BOSTON – In a more just world, Rabbi Shlomo Noginski would have been overseeing the 100 kids at Shaloh House’s Jewish day camp last Friday. Instead, he was changing the bandages and wiping blood on his left arm and hand – reminders of the brutal stabbing he incurred on July 1 outside of the camp and school in Brighton.
Noginski was treated at two Boston hospitals and released in time to prepare for the Sabbath. With help, he was able to walk to synagogue on Shabbat. “Thank God, many people ask how I feel. I tell them that if they want to see a miracle just look at me. Because he tried to stab me so many times; tens of times, maybe a hundred times, without stopping, into here. Because he didn’t stop, I felt that he wanted to kill and didn’t want to stop until he got to my heart. So, it’s a miracle that I can even speak,” he said.
Khaled Awad, 24, an Egyptian man who was seen the day before the stabbing acting suspiciously near the Shaloh House, is being held without bail after he was arrested and charged with the stabbing and multiple counts of assault and battery. At a hearing last week, prosecutors filed hate crime and civil rights charges against Awad, who allegedly chased Noginski through the streets of Brighton Square before stabbing him eight times in a park across from the Hasidic day school and Jewish camp. After the hearing, Awad was sent to Bridgewater State Hospital for 20 days to undergo a criminal responsibility examination.
The attack on Noginski has caused further unease among Greater Boston Jews, who have been dealing with an uptick of antisemitism in the last few years. The stabbing is also the most serious attack on a rabbi in New England since July of 1969, when two youths hurled acid into the face of a Mattapan rabbi.
Noginski, who is 41, is married and the father of 12 children. He grew up in the former Soviet Union and learned martial arts as a child in order to defend himself from antisemitic attacks. A resident of Israel, he formerly served as a city councilor in Kfar Chabad. He moved to Brighton two years ago with his family to work as a rabbi and teacher at Shaloh House, which serves the area’s Russian-speaking Jewish community. Now unable to use his left arm, and in need of additional medical care, pages on gofundme and charidy.com have been established.
Even as he recovered, Noginski went to Washington D.C. on Sunday to speak at a rally against antisemitism that brought together Jews and gentiles from across the country. He described being chased by his assailant and said his goal was to get the attacker as far away from the children and day camp as possible. “In those moments in front of my eyes were the faces of the 100 Jewish children in the camp. I knew I had to protect them and I did everything I could to keep him away from the school. The real target of this killer were the children.
Thank God, I was exactly standing there and ruining his plans to murder Jewish children on American soil,” he told the 3,000 who attended.
Parts of the brazen attack were captured by onlookers and the day school’s video surveillance system. Also, during the stabbing, Noginski took a photo of his attacker. Rabbi Dan Rodkin, who leads Shaloh House, said the video would be released this week.
Prosecutors and Boston police allege that the attack began shortly after 1 p.m. on Thursday, July 1. They say Awad approached Noginski outside of Shaloh House and pointed a gun at the rabbi. Awad then allegedly demanded that he bring him to the school’s van. When Noginski refused to enter the vehicle, the rabbi ran across the street to a small park where Awad allegedly stabbed him eight times. They wrestled on the grass, and Noginski fought off his attacker and ran back across the street and into the Shaloh House. Meanwhile, Awad ran toward Chestnut Hill Avenue where he was met by a Boston Police officer. According to police, Awad pointed a black gun toward the officer. He soon dropped the weapon and was arrested. According to police records, Awad kicked an officer in the stomach with a shod foot while he was being taken into custody.
“We are all very shaken by what happened and ask for you to please keep Rabbi Noginski in your prayers,” Rodkin said after the attack. According to Rodkin, the camp was placed on lockdown shortly after the attack began. At no point during the incident were any of the children in danger, he said.
In an interview with the Journal last week, Noginski – who holds a black belt in judo – spoke Hebrew and described the harrowing moments when he faced down a man armed with a gun and a large knife.
