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Prosecutor Asks for Vigilance After Latest Synagogue Attack

Latest incident in Rutherford being treated as an attempted murder, authorities say

HACKENSACK— Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli asked residents to be extra vigilant after someone attacked a Rutherford synagogue with incendiary devices Wednesday morning. 

The Rutherford bombing was the fourth apparent crime at a Bergen County synagogue in three weeks.

Molinelli asked anyone living in the county to report anything suspicious to the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office or local police.

"We're asking all law enforcement in this area to have a heightened awareness of what's going on," Molinelli said at a press conference Wednesday.

The prosecutor said one or more people threw incendiary devices, like Molotov cocktails, through the bedroom window of the Rabbi Nosson Schuman of Congregation Beth El in Rutherford at 4:30 a.m. Wednesday. The rabbi was asleep, along with his wife, five children and two parents. 

The device didn't explode, but ignited, lighting Schuman's bed on fire. He managed to extinguish the  fire, suffering minor burns in the process, Molinelli said.

Molinelli said there is no evidence that suggests the attack was related to an  at  on Arnot Place in Paramus or two incidents of . 

But he said everyone in the county should be vigilant.

"Arnot Place in Paramus is a small residential area," Molinelli said. "This location in Rutherford—extraordinarily quiet, beautiful area of Rutherford and the county—so we need help. We need all law enforcement and we need the public to have a much higher level of awareness."

The BCPO is treating the Rutherford incident as an attempted homicide. Molinelli issued a warning to whomever committed the crime, urging them to turn themselves in.

"You're looking at 40 to 50 years in prison," he said.

The Anti-Defamation League of New Jersey is offering a $2,500 reward to anyone who can offer information that leads to an arrest.

"Any time there's a serious hate crime, we automatically consider the reward as part of our arsenal in the fight against hate," said Etzion Neuer, director of Community Service and Policy for the Anti-Defamation League.

Rep. Steve Rothman was among several officials at the press conference. He called on the U.S. Attorney's Office and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to aid in the BCPO investigation.

Molinelli said the ATF was helping examine the incendiary devices.

"We've got every federal resource now at the disposal of our county prosecutor and his team," Rothman said.

The FBI is also investigating, said Special Agent Bryan L. Travers, a spokesman for the Newark field office. 

Paramus Police Capt. Ken Ehrenberg said his department had increased patrols around religious institutions since the apparent arson at K'Hal Adath Jeshurun.

"A tremendous increase in patrols," he said. "Day and night, both uniform and unmarked."

Although Teaneck has not experienced any similar recent incidents, police have said officers were alerted to the incidents.

Rabbi Arthur D. Weiner of the  said the Rutherford incident raised the congregation's level of concern, already heightened after the incidents in Paramus, Maywood and Hackensack. Weiner, who has been at the JCCP 16 years, said he was confident in law enforcement.

Representatives from several local synagogues, including Weiner, are meeting in Paramus Thursday to discuss the recent incidents. 

"I don't recall anything like this in all my years here in Paramus," he said. "We are going to continue to be vigilant, but we have a religious mission in this community that we intend to try to fulfill."

Molinelli said anyone with information could call the BCPO Major Crimes Unit anonymously at (201) 226-5651.

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