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Hours before Chanukah, 28-year-old arrested for shooting near Albany synagogue

To know that someone brought a loaded gun to a synagogue “shakes people to their core,” said New York Gov. Kathy Hochul.

Temple Israel in Albany, N.Y. Source: Google Street View.
Temple Israel in Albany, N.Y. Source: Google Street View.

A 28-year-old man from Albany, N.Y., is under arrest after he fired a weapon in the parking lot of Temple Israel in the state capital on Thursday, a few hours before the start of Chanukah and as students at the congregation’s early-childhood center were inside the building.

The incident happened around 2:30 p.m. There were no reported injuries or fatalities or damage to the Conservative synagogue.

The suspect was seen walking around the synagogue and acting “suspicious” before he fired a round from a shotgun and made verbal threats, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, said at a press conference.

At least two dozen preschoolers were on the premises at the
time, and the school went into immediate lockdown, said the governor. Parents were notified, and all have been reunited with their children.

Federal law enforcement is investigating with local and state
police, Hochul said. The man who was arrested has a rap sheet, the governor said, but she declined to give additional information. She also declined to say what the suspect said before firing the weapon.

The Times Union reported that the man allegedly yelled “Free Palestine,” although it wasn’t clear if the suspect said that at the time of the alleged shooting or subsequently. It cited “city police and a person briefed on the matter.”

Antisemitism has risen “dramatically” in the state in recent weeks, the governor said, fueling anxiety among Jewish New Yorkers. To know that someone brought a loaded gun to a synagogue “shakes people to their core,” she said.

People shouldn’t have to be frightened at the time that a “beautiful” holiday is about to start, she added.

After the press conference, Hochul said that she would attend the lighting of the world’s largest menorah in front of the Plaza Hotel in Midtown Manhattan. The governor also plans to go to Shabbat services at Temple Israel on Friday night.

During Rosh Hashanah services in September, the same synagogue was among dozens of congregations that received bomb threats forcing the temporary evacuation of congregants.

‘Horrified by this act of violence’

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) wrote that she is “closely monitoring the situation at Temple Israel in Albany.”

“Every New Yorker should be free to worship and celebrate without fear—that’s why I’m fighting for increased funding for places of worship to increase security resources and allow their members to worship in peace,” she said.

“I’m thankful that no one was injured. Thank you to our brave first responders,” wrote Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who is Jewish. “As Chanukah begins tonight, we must stand together to guard against rapidly growing antisemitism and to keep people safe.”

Rep. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.), who represents Albany, wrote that he is “horrified by this act of violence against our Jewish neighbors on the first night of Chanukah” and is “deeply grateful that there have been no casualties.”

“This act of antisemitism and violence is unacceptable,” he added. “During this immensely painful time, we must find strength in our shared humanity and stand united to denounce any and all forms of hate.”

“Temple Israel is a place where Jewish families gather and children go to school. While I’m beyond relieved that no one was injured, the gravity of this situation can’t be ignored,” wrote New York Attorney General Letitia James. “A shooter targeting a synagogue is violent antisemitism and terrifying to all. We can’t be silent.”

New York City Mayor Eric Adams, who is in Washington, wrote that he has been briefed on the shooting. “As our Jewish neighbors begin to celebrate Chanukah this evening, the New York City Police Department was already and remains on heightened alert to ensure the safety of New Yorkers,” Adams wrote.

“With the start of the holiday, the NYPD is implementing pre-planned measures for elevated security around public menorah displays and at all lighting events,” the mayor added. “Everyone in our city has a right to practice their faith in peace, and we will ensure that right is protected.”

‘Hate will never win here’

Patricia Fahy, a member of the New York State Assembly who represents Albany, stated that she is “horrified” over the reports.

“Thankfully, no one was hurt and the suspect was detained. To our Jewish community in Albany and the capital region—we stand with you, and we share your pain,” she wrote. “Hate will never win here.”

StopAntisemitism, a watchdog, said it is “sadly all too common for hatred that’s generated online to seep out into reality. It must be the last of its kind; we refuse to tolerate such bigotry and we call for swift justice against the perpetrator.”

“This is a stark reminder of antisemitism’s destructive power, which will persist if we don’t face it head-on,” it added. It wasn’t immediately clear if the watchdog had any information that led it to believe that the shooting was connected to online hatred.

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