Crime

Arsonists Target NJ Rabbi's Residence with Molotov Cocktails in Attempted Murder

"This is certainly a hate crime, this is certainly a bias crime, this is aggravated arson, but most importantly, we are now looking on this as an attempted homicide."

Rutherford Rabbi's Residence in Bergen Co.

 

Rutherford Rabbi's Residence in Bergen Co.

 

RUTHERFORD, N.J. (The Blaze/AP) -- New Jersey law enforcement officials urged residents and religious institutions to be vigilant after a Rutherford synagogue and its rabbi's sleeping quarters were firebombed early Wednesday with Molotov cocktails.

According to the AP report, this was not the first, but rather fourth such incident within a month that has been classified as a hate crime -- a.k.a. bias crime -- against a Jewish center or religious institution in northern New Jersey.

Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli said there was no evidence yet linking the four incidents, but they hadn't ruled out that they might be connected. In addition to being classified as a bias crime, Molinelli said Wednesday's intentionally set early-morning fire at Congregation Beth El in Rutherford was possibly the work of more than one person. He said several Molotov cocktails and other incendiary devices were thrown at the large white Victorian home on a quiet leafy street, which houses a synagogue on its ground floor, and the rabbi's living quarters on the second level.

Molinelli said it was being classified as an attempted murder, after an incendiary device was thrown into the bedroom of the congregation's rabbi on the second floor.

"The manner in which this heinous crime has been committed has brought our office to really raise consciousness on this," Molinelli said. "This is certainly a hate crime, this is certainly a bias crime, this is aggravated arson, but most importantly, we are now looking on this as an attempted homicide."

Molinelli said there was nothing to suggest that the rabbi had been personally targeted, but that nothing had been ruled out so far as the investigation was continuing.

The rabbi, his wife, five children and the rabbi's parents were sleeping when the fire occurred about 4:30 a.m. Wednesday. No one was seriously hurt. Police say one device thrown through the rabbi's bedroom window did not explode, but ignited, and the rabbi suffered minor burns putting it out.

Rabbi Nosson Schuman of Congregation Beth El told CBS 880 Radio that he saw a flash of fire outside his bedroom window before his bedspread caught fire. The rabbi said he got his wife and five children out of the building safely, and said damage to the building was minimal, in his estimation.

The prosecutor said northern New Jersey residents shouldn't be afraid but should be vigilant, and that all religious institutions, not just those of the Jewish faith, should be on alert.

It's the latest in a series of incidents targeting synagogues in Bergen County, located in northern New Jersey just across the river from New York City.

Within the last three weeks, a fire was intentionally set at a synagogue in Paramus and anti-Semitic graffiti was discovered at synagogues in Hackensack and Maywood.

Law enforcement and representatives from more than 80 synagogues and Jewish day schools had been scheduled to discuss the incidents on Thursday.

The synagogues in Maywood and Hackensack are about a mile apart. The other two are within about seven miles of each other in Bergen County, just across the Hudson River from New York City and near the Meadowlands sports complex.

The fire at Congregation K'Hal Adath Jeshuran in Paramus was discovered on the morning of Jan. 3 when members smelled gas in the building and contacted authorities. Fire and police officials determined an accelerant had been used in the rear of the building to start a fire. The fire had quickly burned itself out, and no injuries were reported. No arrests have been made.

 

(Photo courtesy of S.P. Sullivan at NJ.com)

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