New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Jewish faith leaders and law enforcement officers in Rockland County speak Dec. 29, 2019, following a mass stabbing at a Monsey, N.Y., rabbi’s home. (New York Governor’s Office/Twitter)

N.Y. Increases Protection for Jewish Community as Hanukkah Attack Called ‘Domestic Terrorism’

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said a stabbing attack at a rabbi’s Hanukkah party was an act of “domestic terrorism” as the NYPD increased patrols to protect the Jewish community.

At about 10 p.m. Saturday in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community of Monsey, N.Y., a man attacked a celebration at the home of Rabbi Chaim L. Rottenberg, next door to a synagogue. According to Chabad.org, the man was armed with a machete and the home was packed with about a hundred guests. The attacker “calmly walked in, drew his weapon, and stated that ‘no one is going anywhere'” as guests began to move over to the synagogue.

“He then began swinging the knife wildly at people in the room. A Chassidic man threw a coat rack, table and chair at the assailant, and chased him from the home,” the account continued. “The attacker then attempted to enter the adjacent synagogue, but was locked out by those who barricaded themselves inside.”

Five people were stabbed, with one reportedly seriously injured suffering from a skull fracture.

The suspect fled the scene and was picked up two hours later in Harlem. “Last night, a keen eye & quick response by @NYPD32Pct cops led to the apprehension of a suspect wanted in connection with the horrific attack at a Hanukkah celebration in Monsey,” tweeted NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea, adding, “The NYPD stands with members of the Jewish community. We will continue our increased patrols and the deployment of @NYPDCT officers at key locations to ensure that everyone is safe during this holiday season, and into the new year. There is no place for hate in NYC, or anywhere.”

Grafton Thomas, 37, of Greenwood Lake, N.Y., was arraigned in Ramapo Town Court today on five counts of attempted murder and one count of burglary. Bail was set at $5 million and he was taken to Rockland County Jail, said the Ramapo Police Department.

Thomas lived with his mother in Greenwood Lake and reportedly had no ties to the rabbi nor any criminal history. He was quickly tracked via his license plate. Authorities have not released a motive for the attack.

“We keep addressing these situations on an episodic basis. Every week it’s another racial crime or religious crime. And we talk about that situation but we don’t talk about the pattern that has developed. And if you refuse to recognize a problem, you’ll never resolve it,” Cuomo told CNN after visiting the site of the attack. “We have an epidemic of hate. It’s an American cancer, call it what it is. It domestic terrorism and let’s address it and stand up as one nation and say we are indivisible, we are united.”

In a statement ordering increased police patrols, Cuomo said the mass stabbing was the 13th anti-Semitic act of violence in New York since Dec. 8.

“This was a blatant act of domestic terrorism that sought to inflict violence, incite hate and generate fear,” he said. “Out of an abundance of caution, I am directing State Police to increase patrols and security in Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods across New York State.”

The governor’s office released a joint statement from more than 130 faith leaders today: “Anti-Semitism, bigotry and hate of any kind are repugnant to our values and will not be tolerated in our state. We condemn this attack and all attacks against members of the Jewish community in New York — an attack against one of us is an attack against all of us. Together we will continue fighting hate and intolerance with love and inclusion.” Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York, added that “such acts must be condemned completely and without reservation as totally contrary to everything that people of faith stand for.”

The Anti-Defamation League and the Secure Community Network said in a joint statement that the Monsey attack was at least the 10th anti-Semitic incident to hit the New York area in just the last week.

“It is time for leaders everywhere, Jewish and non-Jewish, to recognize that additional actions to protect the Jewish community are urgent,” they said. “The Jewish community is under assault. All of America must hear our cry.”

HSAC Outlines Urgent Steps to Secure Faith Community from ‘New Age’ of Domestic Terrorism

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Bridget Johnson is the Managing Editor for Homeland Security Today. A veteran journalist whose news articles and analyses have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe, Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor and a foreign policy writer at The Hill. Previously she was an editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and syndicated nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Bridget is a senior fellow specializing in terrorism analysis at the Haym Salomon Center. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15, a private investigator and a security consultant. She is an NPR on-air contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, New York Observer, National Review Online, Politico, New York Daily News, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, Washington Times, RealClearWorld and more, and has myriad television and radio credits including Al-Jazeera, BBC and SiriusXM.

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