Two More Incidents: Menorah Toppled, Vandalism Near Synagogue
Authorities in two more New Jersey communities are investigating vandalism incidents that may have targeted Jewish residents -- investigations that come amid a string of apparent anti-Semitic incidents in the northeast.
In addition, family members of the man accused of stabbing five people at a rabbi's home in nearby Monsey, New York say he has a history of mental illness, and that they don't believe he specifically targeted Jews. Police also continue to investigate what motivated a pair who shot and killed multiple people at a kosher supermarket after killing a police officer in Jersey City; the two were killed themselves in the same incidents.
Graffiti was found Sunday near the Ahavas Achim synagogue on South 1st Avenue in Highland Park, a day after five people were stabbed during the Hanukkah celebration in Monsey.
Pictures posted by Highland Park police showed a tree defaced with "777" written vertically with a smiley face and "AH there coming" written on a sidewalk. Another picture shows "AH" painted multiple times with "Eddie 777"
Mayor Gayle Brill Mittler said in a post on her Facebook page the scene is being investigated as a “possible bias crime scene.”
Highland Park, in Middlesex County, has a large Jewish population and is served by six synagogues.
The Middlesex County Prosecutors Office, the state Office of Homeland Security and State Police were notified about the incident, according to police.
The mayor said the borough must be better prepared to address incidents like this and is reformulating its Community Response Team, which includes first-responders, religious leaders and other advisers.
Police are asking area residents to check their home security video footage.
In an earlier incident, Mendham Borough police said a lit menorah was knocked over at the borough park on Friday, damaged five of the nine bulbs on the display, a symbol of Hanakuah. The menorah was repaired and the bulbs replaced, according to police.
The incident is being investigated as possible "criminal mischief," according to police.
"Any act of vandalism directed at any religion, race, gender or age should never be tolerated in our towns," Mayor Christine Serrano Glassner posted on her Facebook page, and recalled the "spirit of inclusion" symbolized by the lighting ceremony.
Gov. Phil Murphy ordered State Police to increase security and law enforcement coordination around Jewish synagogues and community centers statewide following the Monsey attack.