Police make quick arrest after Monsey synagogue vandalized

Swastikas were found etched into the walls of Congregation Sanz.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Police have arrested a part-time worker in a Monsey synagogue and charged him with a hate crime a week after he allegedly vandalized the property, leading to praise from Jewish leaders for their quick work.

The Ramapo authorities are charging 32-year-old Rolando DeJesus Gomez-Velazquez, of Hillcrest, NY, with criminal mischief as a hate crime and aggravated harassment for drawing several swastikas on both interior and exterior walls of Congregation Sanz. He also allegedly cut up coats hanging in the synagogue and did some other minor damage.

Even though there was no physical attack, “it’s still a serious development” when such antisemitic acts occur, Yossi Gestetner of the Rockland County-based Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council told Long Island’s News12.

He was therefore relieved that the incident was taken seriously by the police.

“It’s encouraging when law enforcement steps in, steps up, and gets it done right away,” he said, pointing out that the media and officials had spoken out about the crime, “which impacts how government responds.”

The vandalism was discovered on June 17, a Friday, and reported on Sunday. By June 25, the police nabbed their suspect.

Velazquez was taken to court and released with an order to appear in court for the case to be heard at a later date. If convicted, he could spend up to four years in jail.

In December 2019, Monsey Jews suffered their most serious attack when a mentally unstable man broke into a local rabbi’s home during a Chanukah party and hacked five Orthodox men with a machete. One of the victims, 72-year-old Josef Neumann, died of his wounds some two months later.

Grafton Thomas was arrested for that attack, but a Rockland County court found him incompetent to stand trial and confined him to a mental health facility.