Thursday, October 11, 2007

Lakewood teacher beaten with bat


Mordechai Shmuel ben Miriam

Attack unprovoked, witnesses say; suspect not caught
Posted by the Asbury Park Press on 10/11/07

LAKEWOOD — An Orthodox school teacher was in critical condition after he was brutally beaten with an aluminum baseball bat while on his way to pray at a synagogue near his home, authorities said.

Six people saw the attack on Mordechai Moskowitz, 53, of Lakewood, just before 8 p.m. Tuesday at Princeton Avenue and Carey Street, police said. Neighbors said he was heading to a synagogue on Squankum Road, said Detective Lt. Joseph Isnardi.

The attacker was described as black, 30 to 40 years old, clean-shaven and wearing a dark plaid shirt and dark baggy pants. He is heavyset and about 6 feet tall. He was last seen running south on Princeton Avenue.

Officer Summer Cunliffe responded first and found Moskowitz bleeding profusely from severe head and facial wounds, police said.

Witnesses told police they did not see or hear any apparent reason for the attack, Isnardi said. There was no evidence to classify the assault as a bias crime, police said Wednesday, and nothing was stolen from Moskowitz.

The victim's nephew, Moshe Rothberg, said he did not believe his uncle was targeted because of his religion. However, he said he was eager to see what police uncover.

"This was a vicious aggravated assault," said Detective Steve Wexler, who also responded to the attack along with Detective Greg Staffordsmith.

Isnardi said Moskowitz is conscious and able to speak.

Rothberg, of Lakewood, said his family was comforted by more than three dozen people who came to Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune, where Moskowitz was taken Tuesday night.

Police Chief Robert C. Lawson was also at the hospital Tuesday with the family while investigators gathered information from witnesses.

Bat recovered

The Ocean County Prosecutor's Office, along with the county sheriff's Criminalistics Investigative and K-9 units, searched the area for clues and recovered the bat believed to have been used in the attack, Isnardi said.

Rabbi Moshe Zev Weisberg, a member of the Vaad — the council of Orthodox leaders in Lakewood — said Moskowitz is a well-respected teacher and "he was randomly picked out. . . . We were all glad to hear he was coherent and speaking."

Moskowitz is a revered third-grade teacher at the Lakewood Cheder School, his nephew said. "He is the most dedicated father, teacher and friend that anyone can have," Rothberg said.

One of Moskowitz's nephews is a member of Hatzolah First Aid Squad and responded to the attack, but failed to recognize his uncle because his face was disfigured in the assault, Rothberg said.

"He has a lot of facial fractures and there is some bleeding in the brain," Rothberg said.

The attack was discussed Wednesday at a regularly scheduled monthly meeting of community leaders, including 25 members of Lakewood's diverse ethnic groups.

"The attack is a crime against the entire community of Lakewood and not a crime against one ethnic group," Weisberg said.

"The reactions and feelings about this is widespread," Weisberg said. "The entire community is totally shocked by the outrageous, brutal and savage crime. Our prayers and sympathies go to the family."

"This was really a bias crime against Lakewood, whether, it is classified as such or not," Weisberg said. "Everyone feels it was the entire town that was violated, no matter what their ethnic group."

Alan Weisberger, 45, of Lakewood, the victim's brother-in-law, was outside Moskowitz's home Wednesday afternoon and said the support being offered to the Moskowitz family by the community was a great comfort.

The investigation is being conducted by Staffordsmith and Wexler along with Investigator Carlos Trujillo-Tovar from the Prosecutor's Office.

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