Celebrity Stylist Denies Hate Crime: My Grandma Died in Auschwitz

Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Chelsea Hotel/Handout
Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Chelsea Hotel/Handout

A celebrity stylist accused of an antisemitic attack on a rabbi in front of Manhattan’s historic Chelsea Hotel admits he swung a bag at him after an argument, but denied he used a slur.

“I’m Jewish. I love Jewish. I love Jews,” 52-year-old Aleksander Janik told The Daily Beast after Rabbi Chezky Wolff’s allegations were splashed in the New York Post.

Janik—who was interviewed Wednesday after being exclusively identified by The Daily Beast—called the claim “disrespectful” and “absolutely appalling,” adding, “My grandmother was in Auschwitz.”

The confrontation between Janik and Wolff, part of which was witnessed by a Daily Beast journalist, unfolded Tuesday evening outside the Chelsea Shul on West 23rd St.

By Wolff’s account, Janik’s dog Hudson ran toward the open doors of the synagogue and he asked the owner to put the animal on a leash. He claims that after Janik muttered “dirty Jews,” he started recording him on his phone.

Video shows the rabbi holding his iPhone out and following Janik 10 yards down the street to the iconic hotel—which has been home to writers, artists, and stars from Dylan Thomas to Bob Dylan, and was where Sid Vicious allegedly killed Nancy Spungen in 1978.

The stylist, casually dressed in an untucked white shirt, bright blue chinos, and loafers with no socks, suddenly whipped around and smacked the rabbi in the head with his tote bag, knocking off his glasses and yarmulke.

Janik—a Polish immigrant who has photographs of himself mugging with a staggering array of celebrities on his Instagram account, along with a scattering of pro-Ukraine and pro-Palestine posts—tells a different story.

Interviewed at his home three blocks away from the incident, he said the contretemps started when his golden retriever mix sought refuge from the heat in the shade outside the century-old Chabad shul—officially known as Congregation Emunath Israel.

The rabbi, he claimed, reacted violently.

“He opened the door and he starts screaming, ‘Take this dog…’ And I said, ‘I'm sorry, but he just wanted a bit of rest,’” Janik said.

“He said where are you from? I said, ‘I am from Poland.’ He said, ‘Polack! Take this shit dog’ and [he] started kicking. And then he just bothers me with the phone, chasing me.”

“He’s following me, like, for no reason. I [said] ‘Excuse me, sir. Do you mind?’ And I take my bag—” Janik said, moving his arm like he was swinging something. “‘Could you please stop harassing me?’”

The rabbi, who was once sued by his own congregation members, declined to be interviewed— but his lawyer, Cary London, told The Daily Beast on Wednesday that Wolff did not strike the dog or use the derogatory term Polack in the confrontation.

“The rabbi adamantly denies kicking the dog. There was no dog kicking,” London said, calling Janik’s account “a phony story.”

He said Wolff suggested to Janik, “You might want to put the dog on a leash” and only began recording him after the “dirty Jews” comment.

“Antisemitism hides behind closed doors,” London said, explaining why the rabbi wanted to document the scene. “The rabbi is the nicest guy in the world.”

Police responded to the scene but no arrest was made; the NYPD said it could not confirm any details. London said the rabbi has filed a complaint and will be meeting with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office about it next week.

Nevertheless, he said, Wolff is not trying to hype up the matter. “He doesn’t want this to blow up,” the lawyer said.

Janik said he was shocked to see the incident in the newspaper the next day.

“Because this is not who I am. I'm a very good citizen. I have [an] excellent background and people love me and I've never had a problem,” he said. “I am not against Jewish [people], that is very inappropriate and he was just against my dog.”

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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