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Orthodox Jewish Man Beaten With Belt On Brooklyn Street

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Police are looking for two suspects who they say attacked an Orthodox Jewish man in front of a synagogue in Brooklyn.

It's the third attack on Orthodox men in Brooklyn in less than a week, according to police.

It happened in Midwood on Saturday night just as Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath, was coming to an end, CBS2's Marc Liverman reported.

Police said the 45-year-old victim was walking home when he saw two men drinking in front of a synagogue near Avenue J and East 15th Street. They said there was some type of verbal dispute.

That's when one of the men pushed the victim to the ground, took off his belt and started hitting the man in the face with it over and over again.

The victim was treated by EMS for cuts to his face and head.

Police said it's too early to tell if this was a hate crime, but former New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind tweeted, "A young Jewish man was called a f***ing Jew and then belted over the head with a metal belt buckle!"

"To do this in front of a Jewish school is kind of a barbaric," Midwood resident Jim Donovan told CBS2's Dave Carlin.

Authorities are investigating two other possible hate crimes that happened earlier this week. According to the NYPD, someone hit a rabbi in the face with a heavy paving stone Tuesday morning in Crown Heights, breaking his nose and knocking out two teeth.

On Thursday, police say suspects threw something -- possibly ice -- at an Orthodox Jewish man while he was sitting in traffic. The victim suffered an eye injury. That incident also happened in Crown Heights.

Residents are now pushing for a greater police presence in the area, including more uniformed officers on patrol.

"Having officers in the streets is preventive. It's important to have visibility to prevent such incidents," City Councilman Chaim Deutsch told Carlin.

Deutsch said the new Office of Hate Crimes Prevention, which he helped create, is opening this week, ahead of schedule. He said it will focus on outreach to foster better understanding between different groups and neighborhoods.

"We will tackle this head-on as New Yorkers," Deutsch said. "Through educators within the Hate Crimes Unit and also victims who will come out and tell their stories."

Police said there have been nearly 150 anti-Semitic hate crime complaints in the city so far this year. That's nearly double the number they saw at this time last year. Deutsch said the state needs to come up with stricter hate crime laws with tougher penalties to help hit back at hate.

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