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Five Teens Charged in Assault of Connecticut Rabbi

After surviving a violent attack by two teens in front of downtown’s Chabad House, a New Haven rabbi offered thanks to the almighty — and to fast-responding cops who tracked down and caught the offenders.

“I will be OK. It happened. I’m traumatized. I’ll rally. I have a great support system,” the rabbi, Yehoshua “Shua” Rosenstein, told the Independent Wednesday.

Rosenstein was talking on the phone outside the Chabad House at Yale on Lynwood Place Tuesday at 7:01 p.m. when two teens approached him, he recalled.

“Give us everything you have, you fucking Jew!” one commanded.

“Guys, you don’t have to do this. I can just walk away,” Rosensetin recalled responding.

Instead, they jumped him. They knocked him to the ground and commenced punching and kicking him.

“Help!” the rabbi screamed.

Neighbors heard. They came running out.

One of the teens reached into the rabbi’s pocket and retrieved his keys. They jumped into his Audi and sped off.

Battered, Rosenstein called 911.

“Within a minute,” while he was still on the phone, four officers arrived. And they got to work helping him.

One of the officers called Audi, reported the vehicle number. They then stayed by his side as police tracked the car speeding 120 miles an hour up Dixwell Avenue toward Hamden.

The teens drove around the area, sometimes eluding the tracking.

Patrol Officer Robert Ferraro then spotted the car and tried to stop it on Long Wharf Drive, according to a release from police spokesman Capt. Anthony Duff. The driver “refused to stop” and led officers on a pursuit onto I-95 North.

East Haven cops joined the pursuit, which “ended when the stolen vehicle was disabled in a motor vehicle collision in the area of Frontage Road in East Haven,” according to the release.

By that time the car contained five teenaged males. A fire and an ambulance crew arrived to evaluate the teens, who were not injured, according to Duff.

Police recovered a handgun from the car and ammunition from one of the teens’ pockets. The group of teens included a 15 year-old, three 16 year-olds, and a 17-year-old. They were charged with first-degree robbery and weapons, larceny and conspiracy offenses.

“The East Haven officers risked their own safety and we appreciate the great assistance they provided,” New Haven Assistant Police Chief Karl Jacobson stated.

The main assailants were two of the 16-year-olds, according to the police. They face additional hate crime, assault, and conspiracy charges.

Investigators are looking into whether any of the teens are tied to two armed robberies in East Rock, one on Foster Street on March 26, the next around 9 p.m. near East Rock Park.

The arrested teens spent Tuesday night in juvenile detention. It turns out the 17 year-old has had two previous stolen-auto arrests over the past nine months; one of the 16 year-olds has had three other such arrests over the past five months; and the 15-year-old, three such arrests in six months.

Rabbi Rosenstein, meanwhile, called his doctor, who advised not going to the hospital under the present circumstances. He advised that Rosenstein stay awake until midnight, then set an alarm to wake up at 2 a.m. to ensure he was coherent. Rosenstein followed the directions and, he said, is on the mend.

He heard from both the mayor and the police chief within an hour of the attack, he said, calls he much appreciated.

As the driving force behind the establishment and growth of Yale’s Chabad House, Rosenstein is a much-loved figure among students, neighbors, and alumni. He moved here in 2002 to build up the campus Chabad organization, which is known for reaching out to religious and non-religious Jews alike. He raised the money to renovate and open the Chabad House on Lynwood Place in 2013, which hosts popular, spirited Friday evening prayer services and communal dinners. He and his wife Sara have five young children.

Rosenstein wasn’t seeking pity Wednesday. He did express gratitude.

“I’m grateful to God for sparing my life,” he said. “I’m grateful to God for [my] being alive and waking up this morning to spend time with my wife and kids and community. This could have been a disaster.”