The New York Police Department’s 50th precinct and its Hate Crimes Task Force are investigating multiple acts of vandalism perpetrated on four separate Riverdale shuls between Thursday night, April 22, and Saturday night, April 24, and again on Monday night, April 26. Rocks were thrown at the Riverdale Jewish Center, breaking windows, while the Young Israel of Riverdale had a broken window. Vandals broke a window and a glass door at CSAIR (Conservative Synagogue Adath Israel of Riverdale), and Chabad of Riverdale reported three broken windows in separate attacks. Each location suffered varying degrees of damage, but no one was hurt in these incidents. Security footage shows one man repeatedly throwing rocks and breaking windows in various locations.
A CSAIR spokesman explained, “Our clergy and lay leaders and own volunteer congregant security team are working closely with the NYPD, national and regional Jewish security leadership and organizations. As sad and distraught as we are over these senseless attacks, we have not made any changes to our schedule of services.”
NYS Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz stated, “The 50th Precinct and the NYPD have been very responsive and are taking these acts very seriously. They believe this is an isolated string of attacks.” Dinowitz added, “Please exercise additional caution as you go about in our community, and do not attempt to confront the suspect.” A suspect’s photo was released. Dinowitz requested that anyone with information about the perpetrator should call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers tip line (1-800-577-TIPS). NYPD recommended that Jewish institutions take additional precautions, such as making sure all doors are secured. Dinowitz noted, “You will see increased police presence, with NYPD foot patrols around synagogues and other Jewish institutions. These officers are from a mobile NYPD force to supplement local precincts actively searching for the man who did these hateful acts.”
The Orthodox Union, the nation’s largest umbrella organization representing synagogues in the U.S., made the following statement: “We are horrified by the multiple attacks upon our community in New York, which occurred at the Riverdale Jewish Center, Young Israel of Riverdale, Adath Israel of Riverdale and the Chabad of Riverdale. These attacks are unacceptable and essentially amount to acts of domestic terrorism. We are grateful to the New York Police Department and its Hate Crimes Task Force for their efforts to stop these assaults; more must be done to keep such acts from occurring.
“One of the most important tools we have to keep our synagogues safe is the federal Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP), which provides Jewish facilities and other nonprofits with grants to strengthen building security. Right now, we are working with bipartisan allies in the U.S. Congress to double existing funding for NSGP grants to $360 million so that more synagogues and other terror targets can better secure themselves against such vile hatred and assaults. We ask Congress to move on this important appropriation as soon as possible.”
Dinowitz also joined in a unified statement along with Congressman Jamaal Bowman and NYS Senator Alessandra Biaggi: “We are proud to represent Riverdale, a neighborhood that is inclusive, accepting and loving. The rise in hate crimes toward Jewish people is alarming and deeply painful to see. Hate has no place here.
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms the hate crimes and vandalism occurring in Riverdale. The threat toward synagogues and other Jewish institutions is real. We must treat these issues head on. Jewish people have been the victims of hate crimes and persecution for centuries, and this week’s events are a somber reminder that we must all be vigilant in weeding out antisemitism. Our hearts go out to everyone in our district impacted by these hate crimes. We will continue to unite as a community to make sure it is loud and clear that hate has no place here.”
The Riverdale Jewish Community Partnership, led by the Riverdale Y, added, “An attack on any synagogue is an attack on all synagogues, all Jewish institutions, and all houses of worship. We will stand strong against hate and continue to celebrate being Jewish, engage in our personal, institutional and communal activities, and support one another.”
At SAR, Principal Rabbi Binyamin Krauss made a statement as well: “We were all saddened and outraged upon hearing of the vandalism of four local shuls. I’ve been heartened by the response of our own community leaders, the NYPD, our elected officials and the broader community organizations. Over the past 36 hours I have attended three substantive briefings. I’m confident that this collaborative effort will lead to a swift resolution to this series of incidents. As always, we do our best to share information with our students, in age-appropriate ways, while reminding them that they are safe, and that the many adults around them are working hard to protect all.”
Rabbi Krauss joined the other SAR principals, Rabbis Harcsztark and Kroll, expressing, “We have lent our support and will assist our community’s shuls to repair the damage and ensure our community is protected. We have been reassured by law enforcement that we may continue regularly scheduled school programs. We believe one of the best ways to stand up against hate is by educating our children to celebrate their Jewish identity and to strive to build a world of acceptance and co-existence for all.”
Rabbi Aaron Frank, Kinneret Day School’s head of school, described conversations with students: “We share with our older students the tense nature of our times and the need to share concerns with us, if they have them.” On a personal level, Frank added, “I’m so sick over this. I never thought I’d live in a time, in New York and the U.S., where synagogues are attacked, shootings are increasing and anti-Asian hate crimes are commonplace. Whether you’re on the right or the left, we need to unite and build a community and nation where this type of activity is not only punished to the fullest extent of the law but also not tolerated in any area of discourse.”
By Judy Berger