New Jersey synagogues in hate fire-bombing

By Nathalie Rothschild, January 19, 2012
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Prosecutor John Molinelli at a Hackensack press conference

Prosecutor John Molinelli at a Hackensack press conference

A fire in a New Jersey synagogue is being investigated by the FBI as an attempted murder and hate crime arson. Several Molotov cocktails and other incendiary devices were thrown at the Beth El Synagogue in Rutherford early last Wednesday, igniting a fire in the second-floor bedroom of the rabbi's residence.

It was the fourth hate crime in a month against a Jewish religious institution in northern New Jersey. It followed an arson incident at a synagogue in Paramus and the discovery of antisemitic graffiti at two synagogues in Hackensack and Maywood. Bergen County prosecutor John Molinelli said that there was no evidence yet of a connection among the four incidents, but police have not ruled out a link.

Rabbi Nosson Schuman of Congregation Beth El told a local radio station that he had seen a flash outside his bedroom window before his bedspread caught fire. He got his wife and five children out of the building safely and said that damage to the large Victorian building was minimal.

The New York-based Anti-Defamation League has offered a $7,500 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible.

Rabbi Schuman, who now has 24-hour police protection, said he hoped the incident would inspire new multifaith co-operation. He told the New York Post: "We have to work together and respect everybody for the good they do, whether Jew or non-Jew… That's what the nation needs."

On Thursday nearly 200 people, including police and local politicians, gathered for a security briefing at the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey. Jason Shames of the Jewish Federation said that the latest incident had "raised the stakes for us because it was personal. Lives were at stake and it's an unacceptable red line for us, Jews and Americans".

    Last updated: 12:34pm, January 19 2012