The New York State Hate Crimes Task Force is helping local authorities investigate a brutal knife attack against an Orthodox Jewish man near a synagogue early Wednesday.
The victim, about 30 years old, was in critical condition from being repeatedly stabbed and physically beaten at around 5:45 a.m. as he was walking to morning prayers at his synagogue in the quiet hamlet of Monsey in Rockland County, north of New York City. He underwent surgery and is expected to survive, community officials say.
Ramapo Police Department, which oversees Monsey, has so far declined to say whether the incident was a hate crime, stressing the need to establish the facts of the case first. As of 4 p.m. Wednesday, the suspect — or suspects — was still at large.
And so far, there aren’t many clues for investigators to follow.
"He couldn't describe anyone," community liaison Rabbi Yisroel Kahan said of the victim. "They came up from behind him. It was simply unprovoked."
Police don’t believe that anything was stolen from the victim, seemingly ruling out the possibility of a violent mugging.
Officials from the Mosdos Meharam Brisk Tashnad synagogue believe that their surveillance footage may show the attacker, or attackers, driving around the area, possibly looking for a victim. But police said at a press conference later on that the footage is poor quality.
The Anti-Defamation League, which tracks hate groups and anti-Semitism in the U.S., is offering a $10,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest of the suspect.
The incident comes as anti-Semitic offenses remain at decade-highs, according to recently released FBI data. Earlier this summer, Rockland County became a flashpoint for anti-Semitism, after local Republicans put out a video that was criticized widely as targeting Jews. The video accused an Orthodox Jewish county legislator who was backing new housing developments of “plotting a takeover” that was threatening “our way of life.” An outbreak of measles among the Orthodox community in Rockland County also fueled an anti-Semitic backlash earlier this year.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo commented on Wednesday’s attack in a statement.: “I am deeply disturbed by the violent attack against an Orthodox Jewish man who was beaten and brutally stabbed while on his way to synagogue,” he said. “This is not an isolated incident. All across the state, we’ve seen an alarming rise in anti-Semitic vandalism and hate-fueled attackcs. We cannot allow this cancer to metastasize any further.”
Cover: A sign advertising free measles vaccines is displayed at the Rockland County Health Department in Pomona, N.Y., Wednesday, March 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)