A multi-faceted investigation is underway into two possible bias attacks on seemingly opposing targets — a church and a synagogue — in two different New Jersey communities.
Police say there is no indication that the two cases are connected, but since the timing seems more than coincidental — both happened within a 36-hour period — the notion that they are linked will remain under investigation.
Someone in a ski mask threw a lit Molotov cocktail at Temple Ner Tamid in Bloomfield early Sunday, less than two days after someone attempted to pepper spray a group of people and tossed a smoke bomb at a local church, in what Asbury Park police consider a bias incident.
No one was hurt in the 3:20 a.m. Sunday incident, according to police, who released security footage showing a man walk up to the temple with a Molotov cocktail, ignite it, then throw it at the door of the synagogue, which is part of the five-county Jewish Federation Greater MetroWest NJ network.
The glass bottle broke but no other damage was reported, according to police.
The suspect then fled down the driveway.
The congregation is working withthe Anti-Defamation League to coordinate a response.
“We have and will continue to do everything in our power to keep our community safe,” said Rabbi Marc Katz. “Everything worked as it should. Our cameras recorded the incident and our shatter-resistant doors held. But what I cannot do, is convince our community not to grow despondent. There is hate everywhere, and hate wins when we let it penetrate.”
The security enhancements were installed recently using funds from a state Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness grant.
Trinity Episcopal Church hosted a Friday night fundraiser for One People’s Project with a full program of music and activities but the anti-racism event
“Someone attempted to pepper spray a group of people after this concert,” Reverend Chase Danford said. “No one was injured thank goodness.”
Witnesses exiting the church hall told Jenkins they saw someone harassing people and they may have set off a smoke bomb.
“Before they threw the smoke bomb, they shouted WLM,” said Daryle Lamont Jenkins, the founder of One People’s Project. “White lives matter: That changed the whole dynamic. We expect people to come at us because we identify as Antifa.”
The Monmouth County Prosecutor’s office is investigating the Asbury Park incident as a possible bias incident.
Anyone with information about the firebombing at the Jewish temple is asked to call Bloomfield police.
The Essex County prosecutor’s office, FBI and ATF have initiated a joint investigation.
The Essex County Sheriff’s Office said it was offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest od a suspect.
New Jersey Attorney General Matthew Platkin acknowledged the active Bloomfield investigation and referenced the Asbury Park church incident in the same statement.
“We are cognizant of the fact that these attacks have occurred while violence continues to erupt in Israel, and while our own nation reckons with violence at home,” Platkin said. “I want to reassure all New Jerseyans – especially our friends and neighbors of the Black community and the Jewish faith – that law enforcement continues to take the appropriate steps to increase our presence around sensitive places so that everyone in our state can worship, love, and live without fear of violence or threat.”