Leeds students told: ‘Jewish bastards, I’m going to beat the sh*t out of you’ while walking to synagogue

The students feared he would drive his van into them


Graffiti on Leeds University Hillel House on Thursday evening

Two Jewish students were verbally abused on their way to Leeds Hillel House last Shabbat in an incident that the police are investigating as a hate crime.

A driver, who is not believed to be a student, allegedly told two male Jewish students wearing kippot: “you Jewish bastards, I’m going to beat the sh*t out of you.”

On Saturday morning, the students were walking to Hillel House when a van slowed to a stop, and the driver lowered his window to ask: “Are you Jewish?”

When the students said they were, the driver allegedly shouted at them: “You Jewish bastards, I’m going to beat the sh*t out of you.”

One of the students, who spoke to the JC on condition of anonymity, described how the driver “took off his seatbelt and looked like he was going to get out of the van”.

“When he did that, me and my friend started shouting, but no one was around. We told him we were going to call the police. That’s when he said he would call the police on us.”

At that point, the man sat back in the van and reversed so that his vehicle faced the Jewish students. “It looked like he was about to drive right into us.”

The students then ran, “as fast as we could” away from the van and in the opposite direction to Hillel House. “I just said: ‘Run!’ and we ran away from Hillel. It was our instinct because we didn't want to put any more Jews in danger.”

“We genuinely thought he was going to ram into us for being Jewish.”

The pair hid behind a wall for 10 minutes, shaking, before they slowly made their way to Hillel for the service, after checking that the van was nowhere to be seen.

As it was Shabbat, the students did not have phones on them, but once at Hillel, they spoke to a friend who used his phone, and the CST and police were informed. The police arrived to take statements from the students.

The incident occurred on the border of Leeds University campus near the Hillel House, said the student.

Last week, “free Palestine” graffiti was plastered on the Hillel House, and the university chaplain was forced to flee the city after receiving death threats. The van incident took place just a day after the chaplain went into hiding and a day or two after the Jewish centre was defaced.

The victim believes that the man in the van “must have been at the lights and seen a couple of Jews and decided to go after us.”

“I would never be scared to wear my kippot on Shabbat. Butb now I'd be reluctant after the attack. Usually, I walk to shul alone. It was just a fluke that I was with a friend on Saturday,” the student said.

Leeds Jewish Student Society present Emma Levy, said that the CST and UJS are continuing the support Jewish students.

Levy stressed that despite several high-profile and horrific events, the university had “an absolutely thriving JSoc” and told the JC that on Monday night, 250 people crammed into Hillel for a pre-club night social. While CST provided security, students had a wonderful night out.

Leeds University contacted all students today with an email about the incident, which said: “We have also been made aware that two of our Jewish students were verbally abused and threatened off campus on Saturday. The University is currently providing welfare support to the students concerned. We are also assisting West Yorkshire Police in their investigations into these incidents.

“We must stress that harassment and abuse of any kind – including antisemitism, Islamophobia and racism – will not be tolerated on our campus or on social media.”

A spokesperson from the University of Leeds told the JC: “We are deeply shocked at reports that a van driver abused and threatened two of our Jewish students. The University is providing welfare support to the students concerned and will assist West Yorkshire Police in their investigation of this hate crime.

“The University has detailed measures in place to safeguard our students and continues to adapt and increase our support for them. Our campus Security team and West Yorkshire Police are increasing visible foot and vehicle patrols of the area, as we continue to strengthen our partnership with the Community Security Trust (CST), as well as West Yorkshire Police, to ensure our community feels safe.”

In a statement, West Yorkshire Police said: “Police are investigating after threats were made to students near Hillel House, on Springfield Mount, Leeds at around 11.30am on Saturday, 10 February.

The threats are being treated as a hate crime.

Neighbourhood Policing Inspector Richard Armstead said: “This kind of hate will not be tolerated and I would like to reassure the local community that we take reports of this nature seriously.

“Enquiries are being carried out to identify the person or persons responsible.”

Police are appealing for anyone who has witnessed any suspicious activity in the area or who has any information about who may be responsible to contact Leeds District CID via Live Chat or by calling 101, quoting crime reference 13240076989.

Information can also be passed anonymously to independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

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