Domestic terrorism: Machete-wielding assailant stabs five people in rabbi's home

Saturday night, during a menorah candle-lighting ceremony in the home of Rabbi Chaim Leibush Rottenberg, the leader of Congregation Netzach Yisrael-Kosson, in Monsey an intruder entered and began stabbing people. An African-American man wildly swung a machete and stabbed five people. The rabbi’s son was one of the mad man’s victims. Monsey is described as an enclave of ultra-Orthodox Jews about 35 miles from New York City.

It was the seventh night of Hanukkah. About 60 people gathered at the rabbi’s home for a Hanukkah celebration. The man is reported to have entered the home calmly with his face covered with a scarf as those gathered were beginning to leave and go to the synagogue next door. He began waving the weapon and stated that “no one is going anywhere.” After stabbing five people, he was chased out by a man throwing a coat rack, a table and a chair at him. He ran next door to the synagogue but people inside had barricaded the door. He fled in a car, which was captured on video security surveillance. Two of the victims were taken to Good Samaritan Hospital and three were taken to Westchester Medical Center. One victim is in critical condition.

The terrorist was arrested in Harlem, two hours after the 10 p.m. attack and taken into custody by police. His name has been released but I will not include it here. He is 37 years old. He faces five counts of attempted murder and one count of burglary. These are the two cops credited with keen eyes and quick responses who caught the terrorist.

This anti-Semitic attack is the latest in a string of violent attacks against Jews in the New York City area. It isn’t even the first attack during Hanukkah – there have been at least nine other attacks in the past eight days. Friday the Chabad World Headquarters in Brooklyn was the scene of a man walking in and threatening to “shoot the place up”. No arrest was made, though. The attacks are happening daily now.

Also on Friday, the same day as the Chabad incident, police arrested a 30-year-old woman for slapping three young Jewish women in Crown Heights while she yelled anti-Semitic slurs.

On Thursday, police arrested a 42-year-old homeless woman in Gravesend. She was accused of hitting a mother who was walking her 3-year-old child, also while yelling anti-Semitic slurs. Witnesses were able to follow the suspect until police made the arrest.

Police released details Saturday about an incident that happened early Wednesday morning. They say a 40-year-old man dressed in traditional Jewish clothing was walking home in Borough Park when an unknown individual approached him and blocked his path. When the victim tried to walk around the man, the man allegedly punched the victim in the face then ran off.

Three anti-Semitic incidents were reported on Tuesday.

Some people blame Republican Jews for the attacks. Because, of course.

The NYPD is putting up more patrols around Hasidic neighborhoods. My question is, what took so long? It is clear what areas of the city that the attacks are happening in. Sunday, the Guardian Angels, a non-profit volunteer organization aimed to prevent crime, announced they will be starting patrols in Crown Heights to protect the community. There seems to be a real lack of a sense of urgency in dealing with anti-Semitic violence. In Jersey City, N.J. earlier in December, a gun battle and standoff left six people dead — the two killers, a police officer and three people who were inside a Jewish market.

Where is the outrage? Where are the endless newspaper editorials denouncing anti-Semitism? What if this rise in domestic terrorism was against Muslims? We know what the reactions from mainstream media would be. Instead, in today’s political climate where lawmakers in Congress are barely given a slap on the wrist for blatant anti-Semitism in tweets and speeches, the people with the biggest platforms are silent. Those in Congress, in particular, should be made so uncomfortable for their silence that they have no choice but to do the right thing – speak out and do whatever can be done to end this growing trend. New York isn’t the only location for this violence, it is happening across the country.

The violence is escalating, as the attack on the rabbi’s house shows. New York City Mayor de Blasio says that fear must not be “overstated”. I think we are finding silence is the problem here.

New York City Bill de Blasio wrote Saturday night that the community must not “overstate the fear people are feeling” after the “horrific” attack.

The mayor also wrote that officers of the New York Police Department were deployed to Jewish places of worship the night of the attacks. “We will NOT allow this to become the new normal,” he wrote. “We’ll use every tool we have to stop these attacks once and for all.”

The fear that is permeating the Jewish communities in New York and surrounding areas, and across America, must be acknowledged. Hasn’t the continued turning of a blind eye to the rise in antisemitism already allowed this to be “the new normal”? People should be shouting about the normalizing of hatred based on religion, coming together to support Jewish communities. Jews in America have a legitimate right to be fearful – there is a target on their backs.

I don’t agree with most of what New York Governor Cuomo does but credit where credit is due – he labeled the violent attack at the rabbi’s house as domestic terrorism. Saturday he released a statement calling it a hate crime.

Then after meeting with the rabbi and others in the community Sunday, he labeled it domestic terrorism.

It’s a start. Call it what it is and deal with it accordingly.