NJ man faces federal charge after Molotov cocktail hurled at Bloomfield temple
👮♂️ Prosecutors say a Clifton man is arrested in the attempted firebombing of Temple Ner Tamid
🔥 Rabbi Marc Katz says security upgrades stopped the Temple from going up in flames
🕊 The synagogue is hosting an interfaith rally with rabbis, pastors, and imams
BLOOMFIELD — A 26-year-old Clifton man has been arrested, stemming from the attempted firebombing of a Jewish temple on Sunday morning.
Nicholas Malindretos has been charged with attempted use of fire to damage and destroy a building used in interstate commerce.
"I’m proud to announce that the suspect in the Temple Ner Tamid firebombing is in the custody of the FBI and Bloomfield Police Department," Bloomfield Mayor Michael Venezia said on social media Wednesday evening, shortly before details were shared by U.S. Attorney Phillip Sellinger.
Suspect tracked by license plate reader in Bloomfield
A black Volkswagen was picked up by a license plate reader, according to a criminal complaint filed in the case, driving to and from the area of the synagogue directly before and after the 3 a.m. incident.
On Wednesday, officers found the car parked in Clifton.
Inside the Volkswagen, they found a black hoodie sweatshirt with a skull design, white gloves and mask — all matching the individual seen in the temple's surveillance video footage, according to the same complaint.
Hours before the arrest announcement, a reward for information leading to the suspect's arrest had risen to $15,000 total.
🔥 Molotov cocktail stopped by security upgrades
According to Bloomfield police, a man in a ski mask walked up the driveway of Temple Ner Tamid on Broad Street early Sunday morning around 3:15 a.m. with a Molotov cocktail in hand. He ignited the homemade weapon and threw it at the building's front doors.
However, the glass bottle broke and only caused minimal damage. Rabbi Marc Katz confirmed to New Jersey 101.5 that reinforced doors stopped the bottle from going through the glass and igniting the building from within.
While Katz is grateful that state grants helped to pay for the security upgrades, he worries that smaller synagogues without an executive director to spend time filling out pages of forms for grant applications will be vulnerable.
He sees a world where bigger synagogues will keep getting more "hardened" but smaller ones will not.
"Unfortunately, we live in an era where we do have to take these precautions. We probably don't need them everywhere, but when we do need them, they are really important," Katz said. "Who would have guessed that somebody would've shown up in the middle of the night with a Molotov cocktail outside of our congregation."
🕊 Bloomfield interfaith rally against hate
After the attempted firebombing of the Bloomfield synagogue, faith leaders and elected officials are coming together for a rally to unite against hate Thursday night.
The congregation at Temple Ner Tamid will hear readings from local rabbis, pastors, and imams.
"This attack on our congregation was likely motivated by antisemitism and that is one form of hatred, but that doesn't necessarily mean that there aren't others who are dealing hatred in other forms in their own way," Katz said.
Katz said that as the rabbi of the synagogue, his job is to remind his congregation that they are safe and have allies in their community to unite against a growing trend of hatred.
The rally is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at Temple Ner Tamid located at 936 Broad Street in Bloomfield.
Also on Thursday, Malindretos was slated for a first appearance in Newark federal court.
Rick Rickman is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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