As the New York Police Department is investigating incidents of vandalism at four Bronx synagogues that occurred last week, an additional incident occurred early Monday morning at the Riverdale Jewish Center, The Dark Wire has learned.
The suspect, who is responsible for throwing rocks at synagogue windows and doors last week, is still at large.
Last week’s incidents are being investigated by multiple NYPD units and the Hate Crimes Unit has taken the lead on the case, an NYPD spokesperson confirmed to this reporter.
The suspect is also believed to be responsible for breaking windows on three separate cars in the area, another NYPD spokesperson added.
“We’re looking at this individual as being connected to these seven incidences. All seven incidences occurred last week in the Bronx, in the Riverdale section… he’s wanted for questioning, as of right now,” the first NYPD spokesperson said.
The NYPD later confirmed an additional investigation, but couldn’t say if it was the reported incident at the Riverdale Jewish Center. The NYPD didn’t respond to an email requesting further details regarding the latest investigation.
Rabbi Yitzi Genack of the Riverdale Jewish Center confirmed to this reporter that the Monday morning incident was part of a three-night string of vandalism on his synagogue.
“We are thankful that no one was hurt on either occasion,” Rabbi Genack said. “The fact that someone would specifically and repeatedly target houses of worship is of great distress to us all. An act of hate such as this is simply unacceptable.”
He added, “We are working closely with the NYPD and our fellow Riverdale Jewish communal institutions to secure our community. We hope that the perpetrator of these crimes will be apprehended swiftly and justice will be served to the fullest extent of the law. The Riverdale Jewish Center is thankful for the incredible support we have received from the NYPD and from our elected officials during this difficult week. We pray fervently for a return to peace for our entire community.”
The synagogues that were targeted in last week’s spree include Young Israel of Riverdale, Adath Israel of Riverdale, Chabad of Riverdale, and Riverdale Jewish Center.
Rabbi Shemtov of Chabad of Riverdale described a full-force effort by law enforcement to locate and arrest the suspect. The damage to his synagogue will be costly and the acts of vandalism have left a hole in his heart, he told this reporter.
“Now, we had yesterday – detectives, Homeland Security, the Hate Crime Unit, the captains, 1 Police Plaza. Everybody was up in Riverdale. They came and they spoke and they said, ‘we’re gonna get the guy,'” Rabbi Shemtov said.
Chabad of Riverdale and the other synagogues had round-the-clock security after the incidents but somehow a vandal made their way to the back of the Riverdale Jewish Center building and broke additional windows early Monday morning, according to Rabbi Shemtov.
He said he didn’t know how his synagogue, which is nearby, wasn’t also targeted again. He noted, however, that the Riverdale Jewish Center is more exposed to the street and that the back of the building can be more accessible.
“So we had protection at the Chabad of Riverdale 24 hours. We had at other shuls (synagogues) also,” he explained. “Now, the Riverdale Jewish Center just has more sides to it that are open to the streets, so while the police were in the front, I don’t know how this guy got to the back and broke two or three additional windows in the back of this building of the shul (synagogue).”
The Rabbi added that the most recent incident occurred around 1:30 am on Monday morning and that Jewish worshippers going to pray at 7:00 am on Monday were the first to notice what had happened overnight.
Meanwhile, Chabad of Riverdale has five broken windows as a result of last week’s incidents, but the Rabbi fears it could happen again and says he won’t fix the damage until the suspect is in custody.
“I have five glass windows still broken,” the Rabbi said. “I’m not rushing to fix them. I’m probably gonna board them up with plywood until they apprehend them because I can’t afford to spend $1,000 on each window and then they’re broken again and this same thing again until we get them.”
In reaction to last week’s incidents, a number of Democratic leaders in the Bronx spoke out and condemned the ongoing rise of antisemitism.
“Our teams have been in close communication with community leaders and the NYPD in order to work towards the physical and psychological safety of the community,” said Rep. Jamaal Bowman, State Sen. Alessandra Biaggi State Assemblymember Jeffrey Dinowitz and Councilmember Eric Dinowitz in a joint statement Sunday. “We are proud to represent Riverdale — a neighborhood that is inclusive, accepting, and loving. The rise in hate crimes towards Jewish people is alarming and deeply painful to see. Hate has no place here.”
The lawmakers added, “We condemn in the strongest possible terms the hate crimes and vandalism that are occurring in Riverdale. No one should be attacked or living in fear because of their race, religion, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. The threat towards synagogues and other Jewish institutions is real and 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,” they said. “Our hearts go out to everyone in our district who has been impacted by these hate crimes.”
Moreover, the congressional and local leaders assured the community that they are monitoring the situation and thanked everyone involved in the pursuit of justice.
“We thank Captain Emilio Melendez, all the NYPD investigators, the NYS Hate Crime Task Force, our colleagues in government and all the rabbis and community leaders who are involved in ensuring that justice is served. This is a true demonstration of unity and is an example of the resilience of Riverdale. We urge that anyone with relevant information reach out to the 50th precinct. If you see a crime being committed, call 911 immediately. We will continue to unite as a community to make sure it is loud and clear that hate has no place here,” they concluded.
The NYPD has increased security in the area and continues to ask the public to contact the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74782) with any information. The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the CrimeStoppers website at WWW.NYPDCRIMESTOPPERS.COM, on Twitter @NYPDTips.
You can follow Jennie Taer on Twitter @JennieSTaer