Jewish students threatened with a knife on a bus in Melbourne, Australia

The man, a self-proclaimed "Nazi", followed the students off the bus and continued to shout antisemitic obscenities at them.

 Illustrative image of a Melbourne bus. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Illustrative image of a Melbourne bus.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Jewish Students from the Leibler Yavneh College in Australia were traveling on a public bus when they were abused with antisemitic obscenities by a knife-wielding man on Thursday, according to a press release from the Anti-Defamation Commission (ADC).

A student in Grade 9, aged 14-15 years old, recounted how they and 10 of their friends were accosted by the man. 

“Me and about 10 other Leibler Yavneh College students, some of which were primary school kids were getting on the 604 bus on the corner of Clarence St. and Brentani outside our school at around 4:20, this Thursday,” the student explained. “But when we sat down, the only other passenger was sitting at the very back of the bus mumbling to himself.

“We noticed that he was mentioning Jews, money, and drugs, and we were ignoring him. However, he was getting louder and louder, to the point of shouting 'Nazi' and my friends heard him call himself a Nazi." 

In describing the self-proclaimed “Nazi”, the student said, “He was speaking in a very heavy Eastern European accent.” 

 The Nazi swastika drawn onto a soccer field in Australia (credit: ANTI-DEFAMATION COMMISSION)
The Nazi swastika drawn onto a soccer field in Australia (credit: ANTI-DEFAMATION COMMISSION)

“Then out of his bag, he pulled a massive, serrated knife approximately 6 inches in length.”

Removing themselves from the situation didn't help

Aware of the danger, the students immediately alerted the bus driver of the situation but their ordeal didn’t end there. 

“One of the boys on the bus told everyone to run and get off, and we were and yelling at the bus driver ‘open the door, he has a knife.’ The driver let us out, before the bus stop, but the man followed us off the bus.

“We were running so we were ahead of him, but he got a soccer ball out of his bag and threw it at us. He then walked down a side street away from us.

“We got back on the same bus at the Glen Huntly bus stop, at around 4:25-4:30. Thankfully no one was hurt, just very shaken up.”

Anti-Defamation Commission's comments on the incident

Dr. Dvir Abramovich, Chairman of the ADC, spoke with one of the students, who was described as being deeply traumatized.

“I am shocked to the core," he said. "This is a hate crime, pure and simple, and this savage and violent incident could have ended in serious injury or worse. No wonder the community is on edge, and it may be an uncomfortable truth for some, but the reality is that the rising wave of attacks against Jews here is becoming commonplace and taking a firm foothold in our life.

“This is not an isolated incident but part of an alarming pattern and is another undeniable reminder that antisemitism in our city is alive and well. We cannot accept this kind of racist-fuelled threats and abuse as the new normal. 

“Every Jewish student has a right to feel safe on public transport without being targeted in such a chilling way. This terrifying episode provides further evidence that bigots are less inhibited about expressing their ugly sentiments in public and that we must all redouble our efforts to stamp out this dangerous phenomenon. This is a palpable crisis that is spreading like wildfire that is only getting worse with the number of reported incidents on a scale I have not witnessed before.

“I am sure that Victoria Police will dedicate its resources to find the assailant and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law.”

Antisemitism in Australia: a growing problem?

Between October 1, 2020 and September 30, 2021, there were 447 antisemitic incidents logged across Australia by volunteer Community Security Groups, official Jewish state roof bodies, and the Executive Council of American Jewry.

From 2020 to 2021, there were substantial increases in the number of reported incidents in four categories: Abuse and harassment (up 14% from 128 in 2020 to 147 in 2021), graffiti (up 152% from 42 to 106), stickers/posters (up 157% from 28 to 72), and a smaller increase in vandalism (up 10% from 10 to 11).

Zvika Klein contributed to this report.