Increased security measures at synagogues remain; Middlesex County man charged for alleged threats against Jewish synagogues

Star of David, Jewish star, with Torah

An 18-year-old man whose alleged threats to attack a Jewish synagogue – resulting in ramped-up security at Adath Israel Congregation and Temple Micah – has been charged with one count of transmitting a threat in interstate and foreign commerce, according to U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger for the District of New Jersey.

The man, who was arrested Nov. 10, lives in Sayreville, Middlesex County. He faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine if he is convicted of the federal offense, Sellinger said.

The man allegedly used social media to issue broad-based threats against Jewish synagogues Nov. 1, officials said. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) issued a warning Nov. 3 about potential attacks on Jewish synagogues on its Twitter account.

The warning triggered stepped-up security measures at many synagogues, including Adath Israel Congregation and Temple Michah. Adath Israel Congregation is located at 1958 Lawrenceville Road. Temple Micah holds its worship services at The Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville at 2688 Main St. in the village of Lawrenceville.

The man allegedly used a social media app to send a link to a manifesto that he had written and sent it to another person, stating that “it’s in the context of an attack on the Jews,” officials said. He allegedly sent the same manifesto to at least five other people on social media.

In the manifesto, he allegedly wrote that he was a Muslim “with so many regrets, but I can assure you this attack is not one of them,” officials said. He allegedly wrote that the motive of the attack is his hatred of Jews.

Following the man’s arrest, Sellinger said that no one should be targeted for violence or with acts of hate because of how they worship. Law enforcement agencies acted quickly to respond to the alleged threat of harm to Jewish synagogues, he said.

“There is nothing the U.S. Attorney’s Office takes more seriously than threats to our communities of faith and places of worship,” Sellinger said.

“Protection of these communities is core to this office’s mission. This office will take whatever resources are necessary to keep our Jewish community and all New Jersey residents safe,” Sellinger said.

Rabbi Benjamin Adler of Adath Israel Congregation said that despite the man’s apprehension, the synagogue had increased its security measures and would likely continue to do so for awhile to ensure the safety of the congregants.

Adath Israel Congregation had been holding security training sessions for the past several months that were open to congregants, Adler said. The synagogue also received grants from the state and federal governments to upgrade and expand the security of the facility, he said.

The Rev. Jeffrey Vamos, pastor of The Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville, which shares its facilities with Temple Micah, said the church had been meeting with Temple Micah representatives to discuss ways to enhance safety.

A safety plan had already been created to respond to threats such as an active shooter situation, Vamos said. He also expressed concern about the rise in antisemitism.

The Secure Community Network (SCN), which is the official homeland safety and security organization for the Jewish community in North America, stated that the FBI’s Nov. 3 warning of a potential attack is yet another reminder of the rising level of antisemitic threats across the United States.

Jews make up 2% of the United States population, but account for 60% of religious-based hate crimes, SCN officials said.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), whose mission is to stop the defamation of Jews, said 2,717 incidents of antisemitism were reported in 2021 in the United States. It represents a 34% increase over the 2,026 incidents reported in 2020, and an all-time high since the ADL began tracking incidents in 1979, officials said.