Vandalism at Local Synagogue as Antisemitic Crime Continues to Rise


Photo credit: Stephanie Willoughby

The boy in this photo is my son, Jesse. He was 13 and preparing to become Bar Mitzvah in two days. The prayer shawl he wore belonged to my grandpa, who came to this country from Germany while that was still possible. 

When Jesse was just a few weeks old my husband and I took him to Temple Ner Tamid (TNT) on Broad Street for a Shabbat service. We felt welcomed and comfortable there and, when Jesse was two years old, we enrolled him in their preschool. He grew up in that synagogue, attending Hebrew classes while I taught them. We'd drive home together when we were both done. My husband underwent the process of conversion in that synagogue: studying, questioning, and completing the rituals required to be called a Jew. I taught in the classrooms of that building for 12 years and said Kaddish for my dead father in the sanctuary. Like other houses of worship, this is not just a building. It is home to a community. It is home to Jews.

A little after 3 am on Sunday morning, someone - a presumed white male, according to Bloomfield police - lit a Molotov cocktail and threw it at the doors of our building. Jews are not unfamiliar with acts of vandalism and violence. In 1938 Nazis used this same weapon to torch synagogues in Germany and destroy Jewish homes, schools, and stores. In this case, the attempt was unsuccessful. The glass bottle shattered upon impact and the flame went out. The suspect fled and our synagogue was undamaged.

That does not mean that no harm was done. Even an unsuccessful act of violence leaves its mark. Today, all classes were canceled at TNT while temple leadership met with the police, reviewed security footage, and spoke with representatives from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and The Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest. It was only a few months ago when the FBI issued a warning to synagogues across New Jersey following a credible threat and just last month antisemitic graffiti was found in Montclair's Edgemont Park. The ADL recorded 370 antisemitic incidents in New Jersey for 2021...more than it has ever seen in this state. 

Clifton resident and TNT congregant Ronni Pressman said, "It's scary and sad to me when any group is attacked...but when it hits home at your front door it is scary and so sad."

Despite this too-close-to-home attack, congregants at TNT will continue to gather to pray, to sing, and to rejoice.

TNT's Rabbi Marc Katz had this to say in an email sent to every congregant, "When the weight of this grows too heavy, I want you to remember that every day, despite what is happening, babies are named, children learn to read their aleph-bet, teens are called to the Torah as B’nei Mitzvah, and wedding couples seal their love under the chuppah."

The Bloomfield Police, who have increased their presence at Temple Ner Tamid and are working with the FBI as they continue to investigate, have asked for the public's assistance in identifying the suspect. 

image from Bloomfield Police
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