Rabbi Rafi Goodwin was driving away from his place of worship in Chigwell around 1.15pm when two young men stepped out in front of his car and began shouting anti-Jewish abuse at him.
When the religious leader got out of his car to confront them, the pair first damaged the vehicle before hitting and injuring Rabbi Goodwin with an unknown object. The rabbi later had to be taken to hospital for treatment.
Essex Police said the suspects, who are believed to be aged between 15 and 18, also stole the rabbi’s phone during the incident before fleeing the scene on foot.
Both teenagers are of Asian ethnicity; one was about 5ft 9in, wore his hair in an Afro-style and was wearing a black jacket, while the other was described as being 5ft 7in and was wearing a black jacket and grey tracksuit bottoms.
There has been a surge in antisemitic hate crimes against British Jews since Israel began bombarding Palestine earlier this month, but Essex Police said they did not believe the attack on Rabbi Goodwin was linked to any pro-Palestine protests over the weekend.
A spokesperson for the force said: "We know that this incident may be concerning for those in the local area, and we are working quickly to identify those responsible and to liaise with community leaders for any further support for those impacted."
The leader of Redbridge Council, Jas Athwal, said on Sunday: "Essex Police have confirmed that they are treating today’s attack on Rabbi Rafi as an antisemitic hate crime, however police are not linking the motives of this crime to heightened tensions in the Middle East and the current hostilities in Israel and Palestine.
"Antisemitism has no place in our society and if you have any information about this unprovoked and cowardly attack, please contact the police.
"We are proud of our community and all parts of the community in Redbridge, we unequivocally condemn this attack and will continue to work together to support each other."
The attack came on the same day police in London arrested four men who drove cars decorated with Palestinian flags through a Jewish neighbourhood, shouting antisemitic abuse.
The men, who remain in a police custody after being arrested on suspicion of racially aggravated public order offences, were detained after videos posted online showed drivers of the cars chanting through a megaphone “F*** their mothers. Rape their daughters. We have to send a message”.
Rabbi Herschel Gluck, the chairman and co-founder of the Muslim-Jewish Forum, said he was “touched deeply” by the attack on Rabbi Goodwin, which was in part an attack on the Jewish community at large.
“The person themselves, their families, their congregation and their friends are all affected by this. Even though it is an individual, it has much broader and wider ramifications."