CLARKSTOWN, N.Y. -- Following two fire-bombing type incidents that took place at the home of two Clarkstown Rabbis on Tuesday, Rockland County Executive Ed Day has called for an aggressive investigation into what he called "apparent hate crimes."
“There is no place for hate in our community,” said Day. “We condemn this apparent hate crime in the strongest terms possible.”
The incidents took place at the home of Rabbi Simcha Morganstern, where about 15 adults and children were gathered and where an incendiary device was set off under the gas tank of a parked car at about 10:30 p.m.
A few seconds later a similar attack took place a block away at the home of Rabbi Avremel Kotlartsky, where a bush adjacent to the house was set ablaze. No one was hurt in either incidence.
Clarkstown Police said they are investigating an act of criminal mischief.
Gary Siepser, CEO of the Jewish Federation and Foundation of Rockland County, said the community is appalled the incidents took place and will hold a Rally Against Hate, along with Day, in front of the old courthouse, 1 S. Main St., New City, at noon Thursday.
"It's up to the police to fully investigate the incidents and to bring the perpetrators to justice," he said. "This was clearly a deliberate act."
Siepser said the event was terrifying for people at the homes where the attacks took place.
"Throwing fireworks is not an act of mischief, this was an act of intimidation. Thank goodness there wasn't a larger fire," he said. "People could have died."
Day said he has contacted Clarkstown officials to ask them to take every possible action.
“I expect an aggressive investigation by the Clarkstown Police Department to determine if this is a hate crime,” he said.
Police reported that following the event, a female resident told them she heard a loud boom coming from east of her residence. When she went to her window to inspect the matter further, she saw four white males running west outside of her home. One of the males then threw a firework toward the front of her residence. The firework exploded next to a tree in front of the residence and caused the tree to catch fire. New City Fire Department responded to scene and extinguished fire.
New City Fire Chief Dennis Rodriguez said it only took the department several minutes to extinguish the fire and the surrounding mulch.
Police said they found a firework had been thrown in between three cars at the home of Rabbi Simcha Morganstern. None of the cars sustained any damage.
"Our Detective Bureau is surveying neighbors and residents as to the availability of any video surveillance," police said. "Patrol officers are also canvassing the neighborhood to inquire as to any other eyewitnesses to the event."
In addition the department also said they are increasing high visibility patrol in the area and request that anyone with information about this matter to please contact the Clarkstown Police Department Detective Bureau at 845-639-5840.
Day said he has also been in contact with Commissioner of Human Rights Penny Jennings who said she will convene a meeting of the county’s Interfaith Council, which was formed to foster greater understanding between the diverse groups that call Rockland home.
“We will work to deepen community relationships based on trust, tolerance and shared goals,” Jennings said.
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