(New York Jewish Week) — Shots were fired at Temple Israel in Albany, New York on Thursday, the first night of Chanukah, as U.S. Jews grapple with a surge in antisemitism following Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel and the Israeli military campaign in Gaza.
There were no injuries in the shooting on the premises of the Conservative synagogue in New York’s capital, Gov. Kathy Hochul said in a statement, adding that she had spoken with the congregation’s rabbi. She said in a press briefing, however, that the synagogue has an on-site early learning center, “with at least two dozen children, preschoolers, who were on the premises.” She added that the facility went into lockdown but that all children have been released safely to their parents.
A 28-year-old male is in custody, said Hochul’s press secretary, Avi Small.
The suspect shouted “Free Palestine” during the incident, Albany’s Times Union reported, citing police and another source.
Hochul said she had directed the New York State Police and the state’s national guard to be on high alert and step up patrols of at-risk sites for Hanukkah, such as synagogues, yeshivas and community centres throughout the state — including New York City, which is home to the largest Jewish population in the United States.
“Any act of antisemitism is unacceptable, and undermining public safety at a synagogue on the first night of Hanukkah is even more deplorable,” Hochul said. “We reject hate, antisemitism and violence in all forms.”
Hochul visited the synagogue on Oct. 7 in a show of solidarity amid Hamas’ attack.
The governor said that, following Thursday’s incident, she contacted Temple Israel’s Rabbi Wendy Love Anderson, and “assured her that the state of New York will do everything possible to restore the sense of security her congregation needs at this time,” adding that she plans to attend Shabbat services there this Friday evening.
In the briefing, Hochul noted that the synagogue had been one of several targeted with bomb threats in September.
There was no immediate public comment on the incident from the synagogue or the Albany police department.
Law enforcement and Jewish community security groups have reported a surge in antisemitism since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war.
In New York City, the NYPD reported 62 antisemitic hate crimes last month and 69 attacks in October, a steep increase. Anti-Jewish incidents made up 65% of all hate crimes reported to police last month. There is no comparable data available for antisemitic hate crimes in upstate New York.
Synagogues and other Jewish institutions have been targeted in the wave of hate crimes. On Friday, bomb threats were made against 15 synagogues in New York State, including five in upstate areas.
The threats were made as part of a campaign intended to interrupt synagogue operations by forcing law enforcement to go to a location, and there did not appear to be any actual danger to the targets, said the director of the Jewish security group the Community Security Initiative, Mitch Silber.
“The bottom line is this: The safety of Jewish New Yorkers is non-negotiable,” Hochul said in the briefing. “Every act, whether it’s verbal or physical, any act of antisemitism is unacceptable, and undermining the public safety at our synagogue, on the first night of Hanukkah, is even more deplorable.”
“I remind everyone: As New Yorkers, this is not who we are. This must stop, ” she added. “We reject hate, antisemitism, Islamophobia. All hate crimes must stop, and all violence in every form must cease. We have no tolerance for these acts of evil that have now permeated our society.”
Ahead of questions, the briefing concluded with the lighting of Hanukkah candles, led by Eva Wyner, the state’s deputy director of Jewish affairs.