A Dearborn man has been charged with two counts of ethnic intimidation in what officials said was an antisemitic attack at a historic Synagogue and preschool for Jewish students in Bloomfield Township.
Hassan Yehia Chokr, 35, was arrested by police after antisemitic and racist threats were made Friday against children, adults and security personnel outside Temple Beth El, Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald said. He made remarks that were both anti-Jewish and anti-Black, said the temple’s leader.
“Antisemitic and racist threats or ethnic intimidation of any kind, will not be tolerated in our community, and every such incident will be investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald said Sunday in a statement.
Chokr was taken into custody by Dearborn police, according to a news release from the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office; a Bloomfield Township officer said that happened Saturday morning.
In a news release Sunday, Bloomfield Township police said the department “continues to work in conjunction with local, state, and federal partners and the investigation is ongoing.”
Chokr was driving in a white van screaming expletives and derogatory remarks against Jewish people, according to the group StopAntisemitism, based in New York City. The group that combats antisemitism had posted a tweet and photo of the incident that was retweeted hundreds of times. On Sunday, the group said the suspect had visited another synagogue and noted he was making violent threats on his Instagram page.
The temple that was targeted is the oldest Jewish congregation in Michigan, founded in the 19th century in Detroit, historians said.
A review of what Jewish leaders said was the suspect’s Instagram account shows that he has made violent and explicit remarks about committing sexual assaults and attacks against Jewish people. In an Instagram post with an antisemitic title, a man also mocks concerns about Jewish children being targeted and referenced the tweet by StopAntisemitism about the Friday incident. The man refers to himself as “freedomfighterhassan” in his Instagram name.
Some Jewish advocates have raised concerns that Bloomfield Township police officers who responded to the incident Friday did not take him into custody and seemed to act in a friendly demeanor toward Chokr.
Adar Rubin, a Jewish community advocate in metro Detroit, posted a video on Twitter that showed an officer telling Chokr: “Do us a favor and don’t go back.” Chokr then said: “I won’t. … God bless you boys. … Get the real bad guys.”
Asked about the behavior of the officers at the scene shown on the video, Lt. Jason Murphy of the Bloomfield Township police told the Free Press: “There are some concerns about that.”
Murphy also provided a news release from Bloomfield Township police that sought to explain the officers’ actions.
The incident is the latest case of antisemitism in Oakland County. In October, police arrested an Oxford Township teen after he made antisemitic threats. And last month, someone made antisemitic threats over the phone to the Jewish Community Center of metro Detroit in West Bloomfield, reported WDIV Local 4.
Liora Rez, executive director of StopAntisemitism, said Sunday: “This is the exact type of concern the Jewish community has been on guard about since Kanye and others began spewing their vitriol. A deranged antisemite who has an obsession with Jews and Israel had the audacity to harass Jewish families taking their babies to day care about a political situation happening halfway around the world.”
The group also thanked police in metro Detroit “for arresting Hassan Chokr and giving this situation the serious attention it deserves.”