Shocked community members respond to antisemitic attacks on Temple Ner Tamid

Shocked community members respond to antisemitic attacks on Temple Ner Tamid

Shock waves traveled through Montclair after Temple Ner Tamid was attacked with a Molotov cocktail, a type of homemade bomb, on Sunday, January 29th. The students of Montclair High School were shocked at the attempted bombing, as many never thought something like that could happen in Montclair. “It’s not that we’re unaware of certain issues … but we don’t really think about what if that was me?” said Felicia Smithen, a junior at MHS, and member of Temple Ner Tamid. 

The attack occurred in the middle of the night, so most congregants first heard about the events through the email blast sent out by the administration. “The first piece of information we got was very vague … it actually said there had been an act of vandalism,” said Lexi Katz, member of Temple Ner Tamid, and a junior at MHS. The email kept people calm for only a short period of time, until the real story was uncovered. 

The following Wednesday, at religious school, Rabbi Sharon Lipmann explained her experience finding the broken glass, and smelling the gasoline when she arrived at the temple that Sunday morning. “All I could think about was the kids coming for religious school in an hour. I had to call the police and our Executive Director Michele Malkin. I was just shocked.” said Rabbi Sharon Lipman, director of religious school at Temple Ner Tamid. 

Reactions from students at Montclair High School and Temple Ner Tamid were not far off. “I was just in a state of disbelief,” said Felicia Smithen. 

“It felt surreal … I have never experienced so much hatred so close to my home,” said Maddie Roston, a freshman at MHS. Maddie arrived at the Temple shortly after the makeshift bomb had been discovered, before everyone was told all events were canceled. 

The coined term “Montclair bubble” has been a frequent topic of discussion following the incident. “The [Montclair] bubble has popped … if this could happen here you really are not safe anywhere,” said Felicia.  The existence of a safety forcefield around the liberal town of Montclair now feels fraudulent for many. 

Some, though, still feel the bubble is strong, like Shayna Rudoren, a sophomore at MHS. She believes the interfaith peace rally held Thursday February 2nd has restored her confidence that the bubble is still intact. 

The rally was one of many events Ner Tamid held to address the issue and calm the public. People of many faiths, including priests, islamic religious leaders, local politicians, and citizens of surrounding towns united to show their support. “It was really, really great to see everyone there,” said Lexi Katz. 

“I wish I had a hateful thing to say about the man who threw a Molotov Cocktail at our home,” said Rabbi Marc Katz of Temple Ner Tamid at the opening of the interfaith peace rally. 

Rabbi Katz’s speech was followed by sentiments from Sen. Bob Menendez and Rep. Mikie Sherill. “No one should have to worship in fear,” said Rep. Menendez, denouncing antisemitism around the country. 

Rep. Mikie Sherill, a Montclair resident, and friend to many congregants, expressed her disbelief when she heard about the incident. “My son was here last weekend for a Bar Mitzvah. I never thought something like this could happen so close to home,” said Rep. Mikie Sherill. It’s safe to say everyone was shocked by the anti-semitism so close to home.  

Many are questioning what comes next, and how they can move on. Shayna feels the best thing that can come from this is education. “I decided I really thought that educating people would be a really good, important thing,” said Shayna Rudoren. 

She also emphasized how important it is to grow from traumatic experiences, and build stronger community ties. “Because we had this experience of awfulness we can be more empathetic to other forms of hate,” said Shayna Rudoren. 

Others, like Lexi, are comforted by the large number of supporters. “It makes me feel safer about going in mass numbers,” said Lexi Katz. 

Most, like Felicia, felt comforted by the presence of other congregants. “I think afterwards, the one place that I honestly wanted to be the most was at my temple with the community,” said Felicia Smithen.  

However, many are feeling the lasting effects of antisemitism. Rabbi Julie Roth of Shomrei Emunah, another local synagogue, worries about her congregation. “I ask myself, “can I throw a chair at an active shooter to protect my congregants,”” said Rabbi Roth. 

Ner Tamid has done a fantastic job creating a safe space for congregants to address their concerns. The attack has brought everyone closer together, and their support system is stronger than ever before. It will take time to recover, but they will prevail.