Update April 26th: The Riverdale Jewish Center (RJC) was vandalized once again on Monday by what appears to be the same man; more here.
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The New York Police Department have released a photo of the man suspected in targeting and vandalizing a now total of six synagogues in the Riverside area of the Bronx.
On Thursday night and Friday morning the Riverdale Jewish Center (RJC) and Chabad of Riverdale were attacked. On Saturday night both were targeted again, as well as Young Israel of Riverdale and Conservative Synagogue Adath Israel of Riverdale (CSAIR).
A community source familiar with the situation on the ground reported a “heavy police presence” in the vicinity of the Bronx Jewish establishments and noted that local Jewish groups were satisfied with the police response so far.
At a Zoom call on Sunday morning with local Jewish community leaders, NYPD personnel, elected officials and security groups, the suspect was described by investigators as “violent” and “dangerous,” an attendee, who was not authorized to speak publicly, told The Algemeiner.
Witnesses on the call, the attendee noted, said the assailant was in his 30s, 5 feet 11 inches tall, a “light-skinned African American” with a “skinny to medium build.” He was wearing a face mask, long trench coat with army colors and a hoodie built in and high top boots. He spoke with an American accent.
Police spokesman Sergeant Edward D. Riley confirmed to The Algemeiner on Sunday that “the investigations are active and ongoing by the 50th Precinct Detective Squad and the Hate Crime Task Force.”
At Riverdale Jewish Center, the NYPD said, the suspect “threw rocks and broke 3 windows.” At Young Israel of Riverdale rocks were also “thrown at the front window breaking the entire glass.” At CSAIR, the suspect “threw rocks at the front door, office window and side room window.”
“We’re just doing what we can to work with law enforcement, and to ensure that the shul is safely protected and that those responsible for the crimes against our shul and community are properly investigated,” Oren Hiller, RJC executive director, told The Algemeiner after the initial incidents were reported on Friday.
The volunteer Community Security Service said in a statement on Sunday, “According to reports by volunteers on site, and corroborated by a review of camera footage, the perpetrator vandalized four synagogues by hurling rocks resulting in smashed windows, causing a sense of vulnerability and heightened alert throughout the community.”
Evan R. Bernstein, CSS CEO and National Director, told The Algemeiner, “From a security perspective, we are concerned that Jewish institutions are being harassed or vandalized for the third consecutive time in one week. The eyewitness accounts of our volunteers, coupled with footage of the alleged perpetrator days before committing the acts, represents a clear desire to inflict harm on the Jewish community.”
The Anti-Defamation League said on Twitter that it was “appalled” by the attacks and called for the public to provide any additional information to law enforcement professionals.
“This is a particularly troubling image for Jews because of their history,” the group said.
“Unfortunately, these incidents continue to occur, and too often go unreported to law enforcement and the media. It is critical that synagogues and other Jewish institutions properly report these incidents to ensure they are adequately addressed,” Joshua Gleis, president of Gleis Security Consulting, a security firm that specializes in protecting synagogues and works with houses of worship around the country, including the Riverdale Jewish Center, told The Algemeiner on Friday.
Gleis added, “The threat to Jewish institutions is real, and synagogues must prioritize the target hardening of their exterior doors and ground floor windows to help mitigate their risk.”
In May 2009, four men were arrested over a plot to bomb the Riverdale Jewish Center and the nearby Riverdale Temple. As part of an FBI sting operation, the men planted what they believed to be bombs in cars outside the synagogues, with plans to then shoot down military aircraft at an Air National Guard base in New York.