LAKEWOOD, N.J. (CBS) ―
A New Jersey rabbi on his way to synagogue was brutally beaten with a baseball bat just steps from his home and left a bloody mess on the ground, police say, and many believe he was targeted because of his religion.
Gauze and rubber gloves still litter the ground where 53-year-old Lakewood rabbi Mordechai Moskowitz was savagely attacked with an aluminum bat. His face and head were so badly damaged that the paramedic who responded was his own nephew and didn't even recognize him.
"You wouldn't recognize him. It doesn't look like him, like anything like he used to look," said another one of Moskowitz's nephews, Moshe Rotberg.
Rotberg spent all night at the hospital with his uncle, who had to be placed into a medicated coma because of his condition.
"This was totally instigated by somebody's either sickness or hate," said Rotberg.
Moskowitz was attacked under the darkness of night in the middle of Princeton Avenue near 12th Street in Lakewood. While he was being attacked, residents tell CBS 2 they heard his attacker yelling at him.
"He started screaming, 'Jew! Jew! Jew!' Every time he hit him with the bat he banged and screamed 'Jew' again," said a neighbor, who asked to remain anonymous.
Lakewood police say they have no evidence that the attack was a hate or bias crime, but were able to find the baseball bat used and have a description of the attacker.
The suspect is being described as a black male, 30- to 40-years-old, clean shaven, wearing a dark plaid shirt and dark baggy pants. He is described as being approx. 5-foot-10 to 6-feet tall. He was last seen running south on Princeton Avenue.
Meanwhile, the principal at Lakewood Cheder School where Moskowitz teaches third grade says the children there are anxious for their favorite teacher to come back.
"They know that he was wounded, that he was in the hospital. I think most of them knew he was beaten. We're just hoping and praying for him that he should recover quickly," said Lakewood Cheder School Rabbi Yehuda Pirutinsky.
Moskowitz remains in critical condition at the Jersey Shore University Medical Center.
And more, which contradicts the story above:
Six people saw the attack on Mordechai Moskowitz, 53, of Lakewood, just before 8 p.m. Tuesday, at Princeton Avenue and Carey Street, police said. Neighbors said he was heading to a synagogue on Squankum Road, said Detective Lt. Joseph Isnardi.
Witnesses told police they did not see or hear any apparent reason for the attack, Isnardi said. There was no evidence to classify the assault as a bias crime, police said Wednesday, and nothing was stolen from Moskowitz.
The victim's nephew, Moshe Rothberg, said he did not believe his uncle was targeted because of his religion. However, he said he was eager to see what police uncover.
Isnardi said Moskowitz is conscious and able to speak.
Rothberg, of Lakewood, said his family was comforted by more than three dozen people who came to Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune, where Moskowitz was taken Tuesday night.