Suspect arrested, charged with firebombing synagogue in New Jersey
NEW YORK – Authorities in New Jersey said Wednesday they arrested a suspect over the weekend for setting fire to a synagogue.
The attack on Temple Ner Tamid in the town of Bloomfield early Sunday morning caused no casualties or damage.
US Attorneys in New Jersey said Nicholas Malindretos, 26, had been arrested in connection with the crime.
Malindretos, of the nearby town of Clifton, Passaic County, was charged with attempted use of fire to damage and destroy a building used in interstate commerce.
The charges carry a minimum sentence of five years in prison, a maximum of 20 years, and a $250,000 fine.
Malindretos will appear in federal court in Newark on Thursday.
“No one should find that their life is at stake in practicing their faith,” said US Attorney Philip R. Sellinger. “We will continue to use all resources necessary to protect our Jewish community and all residents of New Jersey.”
Ner Tamid’s surveillance cameras captured the suspect as he approached the synagogue at 3:19 a.m. Sunday. The man lit a Molotov cocktail, threw it at the building’s door, where it shattered on impact, and fled down the driveway. The doors of the synagogue had been reinforced for security reasons.
The arrest report said a license plate reader recorded a vehicle in the area shortly before and after the attack.
Police located the vehicle in Clifton on Tuesday and saw items that appeared to be linked to the attack, including clothing and bottles of liquid.
Officers obtained a search warrant for the vehicle and conducted a search on Wednesday. Inside, they found a sweatshirt and white gloves matching those worn by the suspect in the surveillance video.
Video cameras in the area of the incident also captured the vehicle and a suspect, who appeared to be Malindretos at the time of the attack.
Federal, state, and local agencies were involved in the search, including the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The Essex County Sheriff’s Office had also offered a $10,000 reward for information on the case.
The synagogue canceled activities on the day of the attack but has since returned to routine.
“People will not be deterred from raising their children, from finding spiritual connections, from finding community,” synagogue rabbi Marc Katz told The Times of Israel.
He said the synagogue had invested in security measures in recent years and that “everything was working as it should”.
The Anti-Defamation League documented 370 antisemitic incidents in New Jersey in 2021, the latest year for which figures are available and the highest number on record.
In November, a New Jersey man with extremist Islamist views threatened synagogues, prompting the FBI to issue a comprehensive warning to the state’s Jewish communities.
In April, a New Jersey man allegedly carried out a violent attack on Orthodox Jews in the town of Lakewood, seriously injuring four people. The suspect has been charged with federal hate crimes and faces a life sentence.
Ner Tamid is a Reformed church that offers religious education to children from kindergarten through sixth grade.
Bloomfield is in Essex County, about 30 minutes’ drive west of Manhattan.