the ages of 2 and 5, and their parents Friday.
Miller says he screamed the 'n word' at temple staff, and told parents; "Threatening her, telling her ‘If you support Israel, I'm gonna get you, you’ll pay!’ That kind of thing."
Miller informed 7 Action News that Temple Beth El created a security team 9 years ago because of the anti-semitic threats they receive.
That team quickly came out to the parking lot Friday morning and Chokr left.
According to Bloomfield Township Police Department they stopped him close by and he was ultimately arrested over the weekend by Dearborn Police Department.
"Even later on parents are driving the kids home and the kids see a white truck and are pointing saying, 'Is that that man again?'" said Miller.
A mother of a 3-year-old at Temple Beth El also spoke to us.
She didn't want her name or picture out of fear of retaliation from Chokr or his "followers."
When asked how this assault makes her feel about dropping her son off she said; "It’s beyond fear, it’s not longer safe. Currently my husband and I are researching what are some non-denominational schools that we can send our child to so that we can feel safe."
The mom told us that she and some other mothers have been looking at Chokr's videos and followers on social media."We’ve been looking at other individuals that have this following, they own semi-automatic weapons, they have blatantly on social media said that they want to kill jews. They said that they are going after other synagogues. Anti-semitism is here."
"As bad as this was it’s also not totally surprising these things are happening more and more in our society," said Miller.
According to the anti-defamation League, 2021 was the highest year on record for documented reports of harassment, vandalism, and violence directed against Jews.
According to the FBI, American Jews who make up no more than 2% of the U.S. population are the targets of nearly 60% of religious bias crimes.
So what can our community do? To start, Rabbi Miller says we can simply love people who are different from ourselves.
"We’re all in this together," said Miller. "This happens to be an anti-semitic incident at a jewish temple, but it’s not by accident that it also included a racial element. It can happen in other communities and it does."
"I think the biggest thing we can learn from this situation is this is here," said the anonymous mother. "It’s not going anywhere and we need some kind of change in place.