January 18, 2020

Jewish Groups React to Monsey Stabbings

People hold signs of support near the house of Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg on December 29, 2019 in Monsey, New York. Five people were injured in a knife attack during a Hanukkah party and a suspect, identified as Grafton E. Thomas, was later arrested in Harlem. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

Jewish groups have expressed shock and horror over the stabbings that occurred at a rabbi’s house in the New York City suburb of Monsey, N.Y., on the evening of Dec. 28.

The attack occurred at Chabad of Suffern Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg’s home as he was lighting the candles on a menorah to celebrate the seventh night of Hanukkah. The attacker stabbed five people, including Rottenberg’s son. As of Dec. 30, two of the victims were listed in critical condition and the other three had been released from the hospital.

Grafton Thomas, 37, was arrested on Dec. 29 in connection with the attack. He faces five counts of attempted murder and one count of burglary.

Anti-Defamation League New York and New Jersey Regional Director Evan Bernstein told the Journal he was amazed that Rottenberg and the congregants were still praying and singing following the stabbings.

“They were not going to let this horrific incident impact their ability to celebrate that holiday, and I think it shows the resilience of the Jewish community in these moments that are so difficult,” Bernstein said.

American Jewish Committee CEO David Harris condemned the stabbings in a Dec. 29 statement. “We are witnessing a full-fledged epidemic of anti-Semitic attacks in the New York region. In the last week alone, there has been at least one each day,” Harris said. “What we need is a sustained, get-tough, zero-tolerance policy by local and state officials. And that policy must take equally seriously each incident, whatever its source might be. Anti-Semitism is anti-Semitism.”

He also said, “The promising light of this holiday season must defeat the utter darkness of those who commit such violence in the name of hatred.”

Simon Wiesenthal Center Founder and Dean Rabbi Marvin Hier and Associate Dean and Director of Global Social Action Agenda Rabbi Abraham Cooper called on President Donald Trump to direct the FBI to create a national task force to protect Jews from anti-Semitic attacks. 

“Enough is enough. Jews should not have to fear for their lives in America to go to their houses of worship,” Hier and Cooper said. “The FBI must step up and take the lead in all recent violent hate crimes targeting religious Jews.”

StandWithUs issued a statement, saying the attack “is yet another urgent reminder of the need to confront anti-Semitism at all levels and in all corners of society. Unfortunately, this rise in anti-Semitism also makes clear that Jews in the U.S. and beyond must invest in serious security, learn self-defense, and work with local allies and law enforcement to ensure their safety.”

Orthodox Union Executive Vice President Allen Fagin called for anti-Semitic acts to be treated as domestic terrorism and praised New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo for proposing a law to classify anti-Semitic acts as domestic terrorism.

“This was the ninth anti-Semitic attack in the New York City area in the past week,” Fagin said. “It is the fundamental responsibility of government to protect the safety of all of its citizens. This responsibility must be effectuated with all resources necessary to accomplish this purpose.”

Other anti-Semitic incidents that occurred in New York during Hanukkah included a man punching and kicking a Jewish man while shouting, “F— you, Jew” on Dec. 23, a woman hitting a Jewish woman with a bag on Dec. 26 and a man on Dec. 27 threatening to shoot people at Chabad Lubavitch World Headquarters in Brooklyn. 

Bernstein told the Journal he has never seen so many anti-Semitic incidents occur in such a short period during his six-year tenure as regional director of ADL New York and New Jersey. 

ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt tweeted, “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. We are outraged because the answer is clear: the Jewish community NEEDS greater protection.”