Molotov Cocktail Hurled at a New Jersey Synagogue, Police Say

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A man wearing a ski mask lit the wick of a Molotov cocktail and hurled it at the front door of a synagogue in Bloomfield, N.J., early on Sunday morning, the latest episode in an uptick of harassment and violence targeting Jews and Jewish institutions, the authorities said.

The Molotov cocktail’s bottle broke, and the synagogue, Temple Ner Tamid, was undamaged, the Bloomfield Police Department said in a news release.

Surveillance video footage that the police released on Monday shows a man in a ski mask and dark clothing, including a shirt that appears to have a skull-and-crossbones design on it, approaching the synagogue holding a Molotov cocktail. The man ignites the wick with a lighter and throws it before fleeing on foot. The entire episode lasts less than two minutes.

The police released this image from the synagogue’s surveillance footage of the attacker.Credit…Bloomfield Police Department

About six hours after the 3:19 a.m. attack, members of the temple’s staff discovered what had happened and notified the police. The synagogue said in a statement that the fire went out on impact and that the door was secure.

All scheduled activities on Sunday were canceled, and the synagogue said it expected an ongoing and heightened police presence in the coming days.

The Police Department said on Monday that it was offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.

Marc Katz, the temple’s rabbi, said in the statement that the synagogue has and “will continue to do everything in our power to keep our community safe.”

“Everything worked as it should,” he said. “Our cameras recorded the incident, and our shatter-resistant doors held.”

A separate investigation was opened into “a possible bias-motivated incident” at Trinity Episcopal Church in Asbury Park, N.J., the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office said in a statement. The incident, which was not described in detail, took place during an antiracism event on Friday night, the prosecutor’s office said. No injuries were reported.

The church did not respond to a request for comment.

The state attorney general, Matthew J. Platkin, said in a statement that his office was also made aware of the attack on the church. He did not offer details or say whether the attacks were linked.

“We are cognizant of the fact that these attacks have occurred while violence continues to erupt in Israel, and while our own nation reckons with violence at home,” he said.

Michael Venezia, the mayor of Bloomfield, a township about eight miles north of Newark, said on Facebook that “hate and antisemitism will not be tolerated and have no place in our welcoming community.”

The Anti-Defamation League of New York and New Jersey said in a joint statement issued with partner organizations that the attempted arson at Temple Ner Tamid came amid a “spike in antisemitic incidents” and recent threats at synagogues in New Jersey.

In November, an 18-year-old man from Middlesex County, N.J., was charged with threatening to attack a synagogue and Jews that month. The episode prompted a rare warning from the Federal Bureau of Investigation in New Jersey of a broad threat to synagogues in the state.

Since a spate of bomb threats starting in 2017, synagogues have fortified their physical infrastructure with shatter-resistant windows, more security cameras and controlled access to buildings, said Bob Wilson, chief security officer for the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ, who oversees training on how to best respond to threats.

“We’re just trying to make that security piece an integral part of much of what they do — not to be scared, but to be prepared,” he said.

In 2021, the Anti-Defamation League recorded 370 antisemitic incidents in New Jersey, representing the highest number ever recorded by the organization for the state — and the second-highest total recorded across the country that year.

Figures from 2022 are not yet available, but they will not show a decrease, said Scott Richman, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League of New York and New Jersey.

“Antisemitism is on the rise,” Mr. Richman said. “We are not in a vacuum here. Jews are not alone in this. It’s not just antisemitism. It’s about hate. We are one of the victims.”

April Rubin contributed reporting.

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