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What we know about the Hanukkah celebration stabbing in New York

Five people were stabbed at a rabbi’s home during a Hanukkah celebration in Monsey, New York.

Members of Monsey’s Jewish community gather outside the rabbi’s home at which a stabbing attack took place on December 28, 2019.
Kena Betancur/AFP/Getty Images

A man entered Orthodox Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg’s home in Monsey, New York, during a Hanukkah celebration, stabbed and wounded five people, then fled in a vehicle Saturday night.

The victims of the attack in Monsey, which is about 35 miles from New York City, were all Hasidic Jews. The town has a large Hasidic Jewish population.

A suspect was arrested in Manhattan nearly two hours later, police say.

The attack comes after a spate of possible anti-Semitic attacks in the region. In New York City alone, there have been at least eight possible anti-Semitic attacks in the past week.

Earlier in December in nearby Jersey City, a shooting at a kosher grocery store involving two gunmen resulted in the death of six people (including the killers). New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said that attack was “fueled both by anti-Semitism and anti-law enforcement beliefs.”

Following the Hanukkah celebration stabbing, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement that he is “directing the state police hate crimes task force to immediately investigate and to use every tool available to hold the attacker accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”

Here’s what we know, and don’t, so far.

What we know:

  • Police say the stabbings happened around 10 pm, as around 100 people gathered to celebrate the seventh night of Hanukkah at Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg’s house.
  • Five people were wounded; all were taken to local hospitals. As of Monday, one victim — whose skull was fractured in the attack — remains in critical condition.
  • Police have identified 37-year-old Grafton Thomas of Greenwood Lake, a community roughly 20 miles west of Monsey, as the suspect in the attack. Witnesses said he used a large knife in the attack.
  • The suspect faced five counts of attempted murder, and one count of burglary, according to police. His bail has been set at $5 million. He has pleaded not guilty to all counts.
  • New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo referred to the attack as “the latest in a string of attacks against members of the Jewish community in New York this week,” and said that “anti-Semitism and bigotry of any kind are repugnant to our values of inclusion and diversity.”
  • Sunday afternoon, President Donald Trump called the attack “horrific” on Twitter, and added, “We must all come together to fight, confront, and eradicate the evil scourge of anti-Semitism.”
  • Monday, prosecutors filed federal hate crime charges against the suspect, based on internet searches discovered on his phone and anti-Semitic writings in his journal. His family and lawyer said the suspect has not previously expressed anti-Semitic sentiments, but said he does have “a long history of mental illness and hospitalizations.”

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