An aerial view of Auckland Harbour and the Sky Tower and the Harbour Bridge on October 7, 2011 in Auckland, New Zealand.(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

A New Zealand preschooler was assaulted last week in a suspected anti-Semitic incident, the New Zealand Herald reports.

The four-year-old boy, who was wearing a yarmulke, was walking home with his mother in the Auckland suburb of Mt. Eden when a man approached the child and struck him on the head. He is said to have laughed as he left the scene in a car with four other men.

The boy’s mother notified Auckland police, and an investigation is ongoing. According to a spokeswoman for the department, “[p]olice are optimistic that the people involved with this incident will be identified.” The attack has not yet been classified as a hate crime.

But Stephen Goodman, president of the New Zealand Jewish Council, has referred to the incident as “an apparent racial assault.”

“A small Jewish community has lived here, well integrated, contributing to the wider society, and in exceptional peace since the earliest days of New Zealand’s settlement,” Goodman said. “It’s really very worrying that it seems to have elevated things one level higher. This behavior is so totally unacceptable and intolerable in New Zealand.”

In the wake of the incident, Dame Susan Devoy, New Zealand’s Race Relations Commissioner, was quick to condemn hate crimes against children.

“Cowards and thugs taking part in hate attacks on Kiwi kids need to know their behavior has no place in New Zealand,” Devoy said in a statement. “This weekend Jewish New Zealanders went public after an attack on a preschooler. Recently Muslim Kiwis also appealed for calm after women and children reported attacks walking home from school. When our Kiwi kids are scared to wear a yarmulke or a head scarf because some adult may abuse and attack them, we have failed.”

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