An Orthodox Jewish man was stabbed on his way to synagogue on the morning of Nov. 20 in Rockland County, N.Y.
The 29-year-old was stabbed multiple times in front of Mosdos Meharam Brisk Tashnad synagogue in the town of Ramapo. Ramapo Police Chief Brad Weidel said at a press conference that the victim “was approached from behind by at least one and maybe more individuals, and he was assaulted and stabbed, and stabbed more than once.”
Weidel added that police have not yet classifying the incident as a hate crime. “We have to establish motive and intent and we’re just not there yet,” he said, adding police would be ramping up patrols in response to the stabbing.
Synagogue members told the Rockland/Westchester Journal that the attack was not provoked. Rabbi Yisroel Kahan, a liaison between the local Orthodox Jewish community and law enforcement, told CBS New York, “We’re still in the initial stages of the investigation, but we do know there were no words exchanged. At some point he was stabbed.”
Mordechai Zwiebel, a cousin of the victim, told the Rockland/Westchester Journal News, “I was so shocked, traumatized. I don’t feel safe until these guys are caught.”
Anti-Defamation League (ADL) New York and New Jersey Regional Director Evan Bernstein told the Journal the victim is currently in serious condition at Westchester Medical Center.
“I’ve seen pictures of the scene [of the assault] when it happened,” Bernstein said. “There’s a tremendous amount of blood. Just very, very disturbing.”
He added, the assault “has really shaken them to their core. We really feel for what’s going on right because there’s a lot of fear.”
“A peaceful walk to shul in the early morning hours is how this man started the day and now he in serious condition in a hospital because of this attack.” — Evan Bernstein, ADL
While the ADL’s Annual Audit of Anti-Semitism in 2018 found that there were only a handful of such incidents in the Rockland and Westchester area, Bernstein said they believe there were a lot of anti-Semitic incidents that area that weren’t reported.
“Right now, I think a lot of what’s happening is the Orthodox community in Rockland County is really holding back and talking amongst themselves, but not necessarily expressing to groups like the ADL what’s happening in that community,” Bernstein said.
In October, the New York Police Department (NYPD) announced that the number of anti-Semitic hate crimes had increased from 108 to 169 from 2018 to 2019 in New York City. Bernstein said he was concerned these crimes aren’t getting enough national media attention. He suggested this could be due to most Americans thinking that anti-Semitism largely stems from white supremacists.
“That is a convenient narrative, but not always fitting in like a perfect puzzle piece, especially in the Greater New York City Area where things are a little bit more complex,” Bernstein said. “I think we have to make sure we’re very detailed and very diligent about the kinds of anti-Semitism that we’re dealing with and how we’re describing it, because it’s critically important.”
ADL New York and New Jersey is offering a reward of up to $10,000 for information that would help law enforcement find the assailant or assailants.
“A peaceful walk to shul in the early morning hours is how this man started the day and now he in serious condition in a hospital because of this attack,” Bernstein said in a statement on the ADL New York and New Jersey’s website. “There is absolutely no room in our communities for violence. We must come together and stand shoulder to shoulder, not only to condemn this despicable act, but also work as a community to stem the tide of hatred and violence. We wish for the speedy and full recovery of the victim and hope this reward facilitates the swift apprehension of those responsible for this attack.