Interfaith community comes together after anti-Semitic attacks in Bergen County, N.J. Video from Odyssey Networks
Days after Molotov cocktails were thrown through the window of Congregation Beth El in Rutherford, N.J., community members, faith leaders, law enforcement officials, and politicians gathered at Felician College to show support for their Jewish neighbors.
Congretation Beth El was one of four Jewish temples targeted in the past several months. Two teenangers from Bergen County, N.J. were arrested in connection with the attacks.
Rabbi Nossom Schuman of Congregation Beth El described the attack as a “dragon’s breath of fire” that came through the window of his home while his family was asleep on the top floor of the synagogue. The Molotov cocktails ignited the sheets in his bed and threatened the lives of his wife and their five children before he was able to extinguish the flames.
Faith leaders came to Congregation Beth El to support the rabbi and his family and to talk about what they could do to help. Rev. Philip Lotronico from the Community of God’s Love Church attended an interfaith meeting and said, ”An attack on one house of worship is an attack on us all.”
Temples in nearby Paramus, Hackensack and Maywood were targeted and defaced with swastikas, white supremacist and anti-Jewish graffiti. The rapid escalation of attacks spread fear through the entire community as police increased patrol cars on the streets and around Jewish institutions. The obscure white supremacist symbols spray painted on synagogues led investigators to fear that an organized hate group could be behind the entire spree.
Bergen County prosecutor John Mollinelli held a press conference and warned the community about the anti-Semitic attacks, “I want the 950,000 people of Bergen County that are going to read the paper tomorrow, or watch the shows and listen to the radio to all be aware that this is occurring in our neighborhoods.”
Etzion Neuer, New Jersey Director of the Anti-Defamation League, said that in the wake of these anti-Semitic attacks, the spirit of the Jewish community was lifted by the outpouring of support it received.
“This night is important for the African-American community to reach out to our Jewish brothers and sisters in the community and state that we stand with them and against hate and bigotry.”
—Rev. Gregory Jackson of Mount Olive Baptist Church
After the first act of vandalism in December 2011, more than 100 people gathered during Hanukkah at the Reconstructionist Temple Beth Israel in Maywood in a show of solidarity called “Spreading Light in Maywood.”
Bergen County NAACP organized a community gathering called “A Night of Healing” on the courthouse steps in Hackensack.
In separate arrests in January and March of 2012, two teenagers were charged in the series of attacks—one with attempted murder, and both with conspiracy, aggravated arson, bias intimidation, and criminal mischief. So far, no links to a larger hate group have been identified but investigators seized computers and other evidence from the perpetrators’ homes and will release information during grand jury hearings expected this summer.
“It is very disturbing that a hate monger was living right in our midst in Bergen County,” said Neuer of the Anti-Defamation League. “But this sends a message that it will not be tolerated.”