UPDATE: The suspect in the stabbing in Monsey, New York, was identified on Sunday.
NEW YORK – An intruder stabbed five people Saturday at a Hasidic rabbi’s home in a New York suburb, escalating fears about a surge of violent anti-Semitism in the state.
The attack took place around 10 p.m. in Monsey, Rockland County, about 30 miles north of New York City, during a Hanukkah celebration that was being attended by many dozens of people. According to the Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council and Hasidic outlets, the assailant was a black male whose face was partially masked with a scarf.
At 9:50 this eve, a call came in about a mass stabbing at 47 Forshay Road in Monsey (Rockland County; 30 miles North of NYC). It's the house of a Hasidic Rabbi. 5 patients with stab wounds, all Hasidic, were transported to local hospitals.
— OJPAC (Hudson Valley Divison) (@OJPACHV) December 29, 2019
All five victims were Hasidic and were taken to hospitals, the council said Saturday, adding that two of them were in critical condition, with one having been stabbed at least six times.
The Ramapo Police Department confirmed Saturday that five people were stabbed and a suspect had been caught after fleeing the scene.
Michael B. Specht, the Ramapo town supervisor, said the suspect had been arrested in New York City in the 32nd Precinct, which covers Harlem.
The Associated Press reported Sunday that police identified the suspect as Grafton E. Thomas, 38, of Greenwood Lake, New York.
About a third of the population of Rockland County is Jewish, including a large and growing enclave of Orthodox Jews. Relations between the Orthodox Jews and their neighbors have often been tense.
Jews respond to the attack in Monsey
Saturday’s stabbing, which came after series of recent attacks against Jews in the New York region, left Jews in Monsey and across the United States shaken.
I live in Monsey, NY. We are all terrified.
— Eliyahu Fink (@efink) December 29, 2019
“The community is terrified,” said Evan Bernstein, the New York regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, who was at the crime scene on Saturday night, according to The New York Times. “They are very, very scared.”
Jewish conservatives and their supporters on Twitter slammed liberal activists and journalists for allegedly downplaying the anti-Semitic violence because it does not cohere to a narrative of white supremacy under President Donald Trump.
The criticism only intensified when Thomas’ image appeared in the media, confirming he is not white.
? First footage published of #Monsey attack suspect, who was just apprehended in Harlem.
He doesn't quite seem like a 'white extremist' to me … pic.twitter.com/C0935aUQMd
— Arsen Ostrovsky (@Ostrov_A) December 29, 2019
Jake Turx, the White House correspondent for Ami, a Jewish news magazine, evoked the famous poem, “First They Came,” in which German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller decried the cowardice of German intellectuals for enabling the he atrocities of the Third Reich.
First they came for the Jews… but I did not speak out, for I wasn't Jewish.
Then they came for the Jews again… but I did not speak out, because the attacker wasn't White.
And they came for the Jews yet again… but I did not speak out, because the attacker wasn't pro Trump.
— Jake Turx (@JakeTurx) December 29, 2019
Tali Katz, an analyst at The Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank, said “the left” was preventing Jews from protecting themselves.
Jews: We're being killed. Jews should carry and protect themselves.
The Left: No
Jews: Ok, so we'll ask police to come to our neighborhoods and protect us.
Jews: Ok, we'll help educate the public about ALL forms of anti-Semitism -not just white supremacism.
— Talia Katz (@TaliaGKatz) December 29, 2019
“How many dead Jews do major publications need before they think this story is worth covering?” Ag_conservative asked.
~2 years of almost daily attacks on Jews in New York with limited or no coverage from most major outlets. Now we have an attempted mass shooting and mass stabbing in 3 weeks. How many dead Jews do major publications need before they think this story is worth covering?
— (((AG))) (@AGHamilton29) December 29, 2019
“Jewish Lives Matter,” said the Imam of Peace.
Jewish Lives Matter.
— Imam of Peace (@Imamofpeace) December 29, 2019
Others on the right singled out liberal Twitter users who sought to make the Monsey attack about Trump and white supremacy, even in the face of contradictory evidence.
Democratic activist Nathan Schneider was “ratio’d” for saying, “Trump is directly to blame for this antisemitic violence.”
— Ryan Saavedra (@RealSaavedra) December 29, 2019
Journalist Mairav Zonszein complained she was “being verbally” assaulted for making similar comments.
I’m being personally attacked and insulted in what appears to be a coordinated fashion – for holding a president who has empowered white nationalists and normalIzed antisemitism. I feel threatened and scared as a Jew for the first time in my life https://t.co/QA3a8IRwUw
— Mairav Zonszein מרב זונשיין (@MairavZ) December 29, 2019
Another journalist, Erin Biba, was widely criticized after she said the “situation in NY” is “massively complicated” and urged “solidarity with each other against our shared enemy of white supremacy.” She subsequently made her Twitter account private.
