No one was hurt in scary scene as man shoots at Albany temple hours before Hanukkah
The man alleged to have fired a gun outside Temple Israel in Albany Thursday has been charged.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul says shots were fired around 2:30 p.m. on the premises of the New Scotland Avenue temple. No one was injured. Hochul says the director of an Early Childhood Center at the temple first heard the shots and immediately called 9-1-1. A 28-year-old man was taken into in custody.
"This individual does have a rap sheet. He's a local resident," Hochul said.
Authorities say the man twice fired a shotgun into the air. Albany Police Officers responded to the scene and arrested Mufid Fawaz Alkhader of Schenectady. As an unlawful user of a controlled substance, Alkhader was prohibited under federal law from possessing the shotgun.
The U.S. Attorney's Office says Alkhader appeared in federal court Friday morning on a charge of unlawfully possessing a firearm. He was ordered detained pending trial after waiving his right to a detention hearing.
The attack came amid heightened tensions over the Israel-Hamas war hours before the start of Hanukkah. Temple Israel says it went into lockdown after the shooting, with several preschoolers in the building. The neighboring St. Peter's Hospital campus was also placed in lockdown.
Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan calls what happened at Temple Israel "a symptom of the malignant anti-Semitism that is spreading across our country." Sheehan spoke on WAMC's Roundtable:
“It was Hanukkah starting at sundown, right. And so while the front of that building is locked, and those front doors haven't been used in years because of previous anti-semitic attacks on that synagogue, on this day, the front door was actually open because individuals at the synagogue were placing the menorah in front of the building. And so had the timing been slightly different. There could have been a far different outcome from this attack," Sheehan said.
Sheehan added an attack on one is an attack on all. “This isn't sort of, oh, OK, nobody was hurt. And so we're going to move on. There has been harm caused to the children and families who were in that building. And there has been much harm done to the Jewish community here in the city of Albany,” said Sheehan.
This case is being investigated by the ATF, the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, and Albany Police.
Rabbi Matt Cutler leads Congregation Gates of Heaven in Schenectady. He says the holiday will endure despite the incident. The third annual "Hanukkah on Jay Street" parade steps off at 2:30 Sunday in front of Schenectady City Hall.
"All these incidents of hatred in anti-semitism we thought would happen somewhere else," said Cutler. "This one hit real close to home. And we the community were shaken. Look, people have been calling, people have been scared. And thank goodness for law enforcement officials who have stepped up bravely to call us and to be there, to center us, that we are safe. And that's the message we are reassuring our community, that our friendship and our partnership with government officials will make sure that Sunday's event is very secure. Then Hanukkah celebrations in synagogues and the JCC's will go off without a hitch."
Hochul says religious sites are being monitored and law enforcement is on high alert.