NYC Probes Anti-Semitic Attacks as Firebombing Hits NJ Rabbi's Home

Concern is mounting over an apparent wave of anti-Semitic assaults and vandalism in the New York City area since November, with the latest two incidents being investigated as hate crimes.

At about 4:30 a.m. today, several Molotov cocktails and other explosive devices were thrown into the rabbi’s residence at Congregation Beth El in Rutherford, N.J., according to the Associated Press. Rabbi Nosson Schuman told CBS 880 Radio that he saw a flash of fire outside his bedroom window before the bedspread caught fire. The rabbi said his five children and wife made it out safely, and that the damage to the building was minimal. Bergen County prosecutor John Molinelli said the incident is being investigated as attempted murder and bias-related arson.

Meanwhile, the Hate Crimes Task Force at the New York Police Department is investigating an incident in which multiple swastikas were scrawled across four storefront windows on Sixth Avenue in midtown Manhattan, according to States News Service. The vandalism was discovered last Sunday. Police could find no prints on the windows but are reviewing video from a nearby NYPD camera to see if it captured footage of the person who drew the Nazi symbols, a source at NYPD told Hatewatch.

The two incidents follow at least 10 other assaults and acts of vandalism since November that appear to be motivated by anti-Semitism, according to a summary report by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and data gathered by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

There were about the same number of anti-Semitic incidents in the New York metro area in 2009 and 2010, Ron Meier, director of the New York region of ADL, told Hatewatch.  “A sudden spike now of so many incidents in such a short period of time is quite unusual,” Meier said. “There doesn’t seem to be a shared trigger or any pattern for these events. But they do raise the level of concern, and the need for all of us to be outspoken and to take action.”

Stringer’s report lists a number of seemingly anti-Semitic incidents, including violent attacks against Orthodox Jews in the Midwood neighborhood of Brooklyn; anti-Semitic graffiti in Williamsburg, a heavily Jewish area of Brooklyn; subway stations defaced with anti-Jewish graffiti; and a stabbing on a subway platform by two men who shouted anti-Semitic slurs.

The acts “are an insult to all New Yorkers,” Stringer said. “We need to send a message to those who commit such crimes that this behavior is unacceptable and will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.  New York City prides itself on diversity and tolerance.”

The New Jersey incidents included another fire intentionally set last week at a temple in Paramus close to the one bombed today, and anti-Semitic graffiti discovered last month at two synagogues in Hackensack and Maywood, according to the AP.

“There’s no panic here, but we feel concern,” Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, executive vice president of the New York Board of Rabbis, told Hatewatch. “We’re also hearing concern from leaders of other faiths. We have strong interfaith relationships here in New York, and people of other religions stand with us all the time.”