NJ Molotov Cocktail Temple Toss, Church Anti-Racism Event ‘Incident’ Spark State Probe
A multi-faceted investigation is underway into two possible bias attacks on seemingly opposing targets — a church and a synagogue — in separate New Jersey communities, authorities said Monday.
There was no immediate indication that the two cases are connected, so whether the timing was coincidental — both happened within a 36-hour period — remains under investigation.
It wasn’t until news of the second incident — an apparent middle-of-the-night Molotov cocktail attack at Essex County’s Temple Ner Tamid in Bloomfield — that the case involving Asbury Park’s Trinity Episcopal Church came to public light.
It wasn’t clear what exactly transpired at the Asbury Avenue church on Friday night, but Monmouth County prosecutors say the “possible bias-motivated incident” happened during an anti-racism event. No injuries were reported.
No one was hurt in the attempted firebombing at Temple Ner Tamid in the early overnight hours of Sunday, either. Surveillance footage from that case shows someone in a ski mask light a Molotov cocktail and throw it at the front door of the synagogue, which is part of the vast five-county network of Jewish Federation Greater MetroWest NJ.
The congregation says it’s working with local Jewish groups and the Anti-Defamation League to coordinate a response. Rabbi Marc Katz also noted recent security enhancement thanks to a state Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness grant.
“We have and will continue to do everything in our power to keep our community safe,” Katz said Sunday. “Everything worked as it should. Our cameras recorded the incident and our shatter-resistant doors held. But what I cannot do, is convince our community not to grow despondent. There is hate everywhere, and hate wins when we let it penetrate.”
Authorities are looking for one suspect in the early Sunday attack on Temple Ner Tamid in Bloomfield. Ida Siegal reports.
The CEO of Community Security Service, which trains people and offers volunteer security for Jewish events, said attacks like this one are becoming “normalized.”
“We have seen a series of serious threats against Jewish people in New York and New Jersey in recent months that were thankfully averted. We have to be aware that the threat level against our communities is increasing, in the United States and abroad,” Evan Bernstein said.
Anyone with information is asked to call Bloomfield police. The Essex County prosecutor’s office, FBI and ATF have also been notified and a joint investigation is ongoing, officials said. The superintendent of schools in nearby Montclair said the district would increase security Monday as well.
New Jersey Attorney General Matthew Platkin acknowledged the active Bloomfield investigation and referenced the Asbury Park church incident from Friday night in the same Sunday statement.
“We are cognizant of the fact that these attacks have occurred while violence continues to erupt in Israel, and while our own nation reckons with violence at home,” Platkin said. “I want to reassure all New Jerseyans – especially our friends and neighbors of the Black community and the Jewish faith – that law enforcement continues to take the appropriate steps to increase our presence around sensitive places so that everyone in our state can worship, love, and live without fear of violence or threat.”
Gov. Phil Murphy also tweeted a statement saying he’d been briefed on both incidents, adding, “There is no place for violence or hate in New Jersey.”
Last year saw an all-time high in antisemitic incidents and assaults reported in both New Jersey and New York — and a man was just arrested in early November for allegedly threatening temples across the state.
This latest case underscores the ongoing nature of the problem, according to David Saginaw, who heads the Jewish Federation Greater MetroWest NJ.
“This incident comes amidst a climate of intimidation and intolerance, and a rising tide of anti-Jewish hate crimes and hate speech against Jews,” he said. “Our Jewish Federation will continue to work with all partners in the community to stand up to hate, build our resilience, and promote safety and security.”
News 4’s Gilma Avalos reports.
Source: NBC New York
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