NJ leaders condemn spate of anti-Jewish attacks

By Samantha Henry

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Jan. 16 2012 2:32 p.m. MST

NEWARK, N.J. — Religious and political leaders in northern New Jersey are displaying a sense of unity this week as police search for the perpetrators of a spate of fires and vandalism at several synagogues over the past month.

More than two dozen lawmakers and community and religious leaders signed a statement Monday condemning acts of hate and violence against the Jewish community in Bergen County, including the recent firebombing of a Rutherford synagogue.

Signers of the statement said they chose to release it on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday to echo King's famous saying: "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

"We stand in united opposition to those who would seek to do harm to religious leaders of any denomination, or to those who would seek to target individuals based on their race, religion, creed, gender, or ethnicity," the statement read. "Bergen County has a long and proud tradition as a melting pot of diversity, and our differences contribute to making the tapestry of the New Jersey experience all the richer."

Several hundred residents, politicians and religious leaders also attended interfaith services over the weekend to show support for the Congregation Beth El synagogue in Rutherford, which was hit with Molotov cocktails early Wednesday.

One of the devices went through a window of the upstairs living quarters of the synagogue, where Rabbi Nosson and his family slept. Nosson suffered minor burns to one hand as he tried to extinguish the fire, police said. The rabbi's family, including his wife, their five children and his parents, escaped without injury.

The Anti-Defamation League is offering a $7,500 award for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the case.

It was the fourth such attack on a synagogue in Bergen County since Dec. 10. Within the last three weeks, a fire was intentionally set at a synagogue in Paramus, and anti-Semitic graffiti was discovered at synagogues in Hackensack and Maywood, according to police.

On Friday, a swastika was discovered in a public park in Fair Lawn. Police haven't said if it's related to the other four incidents and haven't publicly released any connection among the incidents.

Local, county and federal authorities, including the FBI, are investigating the crimes, and the Bergen County prosecutor's office has classified the Rutherford firebombing as a hate crime and attempted murder, though they have said no evidence immediately suggests that the rabbi was specifically targeted.

Michael Ward, special agent in charge of the FBI's Newark division, said Monday that they were investigating several leads.

Follow Samantha Henry at http://www.twitter.com/SamanthaHenry

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