‘I threw a coffee table’: Witness describes fighting machete-wielding assailant

‘He started hitting people right and left,’ says Joseph Gluck, detailing how he tried to stop attacker who injured five in Monsey rabbi’s home at Hanukkah celebration

Josef Gluck talks to the press as he describes the machete attack that took place earlier outside a rabbi's home during the Jewish festival of Hanukkah in Monsey, New York, on December 29, 2019. (Photo by Kena Betancur / AFP)
Josef Gluck talks to the press as he describes the machete attack that took place earlier outside a rabbi's home during the Jewish festival of Hanukkah in Monsey, New York, on December 29, 2019. (Photo by Kena Betancur / AFP)

MONSEY, New York (AFP) — When a machete-wielding intruder stormed into a rabbi’s house in a New York suburb during a Hannukah celebration late Saturday, Joseph Gluck fought back.

“He was a big, husky, guy,” said 32-year-old Gluck on Sunday, recalling that the attacker wore a scarf covering his face.

“I could only see his forehead and his eyes. He came in wielding a big knife, sword-like machete.”

Gluck was one of several people at the rabbi’s property in Monsey, Rockland County, during celebrations for Hanukkah.

“He started hitting people right and left,” continued Gluck, adding that the attacker did not say anything as he slashed victims.

The scene inside the home of Chaim Leibish Rottenberg in Monsey after a man wielding a machete attacked people attending a Hanukkah celebration (Courtesy)

“He came into the dinner room; he hit somebody there. He hit somebody in the kitchen and then he came back into the dining room,” Gluck added.

The witness added that the weapon had a big handle and the attacker just “swung it back and forth.”

“Everyone was screaming and panicking and shouting ‘out out out.’ It was chaos,” Gluck said.

Gluck said he shouted at the attacker to try to get him to stop knifing others.

“He didn’t, so I threw a coffee table at the guy. Then he started to come after me,” Gluck told reporters.

The attacker followed him out of the house.

“He started to scream ‘Hey you, I’ll get you.’ I screamed for everybody to move away, so that all the people wouldn’t get hurt.'”

Gluck said he then saw the attacker try to enter a synagogue next door to the rabbi’s house but he found the door locked.

Ramapo police officers escort Grafton Thomas, the suspect in the Monsey stabbing  attack, from Ramapo Town Hall to a police vehicle, in Ramapo, New York, December 29, 2019. (Julius Constantine Motal/AP)

“I didn’t know how many people were in the synagogue. I just wanted to make sure that God forbid he shouldn’t go into the synagogue.”

Quick-thinking Gluck said he noted down the license plate of the car and handed it to police. Police later arrested a suspect.

Victims were rushed to nearby hospitals. Two were said to be seriously wounded.

Angry and scared

The attack happened at about 10:00 pm on Saturday, the seventh night of Hanukkah.

It was the latest in a spate of attacks on the Jewish community in the New York area in recent weeks.

There was a solemn mood in Monsey, a leafy town, on Sunday morning as worshipers attended synagogues to pray for the victims.

Rabbi Chaim Leibish Rottenberg, center, outside his home, a day after a knife-wielding attacker injured five inside during a Hannukah ceremony. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)

“We never thought anything like this could happen here,” Joel Spitzer, who lives opposite the rabbi, told AFP.

He says he now lives in fear of future attacks.

“It’s always in the back of your mind. What’s preventing it from happening again?” he said.

Rockland has the largest Jewish population per capita of any US county, with 31.4 percent, or 90,000 Jewish residents.

Spitzer added that he wanted to buy a gun to protect himself and said it was a worrying time for the community.

Armed members of the Jewish community stand guard at a celebration, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, in Monsey, N.Y. A day earlier, a knife-wielding man stormed into a rabbi’s home and stabbed multiple people as they celebrated Hanukkah in the Orthodox Jewish community. (AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey)

Earlier this month a shooting at a kosher deli in Jersey City killed six people including two suspects.

“One is more than enough but this is too many,” he said.

Another resident, who asked not to be named, said members of the Jewish community felt “angry and scared.”

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