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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - MONSEY, New York: A man attacked a Hanukkah celebration at a rabbi’s home north of New York City late Saturday, stabbing and wounding five people before fleeing in a vehicle, police said.
The attack appeared to be the latest in a string targeting Jews in the region, including a massacre at a kosher grocery store in New Jersey earlier this month.
Police said the stabbings happened at around 10 p.m. in Monsey, one of several Hudson Valley towns that have seen an influx in large numbers of Hasidic Jews in recent years.
Ramapo Police Chief Brad Weidel said hours later that New York City police had located a vehicle and possible suspect being sought in connection with the stabbing.
New York City Police wouldn’t immediately confirm whether anyone was in custody.
Top state officials, including Governor Andrew Cuomo and Attorney General Leticia James, released statements condemning the attack.
Photos and videos posted on Twitter showed a large emergency response with paramedics running and pushing stretchers. A number of police and emergency vehicles could be seen in the images.
The Anti-Defamation League of New York and New Jersey says it’s aware of the stabbings and was at the scene in Monsey.
Monsey is about an hour north of New York City.
The Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council for the Hudson Valley region tweeted reports that the stabbings took place at the house of a Hasidic rabbi while they were celebrating Hanukkah.
According to public records, the home belongs Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg, who leads the synagogue adjacent to the residence.
Several state and local officials have described the location of the stabbing as a synagogue.
Saturday was the seventh night of Hanukkah.
Aron Kohn, 65, told The New York Times that he was inside the house when the stabbings occurred.
“I was praying for my life,” said Kohn, 65. “He started attacking people right away as soon as he came in the door. We didn’t have time to react at all.”
Cuomo, who called the stabbings a “cowardly act” has directed the State Police hate crimes task force to investigate the attacks.
“Let me be clear: anti-Semitism and bigotry of any kind are repugnant to our values of inclusion and diversity and we have absolutely zero tolerance for such acts of hate,” he said in Saturday’s statement. “In New York we will always stand up and say with one voice to anyone who wishes to divide and spread fear: you do not represent New York and your actions will not go unpunished.”
Weidel said the five people were taken to hospitals for treatment. It is unclear what the extent of their injuries were. Authorities have not provided a motive for the attack.
The stabbings occurred a month after a man was stabbed while walking to a Monsey synagogue. The man required surgery. It’s unknown if the person suspected in that stabbing has been arrested.
Jewish communities in the New York City metro area have been troubled following a deadly Dec. 10 shooting rampage at a northern New Jersey kosher market. Six people died in the shooting, including the two killers, a police officer and three people who had been inside the store. New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said the attack was driven by hatred of Jews and law enforcement.
Around New York City, police have gotten at least six reports this week — and eight since Dec. 13 — of attacks possibly propelled by anti-Jewish bias.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday that police presence would increase in Brooklyn neighborhoods with large Jewish populations.
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