Shots fired outside Jewish temple in Albany as Hanukkah begins
A man fired a shotgun twice outside a Jewish temple in upstate New York on Thursday, hours before the start of Hanukkah, then said “Free Palestine” as he was taken into custody, police said. No one was injured.
The shots were fired outside of Temple Israel just before 2 p.m. and 28-year-old Mufid Fawaz Alkhader has been arrested and charged with possession of a firearm by a prohibited person, according to the FBI's Albany office.
“Thankfully there have been no injuries or fatalities,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said in a prepared statement. “I have spoken to the Rabbi at Temple Israel and assured her the State will do everything in our power to restore the sense of security her community needs.”
Hochul said she directed the state police and New York National Guard to be on high alert and to increase existing patrols of at-risk sites that were planned for Hanukkah, which begins Thursday evening at sundown.
"Any act of antisemitism is unacceptable, and undermining public safety at a synagogue on the first night of Hanukkah is even more deplorable,” she said.
In a statement, the Jewish Federation of Northeastern New York thanked law enforcement for their response.
“During this time of rising antisemitism throughout our country and the world we encourage our community to be especially vigilant and aware of potential threats," the group said. "At the same time, we can not succumb to fear and intimidation and we must remain proud of our Jewish heritage and traditions. As we prepare to light the first Chanukah candles tonight, we look to bring some light to the darkness in our world and pray for a future of peace and prosperity for all.”
“As Jews around the world celebrate the first night of Hanukkah, we must condemn any kind of intolerance and violence in our community and do so in the strongest terms," Albany County Executive Dan McCoy said in a statement. "I have been in communication with the Mayor’s Office and the County Sheriff’s Department to get briefed on the situation, and we will respond as necessary to ensure the safety of our residents.”
Shirl Hall, a neighbor who lives across the street from the synagogue, was surprised to learn there was gunfire in the otherwise quiet neighborhood.
“I seen police cars. I saw the area on lockdown,” said Hall. “There’s so much going on in the world. It’s sad. People are going through it and there are mental health issues everywhere.”
Temple Israel Rabbi Wendy Love Anderson told reporters she was thankful to staff who ensured the safety of those inside the building, including the children.
“After this press conference, we’re going to be lighting Hannukah candles,” she said, “because we need light in darkness.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.