On Wednesday, Feb. 1, a suspect in Sunday’s attack on Temple Ner Tamid in Bloomfield, New Jersey was apprehended and in the custody of the FBI and Bloomfield Police Department, according to the township’s mayor.
Mayor Michael Venezia posted the following on Facebook: “I’m proud to announce that the suspect in the Temple Ner Tamid firebombing is in the custody of the FBI and Bloomfield Police Department. More information to follow.”
At approximately 3 a.m. on Sunday, January 29, a man in a ski mask approached the entrance of Temple Ner Tamid, a Reform synagogue in Bloomfield. Security footage shows the suspect igniting a Molotov cocktail at the front door of the synagogue before fleeing the property.
The glass bottle broke, but no damage to the synagogue was reported.
Temple Ner Tamid released an official statement which was sent to The Jewish Link, stating that the fire from the Molotov cocktail went out upon impact with the synagogue’s front door. Upon arrival of staff on Sunday morning, police were immediately notified of the incident; all planned activities at the synagogue were canceled for the day.
“We have and will continue to do everything in our power to keep our community safe,” said Rabbi Marc Katz in the Ner Tamid statement. “Everything worked as it should. Our cameras recorded the incident and our shatter-resistant doors held. But what I cannot do is convince our community not to grow despondent. There is hate everywhere, and hate wins when we let it penetrate.”
According to the Office of New Jersey Attorney General Matthew Platkin, law enforcement offices across the local, state and federal levels worked together to identify the man and apprehend him. Governor Phil Murphy stated on Twitter that this incident coincided with a similar attack on a church in Monmouth County. “Let me be clear: There is no place for violence or hate in New Jersey and I strongly condemn these acts,” tweeted Murphy.
Ner Tamid attributed its security in part to the New Jersey Nonprofit Security Grant it received from the Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, as well as the quick response from Bloomfield Police. The congregation was immediately in touch with the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest New Jersey, as well as the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).
President of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest David Saginaw noted that this incident came amidst a rise in antisemitic hate crimes, and that the Federation “will continue to work with all partners in the community to stand up to hate, build our resilience and promote safety and security.”
The Federation notified the Security Community Network (SCN)—a nonprofit focused on ensuring the safety, security and resiliency of North American Jewish communities—of the incident, in order to reassure the protection of the local community as well as support the criminal investigation.
CEO and National Director of SCN Michael Masters told The Jewish Link that “these types of violent antisemitic attacks are becoming more common. SCN works closely with Federations across North America to build a security shield over the Jewish community by helping train community members, improve facility security and coordinate with law enforcement.”
On Sunday, a joint statement was released from leading Jewish organizations, including the American Jewish Committee (AJC), the Community Security Service (CSS), the Jewish Federations of Northern New Jersey and Greater MetroWest, the Community Security Initiative and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) of New York/New Jersey. The statement recounted the details of the incident and continued:
“This incident comes at a moment when we have seen a spike in antisemitic incidents, including the recent threat in November to New Jersey Synagogues. It also took place on the heels of 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 additional threats to Jewish institutions in New Jersey at this time.”
By Channa Fischer