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Suspect Charged In Stabbing Attack At Rabbi's New York Home


On this last night of Hanukkah, Jewish communities around New York City are on alert. As we heard earlier, five people were injured last night in Monsey, N.Y., a suburb north of the city, after a man stabbed people gathering for a Hanukkah celebration at their Hasidic rabbi's home there. Many are seeing it as the latest in a series of anti-Semitic attacks in the region. NPR's Hansi Lo Wang is in Monsey and joins us now. Hello, Hansi.


MCCAMMON: So authorities are investigating last night's attack, of course. What's the latest news there?

WANG: Well, as you can probably hear, it is raining hard right now in Monsey, N.Y., but the suspect is in custody. He's pleaded not guilty to five counts of attempted murder, one count of burglary. And the FBI and local law enforcement are investigating right now what could be this suspect's motivation. But a lot of folks I've talked to here in Monsey - they say they feel that this was a targeted attack against their faith.

MCCAMMON: Right. Monsey, N.Y., is home to a large Jewish community. What else are you hearing from people there?

WANG: Well, I talked to folks who live on the same street where the attack took place. One person, Sandy Rosenwasser, just lives a few doors down from the rabbi's home. She lives in Monsey for 28 years now and seen the Jewish community really grow in recent years. Let's listen to what she said.

SANDY ROSENWASSER: You know, we talk to each other in the street on the Sabbath. We say hello, you know? We go to each other's homes. It's - now you don't know what to do. You don't know what to do anymore after last night. How can somebody have all their children and grandchildren in a party - people have to learn to get - not to be racist, not - to be able to live with each other and respect each other. That's all we want to do.

WANG: After last night, Rosenwasser says she's thinking of ways to arm herself not with a gun, she said, but maybe with a pair of scissors. Lots of folks are feeling very vulnerable right now.

MCCAMMON: Yes, of course, a lot of fear there, Hansi. What kinds of precautions are members of the community taking in response to last night's attack?

WANG: Well, some folks are telling me that they are hearing more people talk about getting licensed to carry firearms. And folks are talking about out volunteering with neighborhood street patrols. And this is the kind of thing that people here in this community have been thinking about ever since recent shootings just a few weeks ago at a kosher grocery store in Jersey City, N.J., not very far from here. One person told me he doesn't necessarily think anti-Semitism is on the rise, but, rather, he thinks that more people are feeling bolder to act on their prejudices.

MCCAMMON: And this is the last night of Hanukkah. How are families there in Monsey observing tonight?

WANG: Well, this is, really, a resilient community, you know? It's remarkable. Last night, the celebration that was interrupted by the attack - it moved on to that synagogue next door and continued in order to make sure the community celebrated Hanukkah. And, tonight, if you look at a lot of the windows here - I'm outside one home right now - you can see all nine candles on the menorah lit because it is the eighth night of Hanukkah.

And one neighbor told me that after last night's attack, she - it crossed her mind to maybe take down the menorah from her home's window. But she decided she wanted to show the world that - you know, she said, you know, we're here, and we're not going to get scared off.

MCCAMMON: That's NPR's Hansi Lo Wang in Monsey, N.Y. Thanks so much for speaking with us.

WANG: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Hansi Lo Wang (he/him) is a national correspondent for NPR reporting on the people, power and money behind the U.S. census.