Law enforcement officials in Kentucky are investigating a possible anti-Semitic assault, after witnesses claim someone grabbed a Jewish man and dragged him with their car at a menorah lighting ceremony.
Officers were dispatched to the Chabad House/Jewish Student Center near the University of Kentucky, at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Brenna Angel, a spokeswoman for the Lexington Police Department, told CNN.
The victim, who remains unnamed, told police that he was standing on the curb during the lighting of the menorah when a driver in a dark-colored SUV pulled up next to him.
The victim told police that words were exchanged between the two, including possible anti-Semitic statements by the driver, when the driver grabbed the victim’s arm and accelerated the vehicle, dragging him, Angel said.
When the driver let go, the victim fell and struck his head on the pavement. The victim was transported to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, according to Angel.
Police have not identified a suspect at this time.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear condemned the attack on Sunday.
“The anti-Semitic attack reported Saturday night outside of the Jewish Student Center is an outrage,” he wrote in a tweet. “This hate has absolutely no place in the commonwealth as we build a better Kentucky that is fair and equitable for all of our people.”
“That this attack occurred on the third night of Hanukkah, during menorah-lighting celebrations, makes it all the more hateful, hurtful and cowardly,” he added. “I ask all Kentuckians to join me in praying for a quick recovery and join me in rejecting hate.”
In a statement, Rabbi Shlomo Litvin, who serves as co-director of the Chabad of the Bluegrass, eastern Kentucky’s branch of Chabad Lubavitch, called the victim the “newest hero of Chanukah.”
“Before he left for the hospital, the newest hero of Chanukah insisted we light the Menorah, and not allow darkness to quench our light,” the Rabbi wrote in Facebook post on Saturday. “Tonight’s lighting was centered around standing up to hatred, following the antisemitic attack at the Chabad at (the University of Kentucky) Jewish Student Center and the regrettable silence from some in the aftermath. The fact that this event to was marred by violence is horrifying, but through it all our Menorah has stayed lit.”
Antisemitic incidents in the United States reached the highest on record in 2019, the Anti-Defamation League said in May.
More than 2,100 acts of assault, vandalism and harassment were reported last year, according to the ADL, which has been tracking these incidents since 1979.
There were six antisemitic incidents per day on average in the US, the ADL said.
Every state but Alaska and Hawaii reported incidents, with the highest numbers in New York, New Jersey, California, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.
CNN’s Jennifer Henderson contributed to this report.