The Race Relations Commissioner has condemned a "cowardly" hate crime against a small boy in Auckland.

Dame Susan Devoy said she was disgusted to hear of an attack on a four year-old Jewish boy who was walking home from pre-school in Mt Eden.

The boy was traumatised after a man approached him, then slapped him hard on the top of his head in front of his mother, brother and a friend last week.

The Herald on Sunday said the alleged attacker laughed as he left the scene in a car with four other men.

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The attack appeared to have anti-Semitic motivations. The boy was wearing a yarmulke or cap.

"When our Kiwi kids are scared to wear a yarmulke or a head scarf because some adult may abuse and attack them, we have failed," Dame Susan said today.

"New Zealand has an excellent international human rights record but it is not worth the paper it is written on if New Zealand children are under attack because of their religion or their ethnicity."

The Race Relations Commission said there had been attacks on members of other religious groups, and events overseas were possibly the trigger for a rise in hate crimes.

"Recently Muslim Kiwis also appealed for calm after women and children reported attacks walking home from school," the Commission said.

"In August the Human Rights Commission met with and issued a statement supporting Jewish Kiwis after leaders reported a spike in anti-Semitism in the wake of the ongoing Gaza conflict."

The Commission said it was also supporting Muslim Kiwis after the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand reported a spike in Islamophobic attacks. The Federation believed reaction to the terror campaigns of the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria triggered the rise in these attacks.

Dame Susan said police did a good job working with ethnic communities and she hoped they would show "no lenience on those bullies attacking some of our most vulnerable" people.

"Cowards and thugs taking part in hate attacks on Kiwi kids need to know their behaviour has no place in New Zealand," Dame Susan said.

"I urge all Kiwis to not be bystanders and to stand up for the victims if they witness race hate attacks or abuse in their communities," she added. "I'm confident that everyday Kiwis will not stand for our neighbourhoods becoming the setting for the race hate we see on our television screens."