Suspect arrested, charged with firebombing synagogue in New Jersey

Nicholas Malindretos, suspected of hurling Molotov cocktail at Temple Ner Tamid on Sunday, faces up to 20 years in prison

Luke Tress is an editor and a reporter in New York for The Times of Israel.

Surveillance footage shows a masked man hurling a Molotov cocktail at Temple Ner Tamid in New Jersey on January 29, 2023. (Bloomfield Police Department)
Surveillance footage shows a masked man hurling a Molotov cocktail at Temple Ner Tamid in New Jersey on January 29, 2023. (Bloomfield Police Department)

NEW YORK — Authorities in New Jersey on Wednesday said they had arrested a suspect for firebombing a synagogue over the weekend.

The attack on Temple Ner Tamid in the town of Bloomfield early Sunday morning caused no injuries or damage.

The federal US attorney’s office in New Jersey said Nicholas Malindretos, 26, was arrested in connection with the crime.

Malindretos, from the nearby town of Clifton in Passaic County, was charged with one count of attempted use of fire to damage and destroy a building used in interstate commerce.

The charge carries a minimum sentence of five years in prison, a maximum sentence of 20 years and a fine of $250,000.

Malindretos will appear in federal court in Newark on Thursday.

“No one should find that their lives are at risk by exercising their faith,” US Attorney Philip R. Sellinger said. “We will continue to devote whatever resources are necessary to keep our Jewish community and all New Jersey residents safe.”

Ner Tamid’s security cameras recorded the suspect approaching the synagogue at 3:19 a.m. on Sunday. The man lit a Molotov cocktail, threw it at the building’s door, where it broke on impact, and fled down the driveway. The synagogue’s doors had been reinforced as a security measure.

The arrest complaint said a license plate reading device recorded a vehicle in the area shortly before and after the attack.

Law enforcement located the vehicle in Clifton on Tuesday and saw items that appeared to be related to the attack inside, including clothing and bottles of liquid.

Officers obtained a search warrant for the vehicle and carried out a search on Wednesday. Inside they found a sweatshirt and white gloves that matched those worn by the suspect in the surveillance video.

Video cameras in the area of the incident also recorded the vehicle and a suspect that appeared to be Malindretos around the time of the attack.

Federal, state and local agencies were involved in the search, including the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The Essex County sheriff’s office had also offered a $10,000 reward for information on the case.

The synagogue canceled activities the day of the attack but has since returned to routine.

“People are not going to let this scare them away from educating their children, from finding spiritual connection, from finding community,” the synagogue’s rabbi, Marc Katz, told The Times of Israel.

He said the synagogue had been investing in security measures in recent years and that “everything worked as it should.”

The Anti-Defamation League documented 370 antisemitic incidents in New Jersey in 2021, the most recent year for which figures are available and the highest number ever recorded.

In November, a New Jersey man with extremist Islamist views threatened synagogues, causing the FBI to issue a sweeping warning to the state’s Jewish communities.

In April, a New Jersey man allegedly went on a violent attack spree targeting Orthodox Jews in the town of Lakewood, causing serious injuries to four. The suspect has been charged with federal hate crimes and faces a maximum term of life in prison.

Ner Tamid is a Reform congregation that offers religious classes to children from kindergarten to the sixth grade.

Bloomfield is in Essex County, around 30 minutes by car west of Manhattan.

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