At an ultra-Orthodox synagogue in Brooklyn, police, state troopers and civilian volunteers stood guard as members marked the end of Hanukkah under heightened security following a spate of attacks.
Worshipers expressed a mixture of fear and defiance as they hurried into the Chabad Lubavitch World Headquarters in Crown Heights two days after a stabbing spree at a rabbi’s house wounded five people.
“Anti-Semitism has never been so bad. It’s becoming more and more of an issue. It’s crazy,” 23-year-old Chaim Kaplan told AFP after completing his prayers Monday morning.
New York, home to the largest Jewish community outside of Israel, had long been a place where Jews felt safe.
But after Saturday’s stabbing frenzy in New York’s Rockland County, and a shooting earlier this month at a kosher shop in suburban New York’s Jersey City that left six dead, the community is on edge.
The attacks were just the most violent episodes in what members of the community say has been a shocking uptick in attacks on ultra-Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn and elsewhere, including random-seeming physical assaults and verbal abuse.
“What are you gonna do?” asks Kaplan. “It’s never been the Jewish attitude to back off. We’ve always been persecuted. It is what it is. We gotta fight it with love.”
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a series of measures to tackle what he called an anti-Semitism “crisis” sweeping the United States.
“It has taken a more and more violent form,” de Blasio told NPR, adding that the “forces of hate have been unleashed.”
De Blasio’s remarks came after Grafton Thomas, 37, allegedly entered Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg’s house during Saturday evening Hanukkah celebrations and stabbed several people with a machete before fleeing.
On Monday authorities charged Thomas with federal hate crime charges, in addition to five counts of attempted murder.