For the first time since the violent attacks at his home on Hanukkah, a rabbi addressed the recent spree of anti-Semitic violence in New York.
Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg spoke Wednesday afternoon outside his home in Monsey where Grafton Thomas is accused of barging into and stabbing five friends and family members with a machete during a Hanukkah party.
“Despite all the horror, we hold strong and stand tall in our faith in the Almighty,” Rottenberg said. “The Hasidic people in Rockland and across New York state may look different, dress differently, speak a different language and choose to educate our children according to our traditions — we, like many diverse people of Rockland County, are all created in the image of God.”
Rottenberg did not take any questions from reporters, nor did he mention Thomas, who faces federal hate crime charges, by name. The most severely injured victim of the brutal attack is still in the hospital, and doctors fear he will never fully recover.
The rabbi’s press conference came just after his trip to Albany, where he met with Gov. Cuomo and spoke ahead of the state of the state address.
“I will never forget the horror of that night. But I will also never forget how we continued to celebrate after the attack, how we continued to rejoice in the miracle of Hanukkah,” he said before delivering a blessing. “Bless this great state of New York and its people, and guide this nation through these troubled times toward a more peaceful world.”
In his state of the state address shortly after, Gov. Cuomo said they will be focusing on legislation that would bring stiffer penalties for people who commit hate crimes.
The stabbing attack in Monsey ten days ago heightened concerns in Jewish communities across New York about security and self-defense, which has led to some groups considering arming themselves.
On the same road where the attacks happened, residents packed a tent Wednesday night to learn from Yonathan Stern, an expert in firearms tactics.
“If someone’s coming into your shul with a machete, they’re intending to do harm. He’s not the gardener who’s trying to trim the shrubs — he’s someone looking to kill and maim with that machete,” Stern said. “You intend to neutralize that threat.”
The former member of the elite Israeli Defense Forces said that New York’s concealed carry laws make it difficult to defend a synagogue (or any location) with a handgun, but carrying a rifle is legal.
“Rifles are very effective at defending a congregation, shotguns have a lot more power than handguns and they have a lot better accuracy, they have better capacity,” Stern told the crowd.
Those in attendance acknowledged that guns were not the only security measure for local synagogues, as many are now working with area police or hiring private security.