SKOKIE, Ill. (CBS Chicago/CBS New York) — A rally and vigil were held in Skokie Sunday evening in response to a string of anti-Semitic attacks in and near New York City.
Sunday is the eighth night of Chanukah, and the Skokie Valley Agudath Jacob synagogue organized a communal candle-lighting ceremony and a vigil against the wave of assaults.
The rally was held late Sunday afternoon at the Westfield Old Orchard Shopping Center in Skokie.
“We know all too well the price of silence,” a rabbi said at the vigil. “Silence in the face of hate, antisemitism, bigotry – it’s that silence that allows evil to fester and metastasize in this world.”
Guests at the Old Orchard vigil were told light always wins.
“When they bring darkness into the world, we respond with life. When some attempt to introduce death to our world, we respond with life. When forces of evil rear their menacing head, we counter with goodness and decency,” the rabbi addressing the vigil said.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot also issued a statement on Twitter condemning the attacks and expressing grief.
I’m heartbroken for the victims of these horrific anti-Semitic attacks during this season of celebration and remembrance. Everyone of every faith deserves to worship free from fear. Hate has no place in our nation, and we must do more to fight these hate crimes. https://t.co/th79W8Nna6
— Mayor Lori Lightfoot (@chicagosmayor) December 29, 2019
“I’m heartbroken for the victims of these horrific anti-Semitic attacks during this season of celebration and remembrance,” Lightfoot wrote. “Everyone of every faith deserves to worship free from fear. Hate has no place in our nation, and we must do more to fight these hate crimes.”
On Saturday night, at least five people were stabbed in the attack at the home of Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg in Monsey, Rockland County north of New York City. The home doubles as a synagogue.
The suspect in that case has been identified as 37-year-old Grafton Thomas, of Greenwood Lake, New York, in Orange County.
Thomas, covering his face with a scarf, reportedly entered the building and pulled out a machete to attack the victims during a Chanukah celebration, WCBS-TV, CBS 2 New York reported. Thomas reportedly chased after and stabbed victims as they fled before running off and escaping in a gray Nissan Sentra.
“He took out his knife, sword from a holder and started hitting people back and forth. Nothing, he didn’t say anything. He screamed after me when I came out here, he screamed after me, ‘Hey you, I’ll get you,’” one witness told CBS 2 New York’s Marc Liverman. “He moved to the front door. He could go straight into the kitchen and the dining room’s the first thing. First, he went into the dining room and hit a few people there. Then he went into the kitchen and hit one guy there, and then he came back to the dining room.”
“He took out this knife from a holder and started hitting ppl. He came out here and said to me hey you I’ll get you.” A witness inside during the #MonseyStabbing describes the moment the suspect came running through the door holding a machete. @CBSNewYork @CBSNews #MonseyAttack pic.twitter.com/ek1d1eD9mA
— Marc Liverman (@MarcLiverman) December 29, 2019
“I ran into the other room because I tried to save my life. I saw him running down this way, so I ran out and two ladies came along with me. They’re still hysterical,” witness Aron Kohn said.
Police told CBS 2 New York that Thomas was arrested in Harlem shortly after midnight on Sunday.
Thomas said nothing as a lawyer entered his not guilty plea Sunday to five counts of attempted murder. His bail was set at $5 million.
CBS 2 New York’s Tony Aiello reported at least four people were taken to area hospitals with injuries. Two of the victims were rushed to the trauma center at the Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, New York due to the severity of injuries.
On Sunday morning, New York state Gov. Andrew Cuomo said one of the victims was still in “very serious and critical condition with wounds to the head.”
“This is terrorism,” Cuomo said Sunday. “It is domestic terrorism.”
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called the attack “horrific.”
So many Jewish families in our city have close ties to Monsey. We cannot overstate the fear people are feeling right now.
I’ve spoken to longtime friends who, for the first time in their lives, are fearful to show outward signs of their Jewish faith. https://t.co/KUUHlu6guY
— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) December 29, 2019
“We will NOT allow this to become the new normal. We’ll use every tool we have to stop these attacks once and for all. The NYPD has deployed a visible and growing presence around Jewish houses of worship on the streets in communities like Williamsburg, Crown Heights and Boro Park,” de Blasio added in a tweet.
This incident happened amid a rash of anti-Semitic attacks in New York City this past week. All of them took place in Brooklyn.
On Friday, a man walked in and threatened to shoot up the Chabad World Headquarters in Brooklyn. Mayor de Blasio toured the headquarters later that day.
“We see exactly what’s happening, and we will not accept it,” he said.
Also on Friday, the same day as the Chabad incident, police arrested a 30-year-old woman for slapping three young Jewish women in Crown Heights, Brooklyn while she yelled anti-Semitic slurs.
On Thursday, police arrested a 42-year-old homeless woman in Gravesend, Brooklyn. She was accused of hitting a mother who was walking her 3-year-old child, also while yelling anti-Semitic slurs. Witnesses were able to follow the suspect until police made the arrest.
Police said, early Wednesday morning, a 40-year-old man dressed in traditional Jewish clothing was walking home in Borough Park, Brooklyn when an unknown individual approached him and blocked his path. When the victim tried to walk around the man, the man allegedly punched the victim in the face then ran off.
Three anti-Semitic incidents were reported on Tuesday, CBS 2 New York reported.
In one incident, an unknown individual struck the male victim in the face. The suspect was later apprehended.
In Crown Heights, Brooklyn, a 56-year-old man was walking on Union Street when a group approached him and one person in the group punched him. No one was arrested.
That same day, a 25-year-old man was walking along Kingston Avenue in Crown Heights when a group of people allegedly began yelling anti-Semitic slurs at him. They also allegedly threw a beverage at the victim.
Two anti-Semitic incidents were reported on Monday. In Williamsburg, Brooklyn a group of teenagers allegedly attacked a 6-year-old boy and a 7-year-old boy in the lobby of a residential building. In Midtown, a 65-year-old man was allegedly punched and kicked by a man who also made anti-Semitic slurs. A Florida man was arrested in connection to that incident.
The NYPD is putting up more patrols around Hasidic neighborhoods in response, CBS 2 New York reported. Meanwhile, the Guardian Angels, a non-profit volunteer organization aimed to prevent crime, began patrols in Crown Heights Sunday to protect the community.