New York ups security at Jewish sites after shots fired outside synagogue

Albany, New York — New York troopers stood guard Friday outside Temple Israel in Albany, one day after authorities said a man armed with a shotgun fired two rounds into the air outside the synagogue.

Thursday afternoon’s shooting incident forced the synagogue’s preschool into lockdown. The suspect, later identified as 28-year-old Mufid Fawaz Alkhader, fled to a nearby parking lot but was quickly arrested. No one was injured. 

“We were told by responding officers that he made a comment, ‘free Palestine,'” Albany Police Chief Eric Hawkins said in a news conference Thursday night.

Alkhader, an Iraqi-born U.S. citizen from Schenectady, New York, appeared in federal court Friday on a single count of unlawfully possessing a firearm. Prosecutors are investigating this incident as a potential hate crime.

“I spoke with Dr. Rabbi Anderson tonight, and assured her that the state of New York will do everything possible to restore the sense of security that her congregation needs at this time,” New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said in a briefing.

Hochul also said she put state police and the New York National Guard on high alert and ordered the agencies to increase patrols at synagogues, yeshivas and Jewish community centers statewide, which had already been planned for Hanukkah.

The move comes as antisemitic incidents have surged nationwide. According to numbers from the Anti-Defamation League, antisemitic incidents increased 316% in the first month following the start of the Israel-Hamas war, compared to the same period last year.

“No New Yorkers should ever feel targeted because of who they are or what they believe,” New York City Mayor Eric Adams said Thursday. “And our communities must feel at home, feel safe.”

At Temple Ner Tamid in Bloomfield, New Jersey, Rabbi Marc Katz increased security earlier this year after surveillance video captured a man attempting to firebomb his synagogue.

“My congregation is feeling scared and unnerved right now,” Katz told CBS News, adding that his “message to the congregation is not to let antisemitism win, and to be proudly Jewish, and to stand firm in your resolve.”

According to Hochul, Temple Israel also received a bomb threat in September. The governor said she planned to attend Shabbat services at the temple on Friday evening.

The judge Friday ordered Alkhader to remain in custody pending trial. According to the criminal complaint, Alkhader was forbidden from possessing a firearm because of a previous conviction for unlawful possession of marijuana.

— C Mandler contributed to this report.

This post was originally published on CBS News

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