“Black on Jewish violence is white supremacy.” Peak 2019. https://t.co/1VGaCTVUpn
— Ian Miles Cheong (@stillgray) December 29, 2019
David Klion, an editor at Jewish Current, a left-wing Jewish magazine, faced backlash for opposing demands for greater police protection for Jews in New York hours before the attack — and defending his position afterward.
You're a fool, Klion.
Delete your account. Resign from Jewish Currents. STFU and slink away. pic.twitter.com/zaO38abG6E
— Shmarya Rosenberg (@Shmarya) December 29, 2019
DY.M Carrington, a self-described queer, black, feminist, communist Jew, was called out for arguing that American Jews have it easy compared to black Americans.
I guess this is what is meant by "equity": pic.twitter.com/XjZupPg99v
— Andy Ngo (@MrAndyNgo) December 29, 2019
New York authorities promise action
Meanwhile, Mark Levin accused authorities in New York of a lack of action in response to the “explosion of anti-Semitism in New York.”
The explosion of anti-Semitism in New York receives precious little national press coverage or local governmental action https://t.co/dDPUsPOhxs
— Mark R. Levin (@marklevinshow) December 29, 2019
New York City’s police department had on Friday stepped up patrols in heavily Jewish neighborhoods following a spate of anti-Semitic attacks.
“Hate doesn’t have a home in our city,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio wrote on Twitter, calling the assaults attacks on all New Yorkers.
The NYPD Counterterrorism Bureau is “closely monitoring” the situation, it said on Twitter.
New York Attorney General Letitia James said she was “deeply disturbed” by the events in Monsey.
“There is zero tolerance for acts of hate of any kind and we will continue to monitor this horrific situation,” she tweeted.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sunday he considers the attack to be an “act of domestic terrorism.” He ordered the State Police hate crimes task force to investigate.
In more deadly recent attacks, a gunman killed a female rabbi and wounded three people during Sabbath services at Congregation Chabad in Poway, near San Diego, on the last day of Passover in April 2019.
Six months before that, a gunman killed 11 worshipers at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in U.S. history.
A history of violence
Amid the online rancor this weekend, some Twitter commenters on both the right and left sought to put the problem of anti-Semitism in historical perspective.
Jerry Dunleavy, a reporter at the Washington Examiner, said: “Anti-Semitism is an ancient evil that by no means began with Hitler & the Nazis & by no means ended with them. It’s a parasite constantly searching for whatever new host ideology it can latch onto.”
Anti-Semitism is an ancient evil that by no means began with Hitler & the Nazis & by no means ended with them. It’s a parasite constantly searching for whatever new host ideology it can latch onto. It must be combated whenever & wherever it is found & however it manifests itself.
— JERRY DUNLEAVY (@JerryDunleavy) December 29, 2019
Daniel Seidemann, a researcher and liberal activist in Jerusalem, said, “Anti-Semitism is an underground river that has flowed immediately beneath the surface –or veneer– of Western civilization for millennia.”
With so many anti-Semitic incidents in so many diverse locations, and with no one specific incident in mind, some hesitant musings.
Anti-Semitism is an underground river that has flowed immediately beneath the surface –or veneer– of Western civilization for millennia.
— Daniel Seidemann (@DanielSeidemann) December 29, 2019
Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and an Orthodox Jew, condemned the Monsey attack.
“The increasing frequency of anti-Semitic violence in New York (and around the country) receives far too little local governmental action and national press attention,” she said.
Attacks on Jewish New Yorkers were reported almost every single day this past week.
The increasing frequency of anti-Semitic violence in New York (and around the country) receives far too little local governmental action and national press attention.https://t.co/ZfpJL8Pghc
— Ivanka Trump (@IvankaTrump) December 29, 2019
Former Vice President Joe Biden, along with other 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, called for Americans to unify against anti-Semitism.
“We’ve got to stand together as a country and fight these flames of hatred,” he said.
The horrifying rise of antisemitism is tearing apart the fabric of our communities and the soul of this nation. We've got to stand together as a country and fight these flames of hatred.
My deepest sympathies are with the victims, their families, and the Jewish community. https://t.co/fcUUwN8rE6
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) December 29, 2019
The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah commemorates the 2nd century B.C. victory of Judah Maccabee and his followers in a revolt against armies of the Seleucid Empire.
(Reuters contributed to this report.)
CORRECTION: A previous version of this report cited The Associated Press as saying Grafton Thomas is 37 years old. Authorities have since said he is 38 years old.