An intruder stabbed and wounded five people at a rabbi’s house in upstate New York during a party to celebrate the Jewish festival of Hanukkah late Saturday, officials said. Hanukkah is a Jewish festival commemorating the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire. It is also known as the Festival of Lights.
The victims, all Hasidic members of the Jewish faith, were transported to local hospitals — two in a critical condition — the Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council (OJPAC) tweeted after receiving a call at 9.50 pm.
The suspect has been taken into custody, local Ramapo Police said in a statement on Facebook.
Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, said in a statement that he was “horrified” by the “despicable and cowardly act,” and had directed the State Police hate crimes task force to investigate.
“We have a zero tolerance for anti-Semitism in NY and we will hold the attacker accountable to the fullest extent of the law,” he tweeted.
CBS New York reported that a man brandishing a machete went into the rabbi’s property in Monsey, New York State, an area with a large Jewish population, and knifed at least three people while the Hanukkah celebration was in full swing, before fleeing. “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.”
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.”
In Israel, President Reuven (Ruvi) Rivlin expressed his “shock and outrage” regarding the attack.
“The rise of anti-Semitism is not just a Jewish problem, and certainly not just the State of Israel’s problem,” he said in a statement.
“We must work together to confront this evil, which is raising its head again and is a genuine threat around the world.”
Police in the US have been battling a rash of attacks against Jewish targets in recent years.
Six people, including two suspects, were killed in a Jersey City shooting at a kosher deli earlier this month, which authorities said was fuelled in part by anti-Semitism.
After Saturday’s attack, Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted that he has spoken to longtime Jewish friends who are fearful of outwardly showing their faith.
“We will NOT allow this to become the new normal,” he wrote. “We’ll use every tool we have to stop these attacks once and for all.”