MONSEY, New York — Five people were stabbed Saturday night at a rabbi’s home in Monsey, New York, and a suspect was later arrested in New York City, police said. Gov. Andrew Cuomo called the attack an act of “domestic terrorism.”
Ramapo Police Chief Brad Weidel said a man armed with a blade attacked around 10 p.m., on the seventh night of Hanukkah. The attacker was arrested by the New York City police department nearly two hours later in the Harlem section of Manhattan, NBC New York reported.
The suspect was identified as identified as 37-year-old Grafton Thomas by Ramapo Police Sunday.
Weidel said the victims were taken to two hospitals in the area. Their conditions were not released.
The suspect was caught in a car after license plate readers in Harlem and the George Washington Bridge were able to locate him, a senior law enforcement official told NBC News. Investigators requested a search warrant for the vehicle in an effort to determine whether the weapon was inside.
Thomas was arraigned on Sunday and charged with five counts of attempted murder and one count of burglary, NBC New York reports. He pleaded not guilty and a partial cash bail was set at $5 million.
Michael Specht, supervisor of the town of Ramapo, which provides government services to Monsey, said the attack took place during a Hanukkah celebration at the home of Rabbi Chaim L. Rottenberg, next to a synagogue. Monsey is an enclave of ultra-Orthodox Jews about 35 miles from New York City.
At least one of the victims was “seriously hurt,” he said.
Chabad.org, the website of the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement, published details that the organization’s spokesman, Rabbi Motti Seligson, said are based on witnesses and other sources.
The site reported the suspect was wearing a scarf over his face and, after stabbing five and being chased from the home, tried to get into the synagogue but was blocked by people inside who had barricaded the door. The victims, according to the organization, were Hasidic Jews.
Cuomo visited Rabbi Rottenberg early Sunday before meeting with Jewish leaders in Monsey.
“This is an intolerant time in our country,” he said to reporters outside the rabbi’s home on Sunday morning. “We see anger, we see hatred exploding.”
He added: “It is an American cancer on the body politic.”
He said he thought the crime was an act of domestic terrorism and expected it to be prosecuted that way.
The violence comes after at least eight attacks this month on Jewish people in New York City.
Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, said on Twitter late Saturday that “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 need authorities to provide increased protection NOW and ensure that the full force of the law is brought down on those who perpetrate such horrific crimes,” he added.
The Guardian Angels, a private, unarmed crime-prevention group, said earlier Saturday that it would start patrolling New York City’s Brooklyn borough on Sunday due to the recent attacks. The NYPD said Friday that it will step up patrols in high-profile Jewish neighborhoods.
“Last night’s attack in Monsey, Rockland County was a despicable display of hate,” NYPD Chief of Departments Terence Monahan said Sunday. “NYPD cops, like those who apprehended the suspect in Harlem, are protecting NYC’s Jewish community.”
There have been a spate of attacks on Jews across the nation since late 2018. On Oct. 27 of that year a man opened fire at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, killing 11.
More recently, on Dec. 10, a couple opened fire at a kosher market in Jersey City, New Jersey, killing a police officer and three people who had been inside. The shooters were killed in the exchange of gunfire with law enforcement.
Bernice King, CEO of the nonprofit King Center and daughter of Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, described Saturday night’s attack as being “against a people and a promise.”
“I am praying for our Jewish family members and I encourage us all to refuse to adjust to anti-Semitic stereotypes and to rhetoric/language that dehumanizes,” she said on Twitter. “We can’t pretend that hate is dormant.”
New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer tweeted that the attack was “heartbreaking and horrifying.”
“Being Jewish should not mean living in fear,” he said. “We must redouble our efforts to keep our community safe in the face of rising anti-Semitism.”
Ed Day, the executive of Rockland County, where the attacks occurred, tweeted that he had confidence local law enforcement would find whoever did it.
“Law enforcement in Rockland will leave no stone unturned as they bring those guilty of this crime to swift and severe justice,” he said.
Letitia James, the attorney general of the state of New York, tweeted late Saturday that she was “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,” she said.
“I stand with the Jewish community tonight and every night.”
President Reuven Rivlin of Israel also condemned the attack, saying on Twitter that a collective effort is needed to stop future incidents.
“Shocked and outraged by the terrible attack in #NY and praying for the recovery of those injured. #Antisemitism is not just a #Jewish problem, and certainly not just the State of #Israel’s problem,” he said.
“We must work together to confront this rising evil, which is a real global threat.”
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called the attack an act of “pure evil” on Twitter Sunday.
“The cascade in anti-Semitic attacks is outrageous throughout metropolitan New York and America, and must not be tolerated,” Schumer said. “We need a thorough federal investigation of this specific attack and all of the recent attacks.”