BOSTON — The legal case surrounding one of the most brutal antisemitic attacks in recent Boston history is plodding along – slowly.
On May 5, Khaled Awad, who is charged with the stabbing last summer of a Hasidic rabbi outside a Brighton Jewish day school, faced a judge in Suffolk Superior Court, though he appeared virtually from the Nashua Street Jail where he’s being held without bail.
Awad wore a mask, a blue prison uniform, and said nothing. The legal discussion was fairly inconsequential, centering around Awad’s electronic devices. His attorney, Janice Bassil, asked Judge Michael Doolin for access to Awad’s computer, cellphone, and SIM card, which were found in his backpack the day of the alleged assault.
“It’s likely this will be a mental health defense,” she told the judge, and she needed to collect information about Awad for a psychiatric evaluation.
Assistant District Attorney Ursula Knight objected to Bassil getting the actual devices. Judge Doolin agreed to let an expert download the information and deliver a “phone dump” to Awad’s attorney. A new status hearing was set for June 9. Awad popped off the screen.
Such is the nature – and tedium – of how this case is proceeding, motion by motion, filing by filing, with progress slowed even further by the fact that “COVID has thrown everything into chaos,” Bassil said in an interview.
She said she is able to see Awad, who is vaccinated, and “I think he is more stable than he has been in a long time. Other than that, I can’t really say [how he is.]”
A tentative trial date has been set for December, but Bassil said that is likely to change.
It’s been more than 10 months since the bloody attack on Rabbi Shlomo Noginski – a Hasidic rabbi and father of 12 children – in Brighton. What happened on July 1 made headlines around the world.
As Noginski described it in a gripping video interview with the Journal, he was standing next to the Shaloh House school where children were attending summer camp in the early afternoon of July 1 when a man suddenly confronted him at gunpoint and gestured for him to get into the rabbi’s own car.
When he refused, the two began to fight, and Awad allegedly stabbed the rabbi eight times. Awad, 24, was arrested on the scene after allegedly pulling the gun on police officers. Noginski was hospitalized with wounds to his arms, ribs, and chest.
Prosecutors have filed hate crime and civil rights charges against the Egyptian national who was born in Saudi Arabia. Until a few months before the alleged attack, Award had attended college in Florida, where he reportedly was known to spout antisemitic rhetoric.
“We believe this violent attack was rooted in antisemitism,” said Rachael Rollins, who was Suffolk County district attorney at the time. Awad has been indicted on nine charges, including armed assault with intent to murder and several assault and battery offenses.
The case has taken on additional layers of drama as details emerged about Rabbi Noginski.
Noginski and his family had only recently moved to Boston from Israel so he could serve the Russian-speaking Jewish community as a Chabad shaliach, someone dedicated to teaching Torah and building community. After he was attacked, he ran away and tried to flag down cars for help, but no one came to his rescue.
“They all drove away, scared,” he told the Journal.
It became a story of almost biblical heroism – a former knife salesman from Egypt carrying two lethal weapons pitted against a 41-year-old rabbi from Russia who holds a black belt in judo and who used his training to divert the attacker from children on the playground.
“If people want to see a miracle, they should look at me,” the rabbi said after the attack.
In a brief interview last week, Noginski said, “I’m doing better, Baruch Hashem, but not 100 percent. I still have pain.” He is working again, though not full time.
But something positive has come of this, he said. Inspired by the attack, he pledged to create a new school to offer rabbinical training to eight students. Rabbi Dan Rodkin, executive director of Shaloh House, said the new school, located on Commonwealth Avenue near Shaloh House, will open in September but there will be a celebratory event soon, around the time of Lag B’Omer May 18-19.
Rabbi Rodkin said about $1 million was raised from members of the community and from three major donors who contributed $250,000 each. He disclosed that Patriots owner Robert Kraft was one of the major donors, but declined to say who the others were.
“They tried to kill one rabbi and I got eight stabs and we are trying to make eight new rabbis, to bring more light to our life,” Noginski said. “One rabbi from each stab.”
Linda Matchan can be reached at email@example.com