‘An Act of Hate And Darkness': Leaders Denounce Violence at Vigil for Recovering Rabbi

New details about the attack were revealed in court hours after city and religious leaders gathered to speak out against violence against Boston's Jewish community

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Rabbi Shlomo Noginski of the Shaloh House, who was stabbed in Boston's Brighton neighborhood Thursday, used judo training to divert the violent attack out of sight from children, according to his colleague.

"The stabbing happened right here, where you stand," said Rabbi Dan Rodkin, executive director of the Shaloh House, a Chabad center that runs a school, camp and more. He was speaking to a swath of elected officials, Jewish leaders and community members who gathered in a show of support Friday in Brighton Common, the scene of the stabbing.

Noginski was stabbed eight times in the arm and shoulder just outside of the Jewish Day School on Chestnut Hill Avenue Thursday afternoon. His accused attacker, Khaled Awad, appeared in court Friday, where prosecutors said that the incident began with Awad holding a gun and demanding that Noginski give him the keys to a van.

A vigil was held for a rabbi who was stabbed nine times outside of a Boston Jewish community center, while the suspect appeared in court.

Police were investigating whether the attack was a hate crime, though many of the speakers at the vigil argued the stabbing was an act of hate.

Noginski's wife told NBC10 Boston he remained very weak but was happy to be out of the hospital and was looking forward to getting back to work as soon as possible.

A black belt in judo, Noginski used his expertise to defend himself and save children from the traumatic event, Rodkin said. The school told parents that it went into lockdown, but all the children were safe.

"We are here to send a message to everyone -- that we, Boston, are not going to sit back," Rodkin said. "We will fight back. We will bring goodness to the world. We'll make sure that we will become better people and we will send a strong message -- that evil has no place in America."

As rain drops fell, speakers including Boston Mayor Kim Janey, Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins and Jewish community leaders denounced anti-Semitism and demanded that the Jewish people be afforded the same rights to freedom and safety as all Americans.

"The brutal stabbing of Rabbi Shlomo Noginski here yesterday, right here, was an act of hate and darkness," said Shira Goodman, the chair of the board of Combined Jewish Philanthropies. "This attack happened at a school where teachers teach, where children learn and play and frolic, and where parents bring their most precious children. ... This attack intends to scare us from Jewish living, but it's not going to work."

Rabbi Marc Baker, CEO and president of the Combined Jewish Philanthropies, called for the incident to be investigated as a hate crime.

"We must investigate this incident as a hate crime," Baker said. "I don't think there's a member of our Jewish community, who did not hear about this stabbing and think to themselves, 'Oh my God, it's happened here in Boston,' with thousands of years of history behind us."

Janey asked people Friday morning to lift Noginski in prayer and wish him a speedy recovery.

"An attack on any member of our community is an attack on all of us in the City of Boston," the mayor wrote on Twitter. "We must work together to eliminate violence and fear in our communities.

Gov. Charlie Baker also tweeted his best wishes to Noginski on Friday, adding that there is "no place for hate in Massachusetts."

Boston police said Thursday night that Awad, a 24-year-old from Brighton, was arrested on charges of assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon and assault and battery on a police officer. He was arraigned in Brighton District Court Friday.

In court, Suffolk County prosecutors said Noginski was held up with a gun, as Awad asked for the keys to his van, which belongs to the Shaloh House. When he ordered Noginski into the van, the rabbi tried to run, but Awad chased after him into the park.

There, he stabbed Noginski eight or nine times, but Noginski kept running, prosecutors said. Awad "disengaged" when he saw that witnesses were noticing the attack -- it was caught on video, and Noginski took a photo of his attacker as well.

After he was arrested, Awad allegedly kicked an officer in the stomach while he was being put in a Boston police squad car.

Awad pleaded not guilty and was held without bail.

A vigil was organized Friday morning for Shlomo Noginski of Shaloh House, who remains hospitalized after he was stabbed in Boston's Brighton neighborhood Thursday afternoon.

The Boston Police Department was investigating to determine whether or not the incident is a hate crime, Janey said at the vigil.

"We will not allow fear to divide us. Instead we will stand united in our faith, our faith as the community," Janey said. "Our faith as a people who believe in the ideals of this country. This is Fourth of July weekend. The weekend that we celebrate independence in America, the weekend that we celebrate freedom. We all deserve the opportunity to live freely, and certainly that is true of our Jewish brothers and sisters."

Rollins said she planned to attend Awad's arraignment to request a dangerousness hearing.

"You only have to look back within the last few months or weeks to see that this hate, or this inability to understand the hurt and harm the genocide that has happened," Rollins said. "We have to recognize that anti-Semitism is on the rise, and we need to hold people accountable when they do this, so that they are made an example of."

Khaled Awad, of Brighton, was arrested on charges of assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon and assault and battery on a police officer, according to a Boston police news release.

Rollins pointed to anti-Semitic incidents including the Holocaust Memorial, which has been desecrated twice in Boston, the Duxbury's football team's anti-Semitic play calls and most recently a deadly shooting in Winthrop, where the gunman had anti-Semitic writing in his own hand.

Friday's event was intended to show support for the rabbi and the Jewish community, which is now on edge.

"The Jewish community is angry, and the Jewish community is united," Executive Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council Jeremy Burton said. "At a time of rising violence and anti-Semitism across this country, no Jew, no building, no part of our community, no neighborhood will stand alone and we expect - we demand that we have the right to live, to walk in the streets, to be visible or not visible, as Jews to gather together, to celebrate and to live our lives as Jews, fully with joy, and without fear."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

NBC/The Associated Press
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