During a Hanukkah celebration at a New York rabbi’s home, a man armed with a blade attacked at around 10 p.m., wounding several people who were taken to area hospitals.
The attacker was quickly found and arrested by New York police about two hours later in the Harlem section of Manhattan.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called the attack by the machete-wielding madman, now known to be Grafton Thomas, 37, an “act of terrorism” and challenged his state to fight the rise of anti-Semitism and hate.
Standing outside of the home of Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg, in the town of Monsey, on Sunday morning, Cuomo called the hatred on display the night before “an American cancer in the body politic.”
The NY governor added, “This is intolerance meets ignorance meets illegality. This is an intolerant time in this country. We see anger. We see hatred exploding.”
No one was reported killed after the Rockland County attack, but several were injured – including the Rabbi’s son – in what was the latest of nearly a dozen incidents of violence against Jews in the area in recent weeks, including eight in Brooklyn and a deadly shooting in Jersey City.
Monsey – a town of about 18,000 residents some 35 miles north of New York City – had seen a previous attack just last month, when a 30-year-old man on his way to morning prayers was beaten and stabbed, The Journal News of Rockland County reported.
As of Saturday night, the NYPD’s Counterterrorism Bureau said it was “closely monitoring” Saturday’s attack in Monsey. Governor Cuomo said in an earlier statement that he was “directing the State Police hate crimes task force to immediately investigate and to use every tool available to hold the attacker accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, whose city has seen an uptick in such anti-Sematic attacks, vowed to prevent this from becoming “the new normal,” saying the city will “use every tool we have to stop these attacks once and for all.”
De Blasio’s statement came after Congressman Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., blamed local leadership and a “culture of acceptance” for being contributing factors in the rise of attacks against Jews.
“The violent anti-Semitic attacks in NYC are being caused by raw hate, feckless leadership, a culture of acceptance, education & promotion of anti-Semitism, & lowering quality of life,” Zeldin tweeted.
Sunday morning, Cuomo promised to do more than just speak out.
“At the end of the day, it’s not just about words, it’s about action. And we have seen enough in New York,” he said. “This is violence spurred by hate. It is mass violence and I consider this an act of domestic terrorism.”
Cuomo said that in the New Year, he will propose measures to punish perpetrators of acts like these, as terrorists.
Ramapo police identified the suspect in the Hanukkah attack, as Grafton Thomas, a 37 year-old African American from Greenwood Lake.
The suspect was caught in a car after license plate readers in Harlem and on the George Washington Bridge were able to locate him, a senior law enforcement official told NBC News. Investigators requested a search warrant for the vehicle to determine whether the weapon was inside.
According to NBC, Thomas pleaded not guilty Sunday to five counts of attempted murder and one count of burglary. Partial cash bail was set at $5 million.
His family says that he has a history of “mental illness.”