New York will introduce a series of measures to tackle a “crisis” following the 13th antisemitic attack since 8 December, its mayor has said.
It comes after five people were stabbed in the basement of Hasidic Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg’s home in Monsey at about 10pm on Saturday, the seventh night of the Jewish festival of Hanukkah.
Bill de Blasio said police presence would increase in Brooklyn neighbourhoods that are home to large Jewish populations, and lighting towers and security cameras will be installed.
“We will keep adding as many measures as it takes to end this crisis,” he said, adding: “We have to show that this horrible trend we’ve seen over the last weeks will be stopped dead in its tracks.”
A suspect, identified by police as Grafton E Thomas, has pleaded not guilty to five counts of attempted murder and one count of burglary following Saturday night’s attack.
The 37-year-old was arrested within two hours of the attack and had blood all over his clothing, smelled of bleach but said “almost nothing” when officers stopped him, officials said.
Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Sunday that it was an act of domestic terrorism fuelled by intolerance and a “cancer” of growing hatred in America.
“This is violence spurred by hate, it is mass violence and I consider this an act of domestic terrorism,” he said. “Let’s call it what it is.”
New York Police commissioner Dermot Shea said he is “angry and mad as hell” over the recent antisemitic attacks in the city.
He said: “We have people living in this city in 2019 that have to worry about their kids going to school, and what they’re wearing or go into a movie that they’re going to be targeted because of how they look, or they’re afraid to worship whatever their religion is.”
Thomas’s criminal history includes an arrest for assaulting a police horse, according to an official, though his lawyer has said he has no convictions.
The home where he lived with his mother, around 20 miles from Monsey, was blocked with police tape on Sunday as FBI agents and police officers carried items from their home.
The FBI is looking into his mental health history and seeking a warrant to obtain his online accounts.
The family’s pastor, Rev Wendy Paige, said Thomas had been suffering from mental illness and that his family believes his condition was the cause of the stabbings, and not hatred towards Jewish people.
Following the attack, an automated licence plate reader alerted officers that the suspect’s car had crossed over the George Washington Bridge into New York City around an hour after the attack. He was stopped and taken into custody 20 to 30 minutes later, Mr Shea said.
The stabbings on Saturday left one person critically wounded, Mr Cuomo said, and the rabbi’s son was also injured.
It was the latest of a series of attacks against Jews in the region, including a massacre at a kosher grocery store in New Jersey on 10 December.
Last month, a man was stabbed while walking to a synagogue in Monsey.
And in the past week, police have received at least six reports – eight since 13 December – of attacks possibly motivated by antisemitism.
President Donald Trump condemned the “horrific” attack, tweeting that “We must all come together to fight, confront, and eradicate the evil scourge of anti-Semitism.”
Author: Lucia Binding