Bevan Hurley is the Herald on Sunday chief reporter.

Jewish boy, 4, clouted on head

Suspected hate crime in upmarket Auckland suburb adds to nasty incidents.

Jewish Council president Stephen Goodman said there had been talk among the Jewish community of children not wearing their traditional clothes in public for fear of being abused. Photo / Getty Images
Jewish Council president Stephen Goodman said there had been talk among the Jewish community of children not wearing their traditional clothes in public for fear of being abused. Photo / Getty Images

A 4-year-old Jewish boy was attacked walking home from pre-school in what has been labelled a race hate crime.

The boy has been left traumatised after he was approached by a man who slapped him hard on the top of his head in front of his mother, brother and a friend in the Auckland suburb of Mt Eden last week.

New Zealand Jewish Council president Stephen Goodman said the man in his 20s, who was said to be of Middle Eastern appearance, laughed as he left the scene in a car with four other men.

The child's distraught mother had notified police who say they hope to make an arrest.

Goodman said the brazen attack appeared to be racially motivated as both the boy and his friend were wearing yarmulkes, or Jewish skullcaps, and are orthodox Jews.

Goodman said he believed the anti-Semitic hate crime on a defenceless boy would come as a shock to many New Zealanders.

"A small Jewish community has lived here, well integrated, contributing to the wider society, and in exceptional peace since the earliest days of New Zealand's settlement.

"It's really very worrying that it seems to have elevated things one level higher. This behaviour is so totally unacceptable and intolerable in New Zealand.

"The mother was very emotionally upset by the incident - we just hope there [are] no lasting effects on the child."

Auckland police spokeswoman Noreen Hegarty said: "The police investigation into this incident is ongoing and police are optimistic that the people involved with this incident will be identified."

Several other recent anti-Semitic incidents had targeted children, Goodman said.

A young girl walking through the Britomart train station had had insults yelled at her in Arabic by young Middle Eastern men.

And in October, men in a car had yelled "F****n' Jews" at a young boy walking in Remuera.

Goodman said there had been talk among the Jewish community of children not wearing their traditional clothes in public for fear of being abused.

"If an adult is verbally abused, they will know how to handle it. When these sort of things happen against children, it is quite a different story."

Goodman said anecdotal evidence pointed towards an increase in anti-Semitism in New Zealand, which could be linked to violence overseas.

And he said attacks were not only on Jewish people.

"Having talked to the other religious groups, they also feel there is a decrease in tolerance for other religions as well," he said.

About 6000 New Zealanders identified themselves as Jewish in the 2006 Census. However, the number of people who are Jewish is more likely to be around 20,000.

*If anyone has information about any of the incidents mentioned, please call your local police station, or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

- Herald on Sunday

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