A community is on edge after a man threw a Molotov cocktail at a New Jersey synagogue
Authorities are searching for the suspect who threw a Molotov cocktail at a New Jersey synagogue over the weekend, an incident that caused no damage but rattled the community nonetheless.
Surveillance footage shows a man lighting the wick of the bottle and tossing it at the front door of Temple Ner Tamid just after 3:19 a.m. on Sunday morning, the Bloomfield Police Department said in a release. He is believed to be white and appears to be wearing a ski mask and a sweatshirt with a skull and crossbones design.
“The glass bottle broke but did not cause any damage to the Temple,” it added. “The suspect then fled down the driveway.”
Authorities responded to the synagogue’s report of property damage later that morning, around 9:30 a.m. On Monday, they released video of the incident from multiple angles showing the man lighting and hurling the bottle at the synagogue entrance — it bounced onto the ground and shattered — before running away.
Bloomfield detectives say a joint investigation with the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is ongoing, and are asking anyone with knowledge of the incident to call with information or email them any videos.
The incident — just one in a series of recent antisemitic threats — has drawn outrage from state leaders and left the local Jewish community on edge.
Elsewhere in the county, Livingston Police said on Sunday morning they had increased patrols of their temples as a result of the attack, while Temple Ner Tamid will have a heightened police presence into the week.
The synagogue’s Rabbi Marc Katz said in a statement reported by CNN that “everything worked as it should.” The shatter-resistant doors held and its cameras captured everything, and the synagogue will continue to do all it can to keep its community safe, he added.
“But what I cannot do, is convince our community not to grow despondent,” Katz continued. “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 … No act of hate can stop the power of religious freedom.”
It’s just the latest threat to a New Jersey synagogue
Sunday’s attack comes as antisemitic attacks and harassment continue their steady climb in the U.S. — and on the heels of other threats to synagogues in the state.
In November, the FBI issued a statement warning of a “broad” threat to New Jersey synagogues and urging them to take heightened precautions. An 18-year-old man was later charged with transmitting a threat in interstate and foreign commerce.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) documented 370 antisemitic incidents in New Jersey in 2021, which it said was the highest number ever recorded in the state and the second-highest number recorded in any state that year.
Several Jewish groups — including the ADL, American Jewish Committee and chapters of the Jewish Federation — noted in a joint statement that Sunday’s attack also happened days after International Holocaust Remembrance Day, “when we are reminded of where such horrific actions can lead.”
“We urge our leaders and community partners to speak out against this outrageous act and ask that all communities remain vigilant, though we have not been informed of any particular additional threats to Jewish institutions in New Jersey at this time,” they added.
Officials are indeed speaking out. Bloomfield Mayor Michael Venezia said in a statement that “hate and antisemitism … have no place in our welcoming community,” while U.S. Rep. Mikie Sherrill called on people to work together to eradicate rising antisemitism.
“Our Jewish neighbors are beloved community members — friends, loved ones and leaders,” she wrote. “Attacks against them are attacks against all of us, and we all have a responsibility to stand up against [antisemitism] wherever it rears its head.”
Another incident at a church is also under investigation
Authorities are also looking into an unrelated incident at a church some 60 miles away, in Asbury Park, N.J.
The Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office said it is working with other agencies to investigate a “possible bias-motivated incident” that took place at Trinity Episcopal Church during an anti-racism event on Friday night.
Asbury Park Police notified the prosecutor’s office “based upon the nature of the allegations,” it said, adding only that there were no known or confirmed injuries to any civilians.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy tweeted on Sunday that he had been briefed about both incidents, condemning the acts and declaring that “there is no place for violence or hate in New Jersey.”
Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin noted in a statement that both attacks occurred “while violence continues to erupt in Israel, and while our own nation reckons with violence at home” — a reference to widespread outrage over the police killing of Tyre Nichols. Platkin added:
“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.”