At least five people were injured in a stabbing at a Hanukkah lighting ceremony in the New York suburb of Monsey, authorities said late Saturday.
A man reportedly used a machete to attack people attending at a residence in the upstate New York town, which is home to a large Jewish population.
Two of the victims were in critical condition.
No motive was given for the attack by police, but it was widely viewed by officials as anti-Semitic in nature, the latest in a string of attacks on Jews in and around New York City.
The site of the stabbing was identified as the home of Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg, adjacent to the Netzah Yisrael synagogue.
“I was praying for my life,” witness Aron Kohn, 65, told the New York Times, describing the knife used by the attacker as “the size of a broomstick.”
Ramapo police said a suspect was in custody after a car seen at the scene was located in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City.
In a series of tweets, the Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council of the Hudson Valley said that five Hasidic Orthodox Jews were taken to hospitals on Saturday night, two in critical condition.
The Council said the assailant was an African American male, his face partially masked with a scarf. It said the attack took place at 9:50 pm Eastern Time.
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 (@OJPACHV) December 29, 2019
Yossi Gestetner, a co-founder of the OJPAC for the Hudson Valley region, told the New York Times one of the victims was a son of the rabbi.
“The house had many dozens of people in there,” Gestetner said. “It was a Hanukkah celebration.”
The NYPD Counterterrorism Bureau said it was “closely monitoring the reports of multiple people stabbed at a synagogue” in Rockland County, New York.
The head of the Anti-Defamation League called for greater protection for Jews.
After the hateful assaults we saw this past week in Brooklyn and Manhattan, it is heart-wrenching to see the holiday of Hanukkah violated yet again. We are outraged because the answer is clear: the Jewish community NEEDS greater protection.
— Jonathan Greenblatt (@JGreenblattADL) December 29, 2019
US officials and Israeli leaders condemned the attack.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said he was “shocked and outraged by the terrible attack in New York. We are praying for the rapid recovery of those injured. The rise of anti-Semitism is not just a Jewish problem, and certainly not just the State of Israel’s problem. We must work together to confront this evil, which is raising its head again and is a genuine threat around the world.”
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who called the stabbings a “cowardly act,” directed the State Police hate crimes task force to investigate the attacks.
“Let me be clear: anti-Semitism and bigotry of any kind are repugnant to our values of inclusion and diversity and we have absolutely zero tolerance for such acts of hate,” he said in Saturday’s statement. “In New York we will always stand up and say with one voice to anyone who wishes to divide and spread fear: you do not represent New York and your actions will not go unpunished.”
New York State Attorney General Leticia James said she was “deeply disturbed” by Saturday’s incident.
“I am deeply disturbed by the situation unfolding in Monsey, New York tonight,” she tweeted. “There is zero tolerance for acts of hate of any kind and we will continue to monitor this horrific situation. I stand with the Jewish community tonight and every night.”
I am deeply disturbed by the situation unfolding in Monsey, New York tonight.
There is zero tolerance for acts of hate of any kind and we will continue to monitor this horrific situation.
I stand with the Jewish community tonight and every night.
— NY AG James (@NewYorkStateAG) December 29, 2019
Monsey is about an hour north of New York City.
The stabbings in Monsey come on the heels of apparently anti-Semitic attacks reported throughout New York during Hanukkah.
Saturday was the seventh night of Hanukkah.
Around New York City, police have gotten at least six reports this week — and eight since December 13 — of attacks possibly propelled by anti-Jewish bias.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday that police presence would increase in Brooklyn neighborhoods with large Jewish populations.
On December 10, two shooters entered the JC Kosher Supermarket in Jersey City, New Jersey, killing three people before being killed by police themselves. Authorities said they were motivated by a hatred of Jews and law enforcement.