By Dave Carlin

NEW YORK (CBS 2) — A local teacher has been hospitalized after a brutal beating, and his three attackers may have targeted him simply because of his religion.

Joel Weinberger, a 26-year-old father of four, has swollen eyes, a broken leg and his jaw has been wired shut. His difficulty talking about what happened to him was both physical and emotional.

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Family spokesman Isaac Abraham filled in the details, saying the attack happened on Thanksgiving at about 7:30 p.m.

Weinberger left his workplace, a Yeshiva on Harrison Avenue, and rounded the corner onto a desolate street one block from his home. There, he was confronted by three men.

“They were offered his wallet, and they were not even interested,” Abraham said. “They were there for one reason only – it’s to hurt him because of his religion.

“All his religious articles – his hat, his jacket, his fringes – were ripped apart. He was basically undressed on the scene,” Abraham said.

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The nearest security camera to the attack, belonging to a car rental business, was too far and at an angle which prevented it from catching the crime on tape. However, the video may provide a glimpse of the three suspects before or after the attack.

The suspects took Weinberger’s cell phone, and CBS 2 has learned that detectives are checking cell phone records. In the meantime, they will wait for Weinberger to be alert enough to give them a detailed statement.

“He is a very good person,” Weinberger’s coworker, Joel Weiss, said.

“Life is not safe,” one woman said. “We thought it’s a safe place, but we have to put more eyes, more lighting.”

“It’ll happen again if they are not taken off the streets quick,” Abraham said.

The search for suspects is complicated because Weinberger did not get a good look at his three attackers, telling friends and family it was too dark and he was jumped from behind.

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For now, the case is being classified by policy as an assault and a robbery. That could change to a bias attack, after investigators get a chance to speak at length with Weinberger.

Dave Carlin