Man throws Molotov cocktail at New Jersey synagogue in arson attempt, police say
By Celina Tebor, Isa Kaufman-Geballe and Zoe Sottile, CNN
Updated 9:03 PM EST, Sun January 29, 2023
A masked suspect is seen lighting a Molotov cocktail in front of Temple Ner Tamid in a still image from surveillance footage in Bloomfield, New Jersey, on Sunday. Bloomfield Police
A man threw a Molotov cocktail at a New Jersey synagogue in an arson attempt on Sunday morning, police and the synagogue said.
The suspect lit and threw a Molotov cocktail at the front door of Temple Ner Tamid around 3 a.m. and fled the scene, Bloomfield police said in a news release. The bottle broke, but did not cause any damage to the building, police said.
Temple Ner Tamid includes a preschool and a K-12 religious school, according to its website. It describes itself as a “welcoming, diverse, and musical Reform congregation where members connect with their heritage while thinking progressively about the present.”
Temple Ner Tamid confirmed in a phone call with CNN that it was the synagogue that was targeted.
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Police in Livingston, New Jersey, said they would increase patrols of temples in the area as a result of the attack. Livingston is about eight miles west of Bloomfield.
No other temples were affected, Bloomfield police told CNN.
Police provided a still image of the suspect with his face covered.
New Jersey Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin said in a statement that his office was investigating the arson attempt in collaboration with local, county, state and federal law enforcement agencies. He also referenced the protests over the death of Tyre Nichols, a young Black man who died after being beaten by police in Tennessee. “I want to reassure all New Jerseyans – especially our friends and neighbors of the Black community and the Jewish faith – that law enforcement continues to take the appropriate steps to increase our presence around sensitive places so that everyone in our state can worship, love, and live without fear of violence or threat.”
All activities at the synagogue have been paused for the day and there will be “an ongoing, heighted police presence into the week,” according to a statement from the temple.
The synagogue’s Rabbi Marc Katz expressed his anger at the attack as well as his gratitude for the Jewish community.
“We have and will continue to do everything in our power to keep our community safe,” he said in the temple’s statement. “Everything worked as it should. Our cameras recorded the incident and our shatter-resistant doors held.”
“But what I cannot do, is convince our community not to grow despondent,” he went on. “There is hate everywhere, and hate wins when we let it penetrate. When the weight of this grows too heavy, I remind my congregation that every day, despite what is happening, in Jewish communities around the world, babies are named, children are educated, people are married.
“Our religious traditions continue. No act of hate can stop the power of religious freedom.”
Dov Ben-Shimon, the CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest New Jersey, to which Temple Ner Tamid belongs, wrote on Twitter that the attack was part of a wider spike in antisemitic hate crimes.
The “incident comes amidst a climate of intimidation and intolerance, and a rising tide of anti-Jewish hate crimes and hate speech against Jews,” he said.
“Our Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ will continue to work with all partners in the community to stand up to hate, build our resilience, and promote safety and security,” he said.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy condemned the attack on Sunday evening.
“Let me be clear: there is no place for violence or hate in New Jersey and I strongly condemn these acts,” the governor tweeted Sunday.
The New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness also said in a statement they are “aware and closely monitoring an early morning incident in Bloomfield, NJ, where an unidentified suspect targeted a synagogue with an incendiary device.”
“No injuries or property damage have been reported. Law enforcement is actively investigating this incident,” said the office in a tweet.
The Anti-Defamation League Center on Extremism, which has tracked incidents of antisemitic harassment, vandalism, and assault in the US since 1979, reported 2,717 incidents of antisemitism in 2021 – up 34% from the previous year.