A member of Chabad of the Bluegrass was injured Saturday night when a driver shouting anti Semitic slurs dragged and ran over him outside the Jewish Student Center near the University of Kentucky, according to the center and police.
The incident happened as people were gathered at the center to prepare for the lighting of a menorah for the third night of Chanukah. The driver pulled up and nearly hit a volunteer camera crew outside the center before dragging and injuring another member of the community, Chabad of the Bluegrass announced on its Facebook page.
“A community member who was assisting in the lighting heroically stepped between the assailant and the Chabad house as several children were in the front room,” the center said in its Facebook announcement. “The attacker grabbed the man and held his arm, dragging him for a block, and running over his leg. The car then sped off. Before he left for the hospital, the newest hero of Chanukah insisted we light the Menorah, and not allow darkness to quench our light.”
The incident is still under investigation. The suspect was described as a man in his mid to late twenties driving a black SUV, Lexington Police Lt. Daniel Truex said Sunday.
The victim was taken to a local hospital for treatment Saturday night for injuries that were not life threatening, Truex said.
The victim was discharged from the hospital and was recovering at home as of Sunday, Rabbi Shlomo Litvin said. Litvin said he has been in regular contact with Lexington police and Lexington police Chief Lawrence Weathers as the investigation continues, and that investigators were continuing to search for a suspect.
Police have a description of the suspect and their vehicle, and video was captured of the incident, Litvin said.
The center praised the Lexington Police Department and the ambulance crew that helped Saturday night.
Multiple state and local officials took to social media on Sunday to condemn the attack at the Jewish Student Center, including Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton.
“Racism and religious persecution have no place here,” Gorton said on Twitter Sunday. “Police have started an investigation into the criminal incident at Chabad of the Bluegrass on Saturday. Those who violated the law will be prosecuted. Let’s join in the spirit of Chanukah, a celebration of good over evil.”
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear called the attack an “outrage” on Twitter Sunday.
“This hate has absolutely no place in the commonwealth as we build a better Kentucky that is fair and equitable for all of our people,” Beshear said in a tweet. “That this attack occurred on the third night of Hanukkah, during menorah-lighting celebrations, makes it all the more hateful, hurtful and cowardly. I ask all Kentuckians to join me in praying for a quick recovery and join me in rejecting hate.”
Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, U.S. Rep. Andy Barr and Kentucky Treasurer Allison Ball also tweeted their support of Chabad of the Bluegrass and condemned the attack.
“This is sickening and unacceptable,” Cameron said in a tweet. “I had the opportunity last week to meet with Rabbi Litvin, and we talked about the importance of speaking out against anti-semitism in all its forms. My thoughts are with the victim and the Chabad of the Bluegrass.”
The General Assembly’s Fayette County Democratic delegation, including state Sen. Reggie Thomas and state representatives George Brown, Kelly Flood, Joe Graviss, Ruth Ann Palumbo, Cherlynn Stevenson and Susan Westrom, released a statement Sunday. The statement, which was also attributed to House and Senate Democratic leaders condemned not just Saturday’s events, but also previous antisemitic acts made toward the center. The full statement was as follows:
“We are horrified that our Jewish community continues to be attacked, and that the recent cases of vandalism and hateful anti-Semitic pamphlets have now escalated to violence this weekend at Chabad of the Bluegrass. We have to find a way to stop this reprehensible trend. We also pray that the victim in this case is able to heal quickly. It speaks volumes that he refused medical treatment until the menorah was lit. That kind of faith and love is what will ultimately drive out the darkness we’re seeing.”
University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto also released a statement in support of the center on Sunday.
“Chanukah is a festival of lights – the light of religious liberty to which we all are entitled as part of our shared humanity,” Capilouto said. “It is a right as fundamental to us as the air we breathe and as ancient as the scriptures that depict people of all faiths and backgrounds who fought and died in search of it. I am deeply saddened to learn of the hate incident last evening at the Chabad of the Bluegrass near our campus, ironically occurring in the midst of Chanukah. The person who was injured is in our thoughts and prayers for a full recovery. As the latest lights of Chanukah shine forth, let us be reminded of our mutual responsibility to seek, each day, to let the light of religious freedom and liberty shine brightly for everyone. Hate will have no harbor in our community.”
Chabad of the Bluegrass said in its announcement that the upcoming menorah lightings will continue as scheduled.
“When you add light to a dark room the room is no longer dark,” the group said in the post. “When you add light to a seemingly dark world, the darkness always recedes.”