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Roslindale man charged in two antisemitic acts in Newton

Alexei Rodriguez is arraigned in Newton District Court Friday morning in connection with two anitsemitic incidents.Ava Berger for the Boston Globe

NEWTON — A Roslindale man allegedly drove an SUV with a Palestinian flag toward two Jewish teenagers wearing yarmulkes on a Newton street in April, and also allegedly tore down blue ribbons honoring Israeli hostages placed on trees near a major Jewish community center earlier this week, prosecutors said Friday.

Alexei Rodriguez, 49, a teacher at a Cambridge school, was arraigned in Newton District Court on Friday on multiple charges stemming from the April 30 incident and the acts of vandalism that authorities said took place near the Jewish Community Center of Greater Boston on Tuesday.

Not guilty pleas were entered on behalf of Rodriguez, who later posted $500 cash bail ordered by Judge Jennifer D. Queally. He was also ordered to wear a GPS locating device.


During the arraignment, the judge abruptly stopped the proceedings and questioned Rodriguez directly after he appeared to be smiling as the prosecutor outlined his alleged actions.

“I’m just going to ask Mr. Rodriguez: Is there something funny about this proceeding?,” the judge asked, noting that “he has been smiling through most of the recitation of the facts of this case.”

Rodriquez replied: “It’s a nervous tick. I apologize.”

According to Middlesex Assistant District Attorney Sheba Treworgy, Rodriguez was driving a white SUV with a Palestinian flag flying out of the window when he spotted two juveniles walking together, both of whom were wearing yarmulkes, on Alderwood Road on April 30. That was also the last day of Passover, a major Jewish religious and cultural holiday.

One of the juveniles later told police that a white SUV started speeding down the street. “They noticed that the car had a Palestinian flag sticking out of the window and it started speeding down and it swerved in their direction. Thankfully, it did not hit them,” Treworgy said. “They were very scared.”


Police said in a report that Rodriguez put his car in reverse and drove toward the boys, who were sheltered by a neighbor who witnessed the incident. The victims were both 14 years old, police wrote.

One of the boys told their parents, who contacted police, Treworgy said. Rodriguez was not identified as the driver at the time, but is now facing charges of assault for purpose of intimidation, assault with a dangerous weapon, and violation of constitutional rights for the April 30 incident.

He was identified as the alleged driver after police responded this week to the Jewish Community Center of Greater Boston, where he was allegedly seen tearing blue ribbons off trees near the grounds of the center, Treworgy said. The blue ribbons are a reminder of the Israeli hostages seized by Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7.

While law enforcement reported the ribbons were on trees on the grounds of the JCC, a spokesperson told the Globe Friday that ribbons were on trees on city-owned property near the community center.

Nobody came onto the JCC’s campus, the spokesperson said. The spokesperson said the JCC did report the incident to police because the report of vandalism near the center raised a “red flag.”

The blue ribbons were put up by a separate organization, not the JCC, the spokesperson said.

When questioned by police, Rodriguez allegedly started sharing his views on the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, the prosecutor said. She did not disclose what he said to police.


In a Newton police report filed in court, Rodriguez was quoted as telling police that his actions were not antisemitic because he is Jewish. In court, Rodriguez’s court-appointed attorney described him as an observant Jew.

“Mr. Rodriguez stated that tearing down the ribbons wasn’t antisemitic as he himself was Jewish. Mr. Rodriguez then began to expound on his critical views of Zionism and the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine, adding the JCC and other Jewish organizations were spreading ‘propaganda,’ and that Zionists were ‘basically Nazis’ who he wanted to punch in the face,” police wrote.

Rodriguez was not arrested then, but after police linked him to both events, he was arrested Thursday night by police.

During his arraignment, his court-appointed defense attorney, David M. Jellinek, said Rodriguez is a teacher at the Prospect Hill Academy Charter School in Cambridge. According to the school’s website, he is an English as a Second Language teacher for middle and high school students.

In a statement Friday, the school said it is “aware of the very concerning charges” brought against Rodriguez and that he had been placed on administrative leave. “The alleged conduct is repugnant and contrary to the values of our school,” the statement said.

When prosecutors asked that he be barred from going near any synagogue, Jellinek said that would impair his constitutional right to practice his faith.

“The gentleman’s Jewish and you’re getting into some areas of religious freedom if you are barring him from attending synagogue,” Jellinek said.


The disclosure seemed to surprise the judge.

“Does he practice his faith?” she asked.

“He is observant,” the attorney replied.

Rodriguez is currently receiving treatment for a mental health issue, Jellinek said.

Rodriguez told reporters outside of the courthouse that he had been advised not to comment.

But when asked about the charges involving antisemitism, Rodriguez said they were “ridiculous.”

”The charges are ridiculous in that sense that antisemitism and anti-Zionism are not the same,” he said. “I’m not going to sit here and break it down for you, but Zionism is in and of itself antisemitic.”

The charges of “intimidation” against two juveniles wearing yarmulkes were “extremely exaggerated from reality,” Rodriguez said, shaking his head. Rodriguez had no comment on his role as a teacher or his family.

In a statement on Rodriguez’s arrest, Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller said she and the Newton Police Department “take hate incidents and crimes very seriously.”

“I am so proud of the careful and persistent work of the Newton Police Officers which led to identifying and arresting the suspect in these disturbing and hateful actions,” Fuller said in the statement. ”Hate has no place in Newton.”

Newton police confirmed Rodriguez’s Facebook account and noted that in a posting on April 23 he called for the destruction of both Israel and the US.

On the confirmed Facebook page, Rodriguez linked to a Wikipedia page that appeared to have been written by him. The entry provided a biographical sketch about his career as a professional drummer that began in 1989 and continued into 2017 when he joined a Boston-based heavy metal band called Cortez.


That band went on hiatus in 2020 during the COVID pandemic and Rodriguez wrote that he shifted to a career in public education. On Friday, the band said in posts on its website and Facebook page that Rodriguez would no longer be part of their group.

Nick Stoico of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

Ava Berger can be reached at ava.berger@globe.com. Follow her @Ava_Berger_. John R. Ellement can be reached at john.ellement@globe.com. Follow him @JREbosglobe.