“I was standing next to the school, talking on my phone and suddenly I heard someone calling me and I see that he is pointing a gun at me. I thought at the beginning it was a robbery and that he wanted to steal the car and as I was holding the phone, I was able to take a photo of him immediately,” he said. “I offered him to take the car keys. I said, ‘here are the keys, here is the car, take them.’ I said it once, I said it twice. It’s all recorded by security cameras that are next to the Chabad House [Shaloh House].”
Noginski said the man instructed him to open the school’s van. At that point, he realized that he was being taken hostage. “I understood he wanted me to get into the car or, God forbid, kill me there or take me somewhere,” he said.
That’s when the rabbi began to run away from the school, with his assailant chasing him. As onlookers watched, Awad allegedly stuck his gun in his pocket and pulled out a knife. When they reached the park across the street, Noginski fought against his attacker. “He chases me, and we fight for a few minutes. He continues trying, nonstop, to stab me in my body. I try to stop him with my left hand and that’s why I have so many stab wounds on my left arm; also to my abdomen and ribs,” he said.
The morning after the stabbing, as word of the attack spread throughout the country and Israel, more than 500 people gathered for a vigil in the same small park where Noginksi fought off his attacker. It was attended by dozens of elected officials and Jewish leaders, including Boston’s Acting Mayor Kim Janey, Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins, U.S. Rep. Jake Auchincloss, Combined Jewish Philanthropies President and CEO Rabbi Marc Baker, Anti-Defamation League New England Regional Director Robert Trestan, Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston Director Jeremy Burton, Shaloh House Director Rabbi Dan Rodkin and Consul General of Israel to New England Ambassador Meron Reuben.
Earlier in the day, Reuben met with Noginski. During the meeting, Noginski spoke by phone with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid. “I connected the two and they spoke,” said Reuben. “The foreign minister of Israel was very, very interested in hearing about the terrible attack and what had happened.”
At the vigil, speaker after speaker urged law enforcement to conduct a thorough investigation.
“We want to send a simple and clear message: the Jewish community is angry, and the Jewish community is united. At a time of rising, violent antisemitism across this country, no Jew, no building, no part of our community, no neighborhood will stand alone, and we expect, we demand that we have the right to live, to walk in the streets, to be visible or not visible as Jews, to gather together, to celebrate, and to live our lives as Jews fully with joy and without fear,” said Burton, of the JCRC.
“It is important that we understand what the motives of this hate, of this violence are,” said Janey.
District Attorney Rollins said the Boston Police Department Civil Rights Unit and her office’s civil rights unit were investigating the crime and promised to keep the community informed as the case moved forward. “I want the Jewish community to hear me say I stand with you, I will get answers and accountability for you, and we will work together to get through this,” she said.
Baker, the CJP president, said the attack needed to be investigated as a hate crime. “With thousands of years of history behind us, and the recent surge of Jew hatred in acts and in speech across this country, our community is feeling vulnerable and we are feeling angry, wondering whether we can be safe in our country and in our own cities,” said Baker.
The attack occurred less than a week after a man targeted and murdered a Black man and a Black woman in Winthrop. The man, who was killed in a a shoot-out with police, was driving in the neighborhood of two synagogues. After the attacks, law enforcement discovered antisemitic writings in the man’s home.
Rodkin, of Shaloh House, said security would be increased around the day school and synagogue. “We’re here to send a very strong message to everyone, that we in Boston – we’re not going to sit back. We will fight back,” he said.
He also announced plans to create a yeshiva in Boston to ordain rabbis at the Jewish institution, which would be led by Noginski.
Rabbi Shmuel Posner of Chabad House of Greater Boston called Noginski a role model for all Jews. “If there’s one person in the world that this perpetrator should not have started up with is Rabbi Shlomo. Because he personifies the strength of the Jewish people – he survived the Soviet Union, thrived in Israel and then came here to Boston to help strengthen Jewish observance,” said Posner. “And he’ll be back teaching young children, senior citizens and everybody in between to be proud of who they are as Jewish people.
Watch Journal exclusive video interview with Rabbi Shlomo Noginski: https://jewishjournal.org/2021/07/15/jewish-journal-exclusive-watch-an-interview-with-rabbi-shlomo-noginski/
Einat Irelander contributed to this article. Email Steven Rosenberg at firstname.lastname@example.org.