A day after the attack on Argentina’s Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Gabriel Davidovich, questions are arising regarding the motive of the attackers. Sources among the local Jewish community say that the chances that the attack was motivated by anti-Semitism are very low.
“I have no idea who was behind the attack on me,” the rabbi said. “I only know that it was a brutal attack and I don’t negate that it could have been motivated by anti-Semitism.” He added that the attackers knew their way around his home very well.
The rabbi expressed gratitude for the warm embrace by jews around the world and said that he received phone calls from the President of Israel Reuven Rivlin, chief Rabbi David Lau and Jewish Agency Director Isaac Herzog.
Police: It was criminally motivated
The rabbi’s son Aryeh Leib told Ynet that his father is doing well but has pain. The family has a jewelry business and “we believe the attackers sought to steal. They told him that he is the chief rabbi and that he must have money. But the community believes that they were anti-Semites because they hit the rabbi and only asked his wife for money,” he said.
Argentinean police officials believe that the motive was criminal and that the attack was premeditated with surveillance on his home. The robbers knew exactly which window to use to enter the home.
Two years ago, the community’s Sephardic rabbi was attacked in a similar incident. But it turned out that the motive was a family feud and the attackers were family members.
Argentinean President Mauricio Macri tweeted: “We repudiate the attack suffered by the great rabbi Gabriel Davidovich in his house. We accompany him in his recovery and he has our support so that the investigation finds those responsible.”
President Rivlin spoke with Rabbi Davidovich and expressed concern for the community: “The State of Israel will do everything it can to protect every Jew, wherever he chooses to live.”
Jewish Agency Director Isaac Herzog spoke with the rabbi and said that the motive does seem to have been anti-Semitic. He added that the agency will assist the community going forward including funding for security. A security officer already visited the rabbi’s home to assess what that would entail.
The Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Saka told Ynet that we should not rush to conclusions and declare that the attack was motivated by Jew hatred saying that it didn’t fit the current atmosphere towards Jews in Buenos Aires.
Members of the community also told about internal fighting over control in the community that have become violent and of the rabbi’s involvement. “I fear that the rabbi, as anyone else of stature, has to make all sorts of decisions and sometimes some people are not happy with them and there are angry, crazy or violent people… The rabbi deals with marriages and divorce,” the source said.
“It is also not clear whether the attackers told the rabbi that he ‘is the rabbi of the Jews,’ perhaps they said that he is the rabbi of AMIA (the local Jewish federation),” he added.
Community in shock
Rabbi Saka stressed that Argentina does not suffer from much anti-Semitism. If it was related, “it would be very unusual,” he said. “It is not like Europe here.” He added that we must be cautious before coming to conclusions.
One member of the community said that the incident reminded many in the community of the 1994 bombing of the local Jewish community center in which 85 people were killed and the murder of Jewish federal prosecutor in 2015. The community says they have enjoyed years of relative quiet since the 1994 attack.
Hopiefully Jews weren’t involved
Some have pointed out that the attackers would have to be quite bold to enter into the heart of the Jewish community and that they seemed to know the rabbi’s house well, which raises questions about their identity. “Although nobody wants to admit it, there are tensions within the community between senior members… While everyone is praying for the welfare of the rabbi, many are praying that it does not turn out that Jews were involved in the attack,” they said.
Nevertheless, many are still insisting that details of the attack do seem to indicate that the attack was anti-Semitic. Leon Amiras, director of the Federation of Latin American Jews in Israel, said: “We all hope that the significant problems in the country do not cause a wave of anti-Semitism against the largest Jewish community in Latin America.”
It seems that seven individuals were involved in the attack. When the rabbi went to investigate suspicious sounds in his home he was attacked and beaten until he lost consciousness. His wife was tied to a chair and she fainted. The rabbi says that he can’t recall much except that he could hardly breathe.