Plan to attack NYC Jews was 'not an idle threat'- Mayor Adams

NYPD have increased security at synagogues and other Jewish institutions as a result of the threats and Adams said the extra protection for the city's 1.6 million Jews would continue through Hanukkah

Image of the NYPD Logo (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Image of the NYPD Logo
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

NEW YORK –Last weekend's foiled plan to attack New York City synagogues was not an empty threat, said Mayor Eric Adams on Monday. 

"This was not an idle threat," Adams said at a City Hall press briefing alongside New York Police Department (NYPD) Commissioner Keechant Sewell "This was a real threat."

“A Nazi armband in NYC in 2022,” the mayor said. “Think about that for a moment.”

Two armed individuals carrying a large hunting knife, a Glock 17 firearm, a 30-round magazine and a Nazi armband, who were planning an attack against the New York Jewish community were arrested by the (NYPD) at Penn Station on Friday night. 

"A Nazi armband in 2022. Think about that for a moment."

Mayor Eric Adams
 Democratic candidate for New York City Mayor Eric Adams reacts as he speaks after being declared victor at his election night party in Brooklyn, New York, US November 2, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/ANDREW KELLY) Democratic candidate for New York City Mayor Eric Adams reacts as he speaks after being declared victor at his election night party in Brooklyn, New York, US November 2, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/ANDREW KELLY)

Christopher Brown, 21, a Long Island resident, told investigators he has a "sick personality" and tweeted that he was going to ask a priest "if I should become a husband or shoot up a synagogue and die," according to the criminal complaint. He was arrested Friday with Matthew Mahrer, 22, from Manhattan, after MTA police officers spotted them entering Penn Station following a notice from the Joint Terrorism Task Force. 

"We're always concerned about copycats," Adams continued. "No one should ever feel threatened walking into their synagogue or place of worship."

At the news briefing, Sewell said: "I join all New Yorkers today in expressing my gratitude and pride for the ever-vigilant work of our NYPD women and men - who remain on-guard around-the-clock and every day to protect the peace and ensure no violence can ever come to the city and its people." 

"NYPD Intelligence detectives are second to none — and working alongside our partners in the MTA, FBI, and our Jewish community was a force multiplier responsible for a coordinated investigation and swift arrests that stopped a credible threat in NYC. Grateful for their vigilance," Sewell tweeted on Monday. 

How were the threats against NYC synagogues uncovered?

Mitchell Silber, executive director of the UJA Federation of New York’s Community Security Initiative, said it was his group’s discovery of disturbing tweets that sparked the investigation by the NYPD and FBI.

“There’s a lot of chatter on the internet,” Silber said at Monday's City Hall press conference.  “One of the most difficult things is discerning what’s just talk and what’s likely to turn to action.”

Silber said on Friday morning, his group’s analysts uncovered “some alarming texts from this individual, talking about attacking synagogue, talking about 10 o’clock at night, talking about dying by the police.”

The cyber-detectives were able to narrow the threat down to Long Island and contact local authorities. By Friday afternoon, it became clear that the posts were not just idle chatter, and the agents contacted the NYPD, who took the manhunt from there. 

Threat comes amid rising antisemitism

The latest plot to attack synagogues comes more than a week after a New Jersey man was accused of making threats to attack a synagogue and Jewish people.

New York state leads the nation in antisemitic incidents, with at least 416 reported in 2021, including at least 51 assaults – the highest number ever recorded by the Anti-Defamation League. 

The arrests also come at a time when antisemitism is high on the minds of Americans amid backlash this month against rapper Kanye West and Brooklyn Nets player Kyrie Irving's highly publicized antisemitic outbursts and actions. 

NYPD have increased security at synagogues and other Jewish institutions as a result of the threats and Adams said the extra protection for the city's 1.6 million Jews would continue through Hanukkah. Authorities are still trying to determine whether to file federal charges against the two men, according to the FBI.

Gov. Hochul signs bills to help prevent hate crimes

On Tuesday, in response to the weekend's threat on synagogues and other recent incidents, Gov. Kathy Hochul signed legislation meant to combat hate and bias crimes.

The bills would require mandatory hate crime prevention training for individuals convicted of such crimes, as well as establish a statewide campaign around inclusion, tolerance and diversity.

Before, this was optional,” Hochul said in a press conference Tuesday, referring to the training for offenders. “The operative word now is mandatory. No discretion; this training will occur.”

The campaign will include the first-ever Unity Summit, with community leaders from around the state gathering “to affirm our stand against hate,” Hochul said.

“We’ll have everybody,” Hochul said. “Government officials, advocates, community leaders, religious leaders, to help share practices because I want this to be a national model.”

Jacob Henry/JTA and Tzvi Joffre contributed to this report.