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The Jews are attacked near campus

By Devona Walker, Daily Planet Staff
Friday April 05, 2002

On Thursday morning at 2 a.m. , two Orthodox Jews were reportedly attacked within one block of the Clark Kerr neighborhood. Witnesses say they believe the crime was just another bloody example of increased anti-Semitism. 

Shnear Zalman Stern, a 40-year-old University of California at Berkeley student and Yossi Serris — son of one of the top clergy of the Berkeley Chabad, Rabbi Serris — were beaten by two unidentified assailants very much near the Serris’ residence. 

Stern sustained such severe injuries in the attack that he was held overnight at Alta Bates for treatment. 

Tomer Altman, a student activist at the Hillel Center, says there has been a notable increase in anti-Semitism on campus since 9-11 and particularly since the increased violence in the Middle East. 

“In this academic year, there has already been several attacks,” Altman said. “Two students were beaten up last semester and the Hillel Center was vandalized. On the front of the building, they wrote fuck the Jews.” 

Altman said that many Jewish students feel as if they are under attack and that it has become unsafe to walk on campus.  

“After 9-11 in the campus plaza there were several statements made about the attack and amongst the statements there were anti-Semitic statements saying ‘It’s the Jews. Blame the Jews, l’ ” Altman said. “Students are getting to the point that they don’t feel safe walking around campus alone, and it’s a shame that they are beginning to not feel safe at the Hillel center as well. 

Some students are even beginning to talk about organizing escorts so that Jews don’t have to walk alone.” 

At this point the Berkeley Police Department has not decided whether or not they will pursue this attack as a hate crime but the family of both victims as well as Altman stated that the community will be pushing for it to be declared a hate crime. 

If this attack was declared a hate crime, the assault would then be a federal offense and carry a significantly larger sentence. 

There were four witnesses to the attack and they say that they too believe the victims were targeted because they are Jewish.  

“We believe they were targeted because they were Orthodox Jews and very identifiable. Also, there was no money or anything taken. They were just attacked for being there,” Altman said. 

“I was already asleep, and I heard a very loud banging on the door. My girl cousins locked the door because they were scared,” said Shmuel Plotke, whose house Serris ran into directly after the attack. “And then we see it’s Yossi, and that his face is covered in blood. He says ‘there beating up Zalman,’ and he told us to run and hide because he said they were running after him.” 

But Stern himself says that he can only say that maybe he was attacked because he was Jewish. Stern says he cannot be sure because the suspects never made any derogatory statement about Jews during the attack. 

“They were across the street then they made a b-line towards us and asked Yossi for a cigarette. As soon as Yossi reached for the cigarette the one guy began pummeling him, like a punching bag” said Zalman Stern. “Yossi was stumbling back trying to defend himself but totally ineffectively. And eventually I stepped in and Yossi was able to wiggle away from him, and I was pummeled.” 

Stern says he was treated for shock and blunt trauma to the face. 

There are no suspects in custody.