A West Hempstead rabbi is in intensive care after being struck by a hit-and-run driver as he attempted to cross the street in front of his synagogue, officials said Tuesday.
The rabbi, Jordan Kelemer, 70, was hit by a pickup truck and thrown about 35 feet as he attempted to walk across Hempstead Avenue, Nassau police said.
Since the accident, congregants have been holding prayer services, hoping for the Orthodox rabbi’s speedy recovery.
“He’s very warm, endearing guy who cared about each and every individual. He always has this spark and sense of humor,” said Harold Lipsky, president of Young Israel of West Hempstead, where Kelemer serves as head rabbi. “Nobody has one bad word to say about him.”
Kelemer was crossing mid-block about 7:30 p.m. when he was hit by the southbound pickup. The driver sped off, leaving the seriously injured rabbi on the pavement, police said.
Detectives were searching for the driver Tuesday night. Surveillance video from outside the synagogue captured the accident, but the pickup’s license plate is not visible, police said.
Investigators determined the rabbi was not in a crosswalk when he was struck in the 600 block of Hempstead Avenue. Det. Lt. Richard LeBrun, speaking outside the synagogue Tuesday, said detectives have not yet determined whether the driver was speeding or ran a red light.
“I think with that kind of impact, you would know you hit someone,” LeBrun said.
Kelemer was in stable condition Tuesday night in the intensive-care unit at Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola, police said. He was being treated for severe head trauma and a fractured hip.
LeBrun described the vehicle as a 2004 or 2005 white Dodge Ram pickup with a metal toolbox running the width of the truck. The truck sustained damage to its driver’s side front end, including the fender and headlight, police said.
Kelemer, who has been at the synagogue for the past 30 years, routinely holds late-night meetings with community members, officials said. The father of 13 recently became a great-grandfather for the first time.
“If that person [the driver] had any sense of humanity and common decency and a soul, he should turn himself into the police,” said Rabbi David Warshaw, executive director of the synagogue. “The rabbi hasn’t even hurt an ant in his life. This doesn’t make sense.”
Word of the accident quickly spread through the community, with temple members holding prayer sessions late Monday night and Tuesday morning, synagogue officials said.
“There is nothing else anyone can do,” Warsaw said. “If this person can just turn himself in and do the right thing.”
Anyone with more information can call Crime Stoppers at 800-244-8477. All information will be kept confidential.
With Nicole Fuller