A man walked into a rabbi’s home north of New York City and began stabbing people with a large knife. He wounded five people, including the rabbi’s son, who had gathered to light candles on the seventh night of Hanukkah in Monsey, New York, an area that is home to lots of ultra-Orthodox Jews. One person was critically wounded. Gov. Andrew Cuomo called the attack an “act of domestic terrorism.”
There were dozens of people at the home of Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg when the attacker burst in at around 10 p.m. and pulled out a knife that was “about the size of a broomstick,” said Aron Kohn, one of the people who was at the Hanukkah celebration. “I was praying for my life,” Kohn said. “He started attacking people right away as soon as he came in the door. We didn’t have time to react at all.” Lazer Klein, who lives in the neighborhood, described the attacker’s weapon as a “large machete.”
The attacker tried to run into the synagogue next door that is led by Rabbi Rottenberg. But the people inside had locked the door after they heard the screaming in the rabbi’s home. The suspect still managed to flee in a vehicle but police arrested a suspect at around midnight in Harlem, which is around 30 miles from Monsey. The suspect was identified as Grafton E. Thomas, 37. Authorities said he had blood all over his clothing and smelled of bleach.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the attack on Sunday. “Israel strongly condemns the recent displays of anti-Semitism including the vicious attack at the home of a rabbi,” Netanyahu said. Gov. Andrew Cuomo called the stabbings a “cowardly act” and added: “Anti-Semitism and bigotry of any kind are repugnant to our values of inclusion and diversity and we have absolutely zero tolerance for such acts of hate.”
The stabbing Saturday come as the Jewish community in the New York area was already reeling from a series of attacks over the past few weeks, including a deadly shooting at a Jewish market in Jersey City. Cuomo said the attack on Saturday marked the 13th anti-Semitic attack in New York since Dec. 8. New York police said Friday it was increasing its presence in several Brooklyn neighborhoods as it investigates at least nine possible anti-Semitic attacks in recent days. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a tweet that it was impossible to “overstate the fear people are feeling right now,” adding that he has spoken to friends who “for the first time in their lives, are fearful to show outward signs of their Jewish faith.”
Evan Bernstein, the New York regional director of the Anti-Defamation League said that due to the recent attacks, members of the Orthodox community feel they’re being targeted. “This spate of assaults that we saw this past week was unlike anything I’ve experienced in my six and a half years at the A.D.L.,” he said. “And then, to have that really bookended with what happened in Jersey City and now, here in Monsey.” The head of the Anti-Defamation League, Jonathan Greenblatt, wrote on Twitter that “the answer is clear: the Jewish community NEEDS greater protection.”
*This post has been updated with new information since it was first published.