Hours after a man entered a prominent Brooklyn synagogue and stabbed a young rabbinical student before police shot and killed him, the community returned to the scene of the crime to pray.
“I think most people are pretty shaken up. But the synagogue was full -- people were there, so that's a testament at the very least to the tenacity of the community,” Rabbi Mordechai Lightstone, who lives in the neighborhood, told International Business Times about prayers held on Tuesday morning.
The assailant, identified as 49-year-old Calvin Peters, entered the Chabad-Lubavitch world headquarters on 770 Eastern Parkway at around 1:40 a.m. He then stabbed a 22-year-old Israeli rabbinical student, Levi Rosenblat, the New York Times reports.
Witnesses said they heard Peters say, “Kill the Jews.” Several individuals tried to intervene until the police arrived, according to Chabad-Lubavitch spokesman Rabbi Motti Seligson. Peters was shot and killed by police in an encounter that was videotaped by one witness.
“We commend the heroic efforts of the individuals who were present and took immediate action. If not for their intervention the outcome could have been, G-d forbid, far worse,” Seligson said in a written statement. “We continue to pray for the young man, who is in stable condition.”
Parts of the deadly encounter were filmed and shared with the media. One clip shows a police officer demanding that the assailant drop the knife. Peters is heard asking the officer “Are you cool?" and "Do you want me to kill someone in here, yes or no?" before he puts the knife down on a table.
The officer then approaches Peters, telling him to put his hands up. At that point, Peters lunges for the weapon. Several other officers are seen surrounding Peters. The person shooting the video runs behind a divider and a gunshot is heard off camera, NBC New York reports.
While Peters was heard saying “Kill the Jews,” most community members are not necessarily seeing the attack as a hate crime.
“Most people I've spoken to, myself included, think the person was obviously very disturbed,” Lightstone said. “That disturbance may have been possibly motivated by some hate -- but I would venture that such hate, if present, was deeply tied to his own mental state.”
Most rabbis and religious leaders who have shared their thoughts on Twitter since the stabbing have offered prayers for the victim. Below is a roundup of how the community is reacting to the news:
— Felix W Ortiz (@Felixwortiz) Dec. 9, 2014
— Jewish Lady (@jewishladyblog) Dec. 9, 2014
My prayers are with the victim of today's senseless attack at the Chabad headquarters.
— Letitia James (@TishJames) Dec. 9, 2014
— Yakov Horowitz (@yakovhorowitz) Dec. 9, 2014
— David Kaufman (@RavDK) Dec. 9, 2014
— Avraham Berkowitz (@GlobalRabbi) Dec. 9, 2014
— Harris Zafar (@Harris_Zafar) Dec. 9, 2014