HARTFORD, CT – The latest in a string of attacks on the Jewish community has the leader of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) calling for increased protection for the Jewish community in Connecticut.
In Monsey, New York, Saturday night, a man barged into a rabbi’s home with a long knife and stabbed five people, officials and witnesses say, shattering Hanukkah celebrations and renewing fears of attacks on the country’s Jewish community.
The suspect in custody, identified by police as 37-year-old Grafton E. Thomas of Greenwood Lake, N.Y., has pleaded not guilty to five counts of attempted murder and one count of burglary.
Officials have yet to announce a motive in the stabbing in Monsey, but New York leaders were quick to call it domestic terrorism and denounce it as an anti-Semitic attack.
Authorities and witnesses said the suspect charged into Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg’s home with much of his face covered and a knife that one man would later describe as nearly the length of a broomstick. He fled in a car, they said, after trying and failing to enter the synagogue next door, where people locked the entrance in fear.
“We are saddened, disturbed and outraged by last night’s attack in Monsey, NY at a celebratory Hanukkah party,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement on Connecticut’s ADL’s Facebook page.
“Again, here we are: mourning another act of senseless anti-Semitic violence committed against our community and praying for those who were the victims of this hate,” Greenblatt said. “This is at least the 10th anti-Semitic incident to hit the New York/New Jersey area in just the last week. When will enough be enough?”
Connecticut ADL leaders said they have been in contact with Connecticut law enforcement and Jewish communal leaders.
“This violence must stop,” he said. “Whether worshipping in a synagogue, or shopping at kosher supermarket, or celebrating Hanukkah in the home of your rabbi, Jews should be safe from violence.”
Greenblatt called for greater protections of the Jewish community and the places where they worship.
“We are calling for increased protection of the Jewish community now and for those in position of power and leadership to guarantee that the full force of the law is brought down on those who perpetrate these horrific crimes,” Greenblatt concluded.
Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont also issued a statement.
“Acts of anti-Semitism have no place anywhere in our society,” Lamont said Sunday. “Tragically, these attacks occur all over our country and around the world – and are becoming increasingly all too common. This must stop. We must come together across religions, political affiliations, denominations, and states to put an end to these attacks and ensure all feel welcome in our communities.”
The FBI recently published its “Hate Crimes Statistics” report, finding that the reported number of hate crimes in the United States decreased slightly from 7,175 incidents in 2017 to 7,120 in 2018.
Connecticut aligned with the nationwide trend and saw fewer hate crimes reported in 2018. However, whether fewer hate crimes were reported to police in 2018 than 2017 is difficult to ascertain because 110 fewer law enforcement agencies participated in the program overall compared with the previous year.
In Connecticut, 97 law enforcement agencies participated in the program during 2018, and only 34 reported incidents of hate crimes. In total the agencies reported 81 hate crimes in Connecticut to the FBI, a decrease from the 111 documented hate crimes in 2017.
New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said the state police’s hate-crime task force will investigate Saturday night’s incident.
The victims, all Hasidic Jews, were taken to hospitals, according to the Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council in Hudson Valley.
The stabbing in Monsey followed other attacks that have stoked fears among Jewish residents in the area.
New York City leaders said Friday that police would increase patrols in several neighborhoods in light of increasing anti-Semitic violence. Earlier this month, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal said suspects in a shooting at a kosher deli in Jersey City “held views that reflected hatred of the Jewish people, as well as the hatred of law enforcement.”
As news of the latest attack spread, advocacy groups and local leaders called for concrete steps to prevent more violence. Former New York Assembly member Dov Hikind said the state’s Jewish residents are “sick and tired” of tweets condemning anti-Semitism and want action. Appearing alongside Hikind, Gestetner, the founder of the Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council, called for heightened security and publicizing the consequences of such attacks.
Cuomo on Sunday renewed his calls for New York to become the first state in the country with a law on domestic terrorism. A proposal he advocated earlier this year would treat mass shootings motivated by attributes such as race and national origins as punishable by as much as life in prison without parole, similar to terrorist crimes.
Democratic presidential candidates also tweeted concerns about a rise in hateful attacks on Jews, and President Donald Trump on Sunday afternoon called anti-Semitism an “evil scourge” that we “must all come together to fight, confront, and eradicate.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, too, condemned Saturday’s attack in Monsey.