MONSEY, N.Y. — A violent attack at the Rockland County home of Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg during a Hanukkah celebration Dec. 28 seriously injured five people. The attacker barged into the event, held next to the rabbi’s synagogue, with a machete and attacked dozens of those attending.
Some tried to defend themselves, throwing furniture at the attacker and forcing him to retreat. When Joseph Gluck confronted the assailant he screamed at Gluck, “Hey you, I’ll get you.” Gluck lured the attacker outside. Joseph Neumann who was stabbed multiple times remains in critical condition.
Grafton Thomas, a 37-year-old African American, was arrested hours after the attack and pled not guilty to five counts of attempted murder and one count of burglary. In addition, federal hate crime charges have been filed against him.
Officials released evidence of anti-Semitic writings found in Thomas’ journals and on the internet.
The day after the attack, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said, “These are domestic terrorists. They are trying to inflict fear. They are motivated by hate,” stating he would propose a domestic terrorism law this January.
“Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that ‘anger’ and ‘hatred’ are an ‘American cancer on the body politic.’ But that misses the point. This was Jew-hatred,” said a statement by Lea Sherman, Socialist Workers Party candidate for U.S. Senate from New Jersey; Candace Wagner, the party’s candidate for U.S. House of Representatives District 8 New Jersey; and Seth Galinsky the party’s 2019 candidate for New York City public advocate. “The scapegoating of Jews for economic and social problems is a deadly threat to all Jews, religious and secular. And it is a life and death question for the working class.”
There have been other expressions of Jew-hatred in the area. In August the Rockland County Republican Party released a campaign video targeting Jews with graphics saying, “What’s at stake: Our homes, our families, our schools, our communities, our water, our way of life. If they win, we lose. Take back control.” The video was quickly taken down after its anti-Semitic character faced widespread condemnation.
Rockland County, about an hour outside of New York City, is home to a growing Orthodox Jewish community, like a number of other suburbs in New York and New Jersey. Thirty-one percent of Rockland County’s 300,000 residents are Jewish.
“To this day I don’t understand why Jews are targeted,” Mia Zazon, a 39-year-old dietician, told the Militant at her home here Dec. 29, the day after the assault.
“This deals blows to the unity working people need to be able to fight the bosses’ attacks on our wages and conditions,” said Sherman. She gave Zazon the SWP statement condemning the assault.
The statement explains, “Jew-hatred plays a unique role under capitalism. It invents a mythical scapegoat — the evil rich Jews — to protect and take our eyes off the real enemy: the capitalist system.”
“It’s completely different from ‘hate,’” said Sherman. “It has festered for centuries and is seized upon by the capitalist rulers in times of deep social crisis to try and divert and crush the working-class movement.”
Since the attack, Zazon said, people have turned out from “all different Jewish groups and I’m sure my friends and co-workers will offer support.”
The attack in Monsey follows on the heels of the murderous attack in Jersey City, New Jersey, Dec. 10 at a kosher supermarket where two anti-Semitic attackers killed three people — Moshe Deutsch, Leah Mindel Ferencz and Douglas Miguel Rodríguez.
While Jew-hatred is at a low ebb among working people, there has been an increase in anti-Semitic violence in the U.S., and worldwide, including deadly attacks at synagogues in Poway, California and Pittsburgh. The anti-Semitic assaults have come overwhelmingly from lone-wolf attackers, with political outlooks that range from right to left.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, there have been at least 10 anti-Semitic incidents in the New York/New Jersey area in the last two weeks, including a physical attack on a 22-year-old Hasidic Jew in Williamsburg, a Brooklyn neighborhood, Jan. 1.
A rally to denounce Jew-hatred and the attacks has been set for Sunday, Jan. 5 at 11 a.m., gathering at Foley Square in New York. Sponsors include the United Jewish Appeal, the ADL and the New York Board of Rabbis.