Washington Rabbi Assaulted by Lyft Driver Who Complained About His ‘Energy

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Screenshot shows the Lyft driver assaulting Rabbi Menachem Shemtov.

A Washington, D.C. rabbi was thrown out of a Lyft vehicle and assaulted by a driver who said he didn’t like his “energy.”

Rabbi Menachem Shemtov had ordered the Lyft to his Georgetown home after Shacharis Sunday morning at the shul of his father, Rabbi Levi Shemtov, in the Kalorama neighborhood.

Rabbi Menachem is director of Chabad Georgetown and chaplain at the Pentagon; Rabbi Levi is a famous Chabad shliach in Washington, and a ubiquitous presence at events at the White House and on Capitol Hill.

Menachem told Hamodia that as soon as he got into the car, he asked the driver, “Can you please lower the music?”

“He said something about me ordering a quiet Lyft next time, and I said, ‘ok,’” Rabbi Menachem says.

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But less than a minute later, the driver told him to get out of the car.

“I asked what I did, and he said, ‘The energy of people like you is throwing me off, I didn’t like it from the moment you got into the car. I’m not feeling comfortable with your energy. Get out of the car.’”

Menachem exited the car, but the driver was not satisfied.

He yelled “Why’d you slam my door?” several times, and then he walked up to Menachem.

“I told him to get away from me. He punched me in the face and knocked my yarmulke knocked off. I told him to get away and ran to his car to take a picture of his license plate. He attempted to slam the door into me, and hit me with hands and keys. He hit me ear my eye; I’m lucky it wasn’t an inch higher.”

As he was beating Menachem, the driver also called him “weird.”

Video from the scene taken by a bystander shows Menachem yelling, “What is wrong with you?” and the driver slapping him. Another video, taken by Menachem, shows Menachem saying, “Don’t touch me! Touch me and you’ll get arrested,” and the driver punching him.

Menachem sustained cuts and bruises to his face and head, and suffered from dizziness.

He told Hamodia on Monday, “I’m feeling better, though it still hurts. I am lucky I wasn’t hit in places more severe. Baruch Hashem I walked away without anything too serious.”

Metropolitan Police say this is not a suspected hate crime, but Menachem says he has no doubt that when his assailant said doesn’t like “the energy of people like you,” he was “referring to my Jewish identity.”

The driver fled the scene before police arrived.

Menachem says that while the vehicle and its license plate matched that listed in the Lyft description — a red Toyota sedan with Maryland plate 3FR1602 — his driver was not the same one as that in the Lyft photo, and “Lyft has been totally unhelpful and unresponsive so far in helping the police to track down the driver.”

Late Monday morning, Lyft said in a statement to Hamodia, “Lyft unequivocally condemns this behavior. Upon learning of this incident, we deactivated the driver and we’ve been in touch with the rider. We encourage riders and drivers to report harassment, discrimination, or safety concerns in the Lyft app.” Lyft also says it stands ready to assist law enforcement with any investigation.

Photos and videos courtesy of Rabbi Menachem Shemtov

Source: Hamodia

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