On Saturday in Monsey, New York, at least 100 people gathered in the home of Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg. Shortly before 10 p.m., as the rabbi was lighting the candle on the seventh night of Hanukkah, a man with face partially covered burst into the home and began stabbing people with a machete.
“I was praying for my life,” Aron Kohn, 65, told reporters, “he started attacking people right away as soon as he came in the door. We didn’t have time to react at all.” The intruder stabbed five people, including the rabbi’s son. Other stabbing victims were reported in critical condition. One attendee followed the attacker and got his license number. That number was picked up as the suspect crossed the George Washington Bridge and when police arrested him in New York City early Sunday, he was covered in blood.
News reports identified the stabber as Thomas Grafton but others named him as Grafton Thomas, 37, an African American from Greenwood Lake, New York, some 20 miles from Monsey. As the New York Daily News reported, Thomas has one prior arrest “which is sealed, making the bloody machete rampage inside an Orthodox rabbi’s home in which five people were wounded all the more incomprehensible.” The default response, as Daniel Greenfield noted, was meaningless statements “about the evils of hatred.”
New York’s Democrat attorney general Letitia James, a former New York City Council member and public advocate, proclaimed “zero tolerance for acts of hate of any kind and we will continue to monitor this horrific situation.”
Democrat presidential candidate Andrew Yang tweeted “Anti-Semitism is a horrifying scourge that has no place in America. We must do all we can to prevent, punish and investigate these crimes and protect all who gather and worship in peace.” Fellow candidate Julian Castro denounced “what appears to be another hateful attack,” adding “We must combat the rise of anti-Semitism and hate.”
New York governor Andrew Cuomo cited recent attacks, “motivated by hate. They are doing mass attacks. These are terrorists in our country perpetrating terrorism on other Americans, and that’s how we should treat it and that’s how I want the laws in this state to treat it.”
The Hanukkah stabbings follow a series of anti-Semitic attacks in the New York area. Last Monday, as authorities are charging,Steven Jorge, 28, punched a Jewish man, 65, in the face, knocked him to the ground then kicked him repeatedly while yelling “fuck you Jew!” The next day a group of teenagers in Crown Heights knocked a Jewish man to the ground.
On Tuesday afternoon, a Jewish man was assaulted by a group of teenagers in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights. The teens followed the victim down the street, with one hitting him in the head and knocking him to the ground. A case of aggravated harassment in Brooklyn was also reported, and none of the cases involved provocation by the victims. That was also the case on December 10 in Jersey City.
As NBC News reported, “hate-fueled domestic terrorism motivated the harrowing and prolonged shooting attack that killed three people inside a Jersey City kosher market and took the life of a veteran police detective.” In the “targeted attack,” suspects David Anderson and Francine Graham, heavily armed with rifles, handguns, and a shotgun, “were bent on taking out Jewish people and members of law enforcement.”
Police officers Ray Sanchez and Ferenella Fernandez were wounded in the attack. The dead included detective Joseph Seals, a father of five; Mindel Ferencz, co-owner of the grocery; rabbinical student Moshe Deutsch, 24, and store employee Douglas Miguel Rodriguez. Both attackers, found dead in the store, had been associated with the Black Hebrew Israelites, according to NBC, “a movement whose members have been known to rail against white people and Jews.”
As Joseph Klein noted, the Hebrew Israelites are part of “a black supremacist group known as The House of Israel,” based in New York. The Southern Poverty Law Center flags “black supremacist groups on the extremist fringe of the Hebrew Israelite movement.” This group believes they are “God’s true chosen people because they, not the people known to the world today as Jews.” The group has been defended by the New York Times as innocent street preachers who practice “tough love.”
At this writing, any connections of Grafton Thomas to black supremacist groups remain unclear. On Sunday, Thomas pleaded not guilty to five counts of attempted murder and one count of burglary. Bail was set at $5 million and Thomas remains in jail.
President Trump condemned the “horrific” attack at the rabbi’s home and tweeted: “We must all come together to fight, confront, and eradicate the evil scourge of anti-Semitism. Melania and I wish the victims a quick and full recovery.”Earlier in December, the president issued an executive order targeting anti-Semitism on college campuses.
Also on Sunday, New York City mayor Bill de Blasio, a former Democra presidential candidate, told Fox News, “An atmosphere of hate has been developing in this country over the last few years. A lot of it is emanating from Washington and it’s having an effect on all of us.”