Man Is Charged With Firebombing a New Jersey Synagogue
The police arrested a 26-year-old man on Wednesday and charged him with firebombing a large synagogue in Bloomfield, N.J., days after a Molotov cocktail was hurled at the building’s glass door, federal officials said.
Nicholas Malindretos, of Clifton, N.J., was spotted Sunday night in surveillance video footage wearing a ski mask and throwing the incendiary device toward the synagogue, Temple Ner Tamid, according to the United States Attorney’s office.
The bottle broke and did not penetrate the front door, which is coated in a shatterproof film.
But the violence, which occurred two days after seven people were shot dead outside a synagogue in East Jerusalem, underscored the worrisome rise in harassment and violence targeting Jews and Jewish institutions. New Jersey’s governor and attorney general visited the synagogue on Tuesday night, and a $15,000 reward was offered for information that resulted in an arrest.
“No one should find that their lives are at risk by exercising their faith,” Philip R. Sellinger, the United States Attorney for New Jersey, said in a statement announcing the arrest.
Mr. Malindretos is charged with attempting to use fire to damage and destroy a building used in interstate commerce, a crime that carries a minimum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. He is expected to appear in federal court in Newark on Thursday; his lawyer was not identified in federal documents.
Antisemitism in America
Antisemitism is one of the longest-standing forms of prejudice, and those who monitor it say it is now on the rise across the country.
- Perilous Times: With online threats and incidents of harassment and violence rising nationwide, this fall has become increasingly worrisome for American Jews.
- Jewish Artists React: In this unsettling moment, comedians, filmmakers, playwrights and others have been struggling against a long-ingrained American response to look away.
- Donald Trump: The former president had dinner with Nick Fuentes, a prominent antisemite, at Mar-a-Lago, causing some of Mr. Trump’s Jewish allies to speak out.
- Kanye West: The rapper and designer, who now goes by Ye, has been widely condemned for recent antisemitic comments. The fallout across industries has been swift.
Josh Katz, the president of the synagogue, said the “meaningful and urgent” effort by local, state and federal law enforcement officials was gratifying.
“The idea that a person who tried to burn our synagogue down was out there, and that he could return, was not a comfortable thought,” Mr. Katz said.
Mr. Katz said an employee discovered broken glass and spilled gasoline near the door on Sunday morning as children were arriving for religious education classes, leading officials to review footage from the synagogue’s surveillance cameras. The police publicly shared images of a man, dressed in what appeared to be a black or dark gray sweatshirt emblazoned with a skull-and-crossbones design, on Monday.
“We’ve had thousands of people reach out in support,” said Marc Katz, the rabbi of the synagogue, who is not related to its president. “It really makes us realize that we can’t let those small acts of hatred let us forget that people really care and there are allies everywhere.”
A device near the synagogue that reads license plates recorded a vehicle passing by just before and after the Molotov cocktail was thrown.
Law enforcement officers located the vehicle in Clifton and spotted several items in the car “consistent with the video of the incident,” according to a federal document.
Investigators obtained a warrant, and found clothing inside that matched items that the man seen in the 3:19 a.m. Sunday video appeared to be wearing.
In November, the F.B.I. took the unusual step of using social media to warn that it had gotten credible information about a “broad threat to synagogues” in New Jersey. An 18-year-old New Jersey man was later arrested and charged with making a general threat against Jews and Jewish institutions.
James E. Dennehy, the F.B.I. special agent in charge, said this week’s investigation showed that law enforcement takes “all threats of hate and bias” aimed at any religion or faith seriously.
“The speed and intensity of this investigation demonstrates our determination and dedication to protecting houses of worship and protecting their congregations,” Mr. Dennehy said in a statement.
Scott Dodd contributed reporting.