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Synagogue fire bombed; rabbi, family targeted

January 11, 2012 7:52:09 PM PST
A New Jersey synagogue was fire bombed early Wednesday, and investigators believe the rabbi and his family were the targets.

Wednesday night on Montrose Avenue in Rutherford, a police cruiser is parked outside Congregation Beth-El.

The scene of the latest attack on a Jewish institution has prompted New Jersey's branch of the Anti-Defamation League to issue this warning.

"Every synagogue must take extra steps to protect its constituents and building," a member of the league said.

It's the latest in a series of crimes targeting Jewish temples in Bergen County.

The attack happened just before 5 a.m. Wednesday.

Rabbi Nossan Schumani, his wife and five children were sleeping in the residence portion of Temple Beth El.

One of the firebombs was thrown clear through a bedroom window on the second floor and burst into flames.

"It was almost like dragon's breath," Rabbi Schuman said.

Rabbi Schumani and his wife were nearly killed, he said.

The rabbi burned his hands trying to smother the fire, while his wife woke up their five children and the rabbi's parents. All made it out safely and the fire did little damage.

Authorities are convinced that someone was trying to send them a message.

"This is certainly a hate crime. This is a bias crime. This is aggravated arson, but most importantly, we're now looking on this as an attempted homicide," Bergen County prosecutor John Molinelli said.

No one else was hurt, but the incident launched a major investigation. Detectives canvassed the area, walking on the roof of the building, looking for evidence. Several other explosive devices, including Molotov cocktails and aerosol cans, were discovered, but did not ignite.

"You can't just look at this as an arson," Molinelli said. "You look at this now as an attempted murder."

The attack in the normally quiet Rutherford neighborhood has rattled the nervous of neighbors.

"It's just outrageous that somebody would do something like this," neighbor Robert Genardi said. "Especially with kids asleep on the second floor."

There have been several bias incidents in Bergen County recently, including one in Paramus and one in Hackensack. At this point, police are not saying the fire bombing is related, but one man says this kind of irrational behavior is not surprising.

"It's not something really new, It's something that happens and you gotta go on."

The investigation is ongoing.

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