Just after 10 p.m. on Saturday, a man wielding a machete burst into the home of Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg during a Hanukkah party. Ramapo police say he slashed the partygoers, sending five to hospital; two of them remained in critical condition on Monday.
Grafton Thomas, 37, of Greenwood Lake was arrested Sunday morning, captured in blood-soaked clothing by NYPD officers. He was held on $5 million bail in the Rockland County Jail by Ramapo Town Justice Rhoda Schoenberger after being arraigned on five counts of attempted murder and one count of burglary. He has pleaded not guilty.
Gancz, who leads Chabad of Suffern, went to see two of the victims of the attack, including the son of Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg and a second man, both of whom would survive a machete-swinging man who burst into their Hanukkah celebration.
Gancz visited Rottenberg’s grown son in his hospital room, negotiating a phalanx of security and police to reach the 25-year-old he had never met.
“I introduced myself and said ‘When one Jew is hurt, we’re all hurt. You were stabbed as a Jew and you’re my brother and I’m here for you,’” Gancz recalled Monday.
His wounds were superficial, aided by the fact that the assailant “didn’t know how to use the machete properly.”
Later, when Gancz drove Rottenberg’s son home from the hospital, he learned what had happened.
“This boy, this son of the rabbi, came up from the basement because he heard commotion upstairs. His family, including his 1-year-old and 2-year-old, were downstairs in the basement.
“He ran up to see what was going on and opened the door and that’s when the guy got him.”
The assailant slashed wildly, catching the rabbi’s son on his forehead. The force of the blow sent the rabbi’s son backward, down the basement stairs, injuring the man’s back.
Meanwhile, upstairs, as the attacker swung around to face the others in the room, some grabbed benches and tables — and even a coat rack — to fend off the attacker, Gancz said.
Another victim at Good Samaritan, where the less-seriously injured were taken, had a cut across the top of his head.
“These two people were celebrating the miracles of their lives,” Gancz said. “The other one had a slash across his head. Had the guy just gone a little harder, he would have cracked his skull, like the man they took to Westchester. … All he got was stitches.”
“So two miracles that I watched in the hospital,” the rabbi said.