Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg had just lit the candles for the sixth night of Hanukkah and the religious holiday was in full swing with a hundred guests, Saturday December 28, in Monsey, a small town populated by ultra-Orthodox Jews northwest of New York . Suddenly, a man entered the house, masked, armed with a machete or a large knife. He injured five people, one of whom was still hospitalized on Sunday, while guests were defending themselves and blood was strewn around the house.
The suspect, Grafton Thomas, then attempted to enter the nearby synagogue, but the synagogue had been closed since the start of the attack. The man then fled by car to Harlem, where he was apprehended still covered in blood. Grafton Thomas was charged on Sunday, including attempted homicide and burglary. His bail was set at five million dollars. One of the suspect's friends said he "Is not a terrorist" but a mentally ill person for two decades who has not found the necessary care.
The episode traumatized the American Jewish community, which believed itself largely protected from known anti-Semitism in Europe. The growing scale of mass killings – an attack on a Texas church left three people dead on Sunday, December 29, including the assailant – has sometimes obscured, in part, the specificity of anti-Semitic attacks.
"The scourge of anti-Semitism"
Monsey's attack comes a year after the shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which left eleven people dead in October 2018, three weeks after an attack on a Kosher store in Jersey City, which left four people dead, and against the backdrop of an increase in attacks targeting Orthodox Jews in particular.
New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo spoke of an act of "Domestic terrorism". "I wish I could say it was an isolated act"Cuomo said, while anti-Semitic crimes are at their highest in the United States, with 1,879 acts recorded in 2018 by the Anti-Defamation League, an organization fighting against racism and anti-Semitism. "We must all unite to fight, confront and eradicate the scourge of anti-Semitism", for his part tweeted President Donald Trump.
Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, announced in early December that he intended to spend 25 million dollars (22.3 million euros) from his personal fortune to combat the anti-Semitism of certain politicians. Lauder, who has known Donald Trump for decades and funded the Republicans, told New york times that"There is not an ounce of anti-Semitism in him".
Traveling to Texas, Michael Bloomberg, candidate for the 2020 presidential election, blamed Donald Trump: "You need leadership at the highest level, which rises up and says, it is a shame, we should not tolerate this and we will not tolerate it. Unfortunately, Donald Trump does not stand up to say this. He throws words from time to time, but people think more about his actions than his words. "