While the New York Times continues to maintain that the Black Hebrew Israelites, a religious group that has been designated a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Leadership Center, is “not known for committing mass acts of violence,” it seems that the anti-Semitic rhetoric of the group may have inspired the most recent, deadly acts of violence against Jews in New York and New Jersey. Last month, a shooting rampage in a Jersey City kosher market targeted innocent Jews as they shopped, and less than two weeks later, a machete-wielding man attacked a rabbi and his family and friends during a Hanukkah celebration in the rabbi’s home in Rockland County, New York. In both cases, the perpetrators had ties to the Black Hebrew Israelites.
According to the New York Daily News, Grafton Thomas, the man who stormed the Hanukkah celebration, kept “an anti-Semitic journal” which included questions like “why people mourned for anti-Semitism when there is Semitic genocide?” and which included references to Adolf Hitler and Nazi culture on the same page as drawings of a Star of David and a swastika.
A search of Thomas’ cellphone by police revealed that he had searched “German Jewish temples near me,” “Zionist temples in Elizabeth, NJ,” “Zionist temples of Staten Island,” and “Prominent companies founded by Jews in America” in the weeks leading up to the attack. On the day of the machete slashing spree, Thomas clicked on an article, “New York City increases Police Presence around Synagogues.” And there were references in Thomas’s hate-filled journal to the Black Hebrew Israelite movement. Both the New York Times and the New York Post reported that Thomas had attended the Black Hebrew Israelite services in East Harlem.