After Jersey City Shooting, Investigation and Healing Begin

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A police briefing with Jewish first responders
A police briefing with Jewish first responders after a shooting at the JC Kosher Supermarket in Jersey City on Dec. 10, 2019. (Courtesy of JNS, via New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy/Twitter)

By Jesse Bernstein and JNS.org

Law-enforcement officials say it could take months to complete their investigation of the shooting inside the JC Kosher Market in the Greenville section of Jersey City, New Jersey, that left a total of six people dead, including the two attackers.

The three civilians killed inside the grocery were identified as 33-year-old Leah Mindel Ferencz of Jersey City, a Chasidic woman who owned the store with her husband, Moshe David Ferencz; Moshe Hersch Deutsch, 24, of the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn; and Miguel Douglas, 49, an employee at the store. Ferencz’s husband had left the grocery store just moments before the attack began to attend services at a synagogue next door.

Also killed at the start of the hours-long incident was Jersey City Police Det. Joseph Seals, a 39-year-old father of five.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia released a joint statement with the ADL about the shooting. “While there is no known imminent threat to the Greater Philadelphia Jewish community at this time,” the statement reads, “the Jewish Federation director of security and the Anti-Defamation League are continually monitoring the situation and remain in contact with local law enforcement. If you become aware of any suspicious activity, please contact law enforcement immediately.”

Across the state, Meryl Ainsman, chair of the board of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, said, “Unfortunately, we are all too familiar in Pittsburgh with the havoc that such vicious attacks wreak on a community. We are eternally grateful to law enforcement officers who, at the cost of their own lives, ran toward danger to protect Jewish people. May the victims’ memories forever be a blessing, and may those wounded heal quickly and completely.”

Ferencz, a mother of three young children, was originally from the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn. She and her husband were among the first Chasidic families to move to Jersey City.

Deutsch was remembered by those who knew him as an exceptional person. He was a volunteer for Chai LifeLine’s annual Bike4Chai charity fundraiser for chronically ill children, as well as the organization’s Achim B’Yachad division, which caters to the Chasidic community.

Achim B’Yachad Director Hershey Katz described Deutsch’s loss as devastating.

“Moshe dedicated his life to chesed and to helping others,” said Katz. “He was always helping others and always available to lend a hand at any event or program.”

“Our community has been terrorized once again by violent anti-Semitism,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement. “From Pittsburgh to Poway, and now to Jersey City, the disease that is anti- Semitism has clearly spread to epidemic proportions. But we will not be defeated, we will not stand down, we will not be intimidated.”

According to NBC News, the bloodbath began shortly after noon on Dec. 10, when Seals pulled over a U-Haul truck bearing stolen license plates linked to a murder in nearby Bayonne, New Jersey, that took place last weekend. Seals, a 15-year-veteran of the Jersey City Police Department, was fatally shot as he approached the van near the Bayview Cemetery on Garfield Avenue.

The two suspects were identified on Wednesday as David Anderson and Francine Graham. They were killed inside the kosher market. According to reports, after killing Seals, the couple drove to the kosher market on Martin Luther King Drive 1 mile away, firing their weapons into the store from the sidewalk before barricading themselves inside and launching into a high-powered rifle shooting spree that lasted for hours.

Jersey City Councilman Jermaine Robinson told News 12 that the gunfire was unlike anything he had ever heard before, the shots “going and going and going without a pause.”

According to Hamodia, Borough Park, New York resident Yossie Steinmetz had just left the grocery and gone next door to the Kahal Adas Greenville synagogue when the shots rang out. Steinmetz, Ferencz’s husband, and two others were trapped in the synagogue, the four men saying prayers as the gunfire continued.

“To me, it seemed like a scene out of Afghanistan, with shots flying back and forth,” said Steinmetz.

More than two-dozen area schools were placed on lockdown, including a cheder, a Chasidic boy’s school, upstairs from the synagogue.

Heavily armed members of law enforcement stormed the area as the shooting continued. The NYPD, the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and the Port Authority Police were among the numerous agencies that joined local police in their efforts to bring the situation under control.

According to law-enforcement officials, the suspects had a large supply of ammunition, including a pipe bomb.

The shooting dragged on for four hours with minimal information making its way out of the grocery. One person inside the store when the attack began escaped through the back entrance. He sustained non-life threatening injuries and was transported to the hospital.

Police stormed the market at approximately 4:30 p.m., where they found the three victims dead, along with the bodies of the two shooters.

Approximately 40 children were in the cheder when the shooting occurred. They were visited by an officer from the Jersey City Police Department after the ordeal ended, who told them through a Yiddish translator, “You guys were very brave and acted correctly today. I wish you guys a happy holiday. You guys are all safe, and you are good to go home with your parents when your parents come here.”

The investigation is being handled by the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office and the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office.

While officials were reluctant to release details of the ongoing investigation, Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop took to Twitter on Tuesday night, contradicting earlier reports that the incident was not believed to be a hate crime by saying the kosher store had been intentionally targeted.

Since then, additional information has revealed that one of the two suspects was linked to the Black Hebrew Israelite movement, which labels the Jews “the bastards that funded the slave trade,” according to the Anti-Defamation League.

And according to a report on the shooting in the New York Post, “the group believes they are the true descendants of the ancient Israelites, are known to vilify white and Jewish people and are considered a black supremacist group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.”

The group Fulop said that extra police resources would be dedicated to the Jewish community as a precautionary measure and there was no evidence of any additional threats in the area. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy ordered flags across the state to be flown at half-mast for a full week beginning on Friday, Dec. 13, in “recognition and mourning of the passing of the victims in Jersey City.”

A fund set up by a group of Orthodox Jewish leaders from the Flatbush section of Brooklyn, New York, to benefit the family of Seals, raised more than $48,000 in less than 24 hours. Originally, organizers were hoping to raise $25,000 from members of the Jewish community to show their appreciation to the officer who gave his life to save others.

“The fear Jews now feel didn’t begin with this terrible incident. The anti-Semitic attacks against our community have been escalating for a while now, and we have been sounding the alarm,” explained Chaskel Bennett, co-founder of the civic and political group Flatbush Jewish Community Coalition, which organized the fund. However, “the response by people to donate more than $48,000 in 18 hours speaks to the overwhelming desire for people to be part of something positive in the midst of such pain.

“From the depths of our sorrow, the very best of our people shines through.”

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