Monsey attack: Local rabbi says 'we will not live in fear'

Residents recall chaos in Monsey like ‘never seen before.’

A Jewish man walks near the area where 5 people were stabbed at a Hasidic rabbi's home in Monsey, New York (photo credit: REUTERS)
A Jewish man walks near the area where 5 people were stabbed at a Hasidic rabbi's home in Monsey, New York
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Jewish community in Monsey will not live in fear, said a local rabbi after a stabbing attack on Saturday night left five people wounded.
“We can’t have a free for all... We have to continue shedding light as we celebrate Hanukkah,” Rabbi Shmuel Gancz of the Chabad of Suffern, New York, which is located down the block from where the attack took place, told The Jerusalem Post from the scene.
“After the attack, there was a whole group of people that gathered [outside the house]... we were singing together with them, there was such unity... It’s a real Hanukkah miracle, because this guy was ready to attack a lot of people,” he said adding that they will stand up to those who want to attack Jews.
Gancz said the perpetrator had “sat in his car for a while” before going on a rampage at the home-synagogue of Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg.
According to Gancz, after lighting the hanukkiah, the group started leaving the house to continue Hanukkah celebrations at the synagogue when the man got out of his vehicle and made his way toward the home.
Gancz, who was with some of the victims at the hospital following the attack, said the attacker came to Rottenberg’s house as people were leaving. He came into the front door and pulled out the machete and said to those inside, “No one here is leaving.”
“Heroic people started throwing coat racks, tables and other objects at him, which stalled him a bit,” he explained. “Some of the women started running out of the back door when this was going on... the perp also chased after someone who ran toward the shul and managed to lock the doors so the perp couldn’t get inside. This was when he drove away.”
He said five people had been injured, three of which have since been released from hospital. Two of the victims were about 25 and 50.
Asked how the community was feeling, Gancz said they were afraid.
“As you can imagine... There was a two-hour period of panic in the area – people were walking around calling for community members to lock their doors,” he said. “There’s also a lot of synagogues in this area.”
Gancz said Rottenberg’s community is an ultra-Orthodox hassidic community in the center of Monsey.
“It’s a beautiful community and shul,” he said. “The hassidic community here in Monsey [is] from all different stripes and colors. This branch are not really a popular branch but all walks of life come here to form part of the hassidic community.”
On Sunday morning in a video uploaded to Twitter, Rabbi Rottenberg said the blessing "Birkat Hagomel," symbolizing their determination to get through the tragedy and crisis.

Despite the attack, Gancz emphasized that the Jewish community will not live in fear, adding that they will stand up to those who want to attack Jews, and make it clear "that we can't have a free for all.
“We have to continue shedding light as we celebrate Hanukkah,” he said. “After the attack, there was a whole group of people that gathered [outside the house]... we were singing together with them, there was such unity.
“It’s a real Hanukkah miracle, because this guy was ready to attack a lot of people,” Gancz added.
Shmuel Eisenberg, who grew up in Monsey and is currently visiting from Israel, told the Post that as the situation was unfolding, there was “absolute chaos, nothing like anything I’d ever seen in Monsey... People wouldn’t go to sleep until they knew he [the perpetrator] was arrested, and probably couldn’t fall asleep after that,” he said. “Everyone was concerned about their family and friends.”
He said that during the ordeal, WhatsApp exploded with information and misinformation and that there were helicopters flying overhead “and emergency services flying down the road... where the attack took place is consistently ranked one of the 10 safest places in America,” he explained. “We grew up with our doors unlocked and keys in the car. Last night everyone locked their doors for probably the first time ever. People are truly scared.”
Asked if he was at all afraid, Eisenberg said he doesn’t really get scared.
“I was concerned for my friends,” he said. “I was angry that my brothers and sisters experienced this. And I know that Monsey will never be the same and children won’t grow up with the same sense of security... I had growing up.”
He said the week he arrived in New York with his wife, the Jersey City shooting happened.
“I went to a farbrengen [a hassidic celebratory gathering] that night and everyone was talking about how it can come to Monsey any day and we need to arm ourselves,” he recalled. “Everyone here has this sense of it’s only going to get worse and we need to be prepared.”
Yosef Eli Glick, who was in the home at the time, told KAN that he threw a coffee table at the perpetrator and started yelling at everyone “to run away, he’s coming, he’s coming.”
Glick recalled that the perpetrator then said to him, “Hey you, I’ll get you... He came in and started swinging a machete or big sword and tried to hit people and we all started to run out... I saw an old man bleeding from his head, I told him to ‘come out,’ and he said ‘I can’t, I’m bleeding from my head.’”
Monsey resident Eli Cohen said they are still trying to put the pieces together following the attack.
“We’re all trying to figure out what happened and why,” he said. “People are obviously on edge, they’re nervous, upset and scared... right now we’re trying to figure out what the next step is, obviously security measures for different shuls and just trying to see what we can do to prevent this from happening again.”
Cohen made it clear that although everyone is more or less okay, “The trauma is still real and we hope that everyone figures out a way to pull through and group together through this, and protect ourselves in the future.”
Rachel N., who lives in Pomona, just a short drive from Monsey, said, “If people think that they are in some remote area practicing their religion peacefully and no one will attack them then let Jersey City and Monsey be a rude awakening for them... God bless the first responders, including volunteers from Hatzalah, that responded last night, because without them we wouldn’t have a fighting chance.”


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