A prominent Orthodox rabbi was physically and verbally assaulted by a Lyft driver in Washington, D.C., on Sunday, Jan. 28. After the incident, the driver fled the scene.
Rabbi Menachem Shemtov, director of Chabad Georgetown and rabbi at the Pentagon, ordered a ride through the Lyft app on Sunday morning. Shortly after Shemtov entered the car, the driver told Shemtov that he didn’t like his “energy” and demanded that he exit the vehicle. After Shemtov got out of the car, the driver also got out and “struck V-1 [Shemtov] about the face multiple times with his hands,” according to the Metropolitan Police Department’s Public Incident Report.
“Maybe like 30 seconds after I get in the car, he tells me that he doesn’t like my energy and he wants me to exit the vehicle … I asked him ‘I didn’t say anything, I didn’t do anything, why are you telling me to exit the vehicle?’ … and he was like ‘from the moment you got into the car, I didn’t like your energy,’ … he was just saying ridiculous stuff as an excuse or reason to get me out of the vehicle,” Shemtov told the Washington Jewish Week.
Shemtov said the driver chased him up the street, began swearing at him and then hit Shemtov across the face, knocking his yarmulke off. After Shemtov walked back to the car to try and keep the driver from leaving the scene until the police arrived, Shemtov said the driver hit him in the face “multiple times again.”
It was “nothing I said, nothing I did – he was just kind of offended by my ‘energy’ … I’m not really sure what energy he’d be referring to,” Shemtov said.
As a result of the assault, Shemtov sustained multiple cuts on his face. “He slashed me with his keys about an inch below my eyeball,” Shemtov said.
The incident was witnessed by several passerby and captured on video by at least one of the witnesses.
“Lyft unequivocally condemns this behavior. Upon learning of this incident, we deactivated the driver and we’ve been in touch with the rider,” a Lyft spokesperson said in a written statement sent to the Washington Jewish Week. “We encourage riders and drivers to report harassment, discrimination, or safety concerns in the Lyft app.”
The company also stated that it stands ready to assist law enforcement with any investigation.
In addition, the company noted that its “community guidelines and terms of service prohibit harassment or discrimination on the basis of religion, national origin, race, gender, gender identity or expression, physical or mental disability, medical condition, marital status, age or sexual orientation.”