Moments after presiding over a public Chanukah menorah lighting in Vienna’s Stephansplatz Square Saturday night, Chabad-Lubavitch Rabbi Dov Gruzman was evacuated by ambulance when a man appeared out of the crowd and attacked him, biting the rabbi’s finger.
Gruzman, who serves as principal of the Lauder Chabad High School in the Austrian capital, underwent a partial amputation of his finger and is expected to remain in the hospital for two more days.
According to Rabbi Jacob Biderman, chairman of Agudas Chasidei Chabad of Austria, Gruzman had just finished assisting Israeli Ambassador Aviv Shir-On in lighting the city’s central menorah before a crowd of more than 1,000 people when the assailant attacked. After the assault, Gruzman asked that the ceremony continue.
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In light of his wishes, “we did,” said Biderman. “Now, his family is at his bedside. They are very strong.”
News reports identified the suspected attacker, who was taken into custody, as Muslim. An apparent motive has not been announced.
Biderman said that on Monday, students from the high school – which is named after former U.S. ambassador and current World Jewish Congress president Ronald S. Lauder – will visit Gruzman in the hospital. Public menorah lightings in the city will have increased security following the attack, he added.
Biderman asserted that whatever the attacker’s intentions, the local community has rallied around Gruzman and that events during the rest of Chanukah will have increased attendance “as a sign of solidarity.”
“When we’re being challenged,” said Biderman, drawing on the story of Chanukah, “the proper response is to increase the light in the world.”