Five people were stabbed in a rabbi’s house on Saturday night in Monsey when a knife-wielding intruder entered the home during Hanukkah celebrations. The suspect was later arrested by New York police.
Ramapo Police Chief Brad Weidel said the suspected attacker entered the residence around 10pm armed with a knife. It is understood those in the house were lighting candles to observe the seventh night of Hanukkah.
The attacker was arrested approximately two hours after the incident in Harlem, New York – about 30 miles from the incident.
Michael Specht, supervisor of the town of Ramapo, which provides government services to Monsey, said the attack took place during at the home of Rabbi Chaim L Rottenberg, next to a synagogue.
At least one of the victims was “seriously hurt”, he said.
The Hasidic organisation Chabad – which says it’s the “website of the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement” – citing sources in the community and witnesses at the scene, said someone in the home threw a table at the attacker, chasing him off. He then apparently tried to enter the synagogue next door, but the occupants barricaded themselves inside. The assailant then fled.
“I was praying for my life,” witness Aron Kohn, 65, told the New York Times, describing the knife used by the attacker as “the size of a broomstick”.
The Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council said the five victims, all Hasidic, were transported to local hospitals with stab wounds.
Governor Andrew Cuomo said state police were assisting with the investigation.
“I am directing the State Police hate crimes task force to immediately investigate and to use every tool available to hold the attacker accountable to the fullest extent of the law,” he said in a statement.
The violent attack comes in the wake of a string of high-profile anti-Semitic incidents in recent times. In October 2018, a man opened fire at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, killing 11 people. And only last month, a couple opened fire at a kosher market in Jersey City, killing a police officer and three people.
In response to the upsurge of anti-Semitic violence, Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation league called for “increased protection for Jewish people”.
“After the hateful assaults we saw this past week in Brooklyn and Manhattan, it is heart-wrenching to see the holiday of Hanukkah violated yet again,” he tweeted.
“We need authorities to provide increased protection NOW and ensure that the full force of the law is brought down on those who perpetrate such horrific crimes.”