Security at home
Second suspect arrested in synagogue attacks
With the arrest of a second Lodi resident, the Bergen County Prosecutors Office (BCPO) says that it has resolved all the executed and planned attacks on area synagogues that took place in December and January.
Nineteen-year-old Aakash Dalal was arraigned on Monday as co-conspirator in the most dangerous attacks, in which firebombs were thrown into the rabbi’s residence at Congregation Beth El in Rutherford. According to Prosecutor John Molinelli, who announced the arrest at an afternoon press conference on Friday, March 2, Dalal has been friends since middle school with Anthony M. Graziano, who was arrested in January and charged with nine counts of attempted murder for the Rutherford attack.
|Aakash Dalal, seen here with Rep. Ron Paul, for whom he campaigned in New Hampshire, is alleged to have masterminded synagogue attacks in December and January. The photograph was posted on Dalal’s Facebook page.|
Dalal pleaded not guilty at his arraignment. He and Graziano are being held on $2.5 million bond each at the Bergen County jail.
The prosecutor said Dalal orchestrated all five anti-Semitic incidents, which began in December with anti-Semitic graffiti spray-painted on synagogues in Maywood and Hackensack, and concluded with a planned, but never executed, attack on the Jewish Community Center of Paramus.
Following Graziano’s arrest, a message fingering Dalal as the mastermind was anonymously posted in the comments of news reports about the arrest, including on The Jewish Standard’s website.
“I have personally known anthony for a few years now. he is not mentally all there he needs help, he shouldn’t be serving his time in prison he should be placed in a psychiatric hospital. he has been influenced/taking under the wing by and individual named aakash dalal. this individual has put thoughts into his head that rich upper class people of the jewish community are going to take over the world. I believe that this individual made anthony commit these actions to aid in ‘the movement’ dalal is trying to create.”
The Jewish Standard forwarded the message to the BCPO, which began investigating Dalal and obtained text messages exchanged by the two teenagers.
On the day of Graziano’s arrest, a letter to the editor signed by Aakash Dalal was published on the website of the Rutgers student newspaper, The Daily Targum, defending Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul and attacking the Federal Reserve. It identified Dalal as a sophomore majoring in chemistry and biological sciences.
Acquaintances of Dalal described him as someone who was difficult to get along with, and an atheist who hated religion.
“I got into arguments with him for his views on Muslims, Jews, and pretty much any religion,” wrote Ishan Patel at the NJ.com website. “The kid was very smart in high school, but people including myself thought he was weird.”
Dalal’s attorney said that while text messages show communication between Dalal and Graziano, that itself is not criminal. The text messages show Graziano boasting of his attack on the Rutherford synagogue, and Dalal egging him on. Dalal was not actually at the attack, for which Graziano faces nine counts of attempted murder, because he was in New Hampshire campaigning for Ron Paul, Dalal’s attorney said.
More on: Security at home
Amid analysis of the Iranian nuclear threat and how the United States should respond on a national level, recent attacks on Israeli embassies in India and Georgia have Jewish institutions asking a question that is much closer to home: Does Iran pose a local terror threat?
“Homeland security really starts as security in the neighborhood,” Paul Goldenberg, national director of the Jewish Federations of North America-affiliated Secure Community Network (SCN), told JointMedia News Service.
SCN, which partners with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and 56 major Jewish organizations, is asking Jewish organizations “to remain vigilant, to ensure that they have tested their [emergency management and response] plans,” and if they do not have plans, to develop them, Goldenberg said.
Warning: If you have an unshakeable belief that the Jews are an ever-persecuted people, please skip this story.
On the other hand, if you are looking for another example of how the good people of Bergen County have no truck for anti-Semitic vandalism, read on.
Back in December, when 19-year-old Anthony M. Graziano allegedly spray painted hate slogans at the Reconstructionist Temple Beth Israel in Maywood, volunteers from local chapters of Rotary International and the American Legion helped scrub away the graffitti. Now, the synagogue’s neighbors have chipped in to make certain it does not happen again.