The Temple Israel Synagogue in Albany, New York, was the scene of a hate crime as a man identified as 28-year-old Mufid Fawaz Alkhader opened fire on Thursday afternoon. Alkhader reportedly yelled “Free Palestine” while firing shots and appeared to have torn down an Israeli flag or sign on the synagogue’s premises.

The Albany police swiftly responded to the incident, arresting Alkhader nearby. Fortunately, no injuries were reported, and all occupants, including educators and approximately 75 children, safely returned to their families after the early childhood center went into lockdown.

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The authorities are treating the shooting as a hate crime, with Governor Kathy Hochul stating that the suspect made “threatening statements” while firing two shots. Alkhader’s cry of “Free Palestine” as he was being taken into custody added a politically charged dimension to the incident.

Temple Israel, a Conservative synagogue in Albany, had faced bomb threats in September, prompting an evacuation during Rosh Hashana services. The recent shooting rekindles concerns about rising antisemitism, with officials denouncing the attack as an unacceptable act targeting the safety of Jewish New Yorkers.

Governor Hochul emphasized the nonnegotiable nature of the safety of the Jewish community, while Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan condemned the incident as a symptom of the spreading antisemitism across the country.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams also issued a statement, assuring the protection of the right to practice faith in peace. He mentioned plans for increased police presence around public menorah displays and Hanukkah events, highlighting the city’s commitment to safeguarding religious freedom.

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The fast response of law enforcement to the incident is credited to recent heightened surveillance of faith-based establishments. The Temple Israel rabbi, Wendy Love Anderson, expressed gratitude for the outpouring of sympathy following the shooting and emphasized the need to bring light to darkness by lighting Hanukkah candles. The investigation into Mufid Fawaz Alkhader’s motives and actions continues, prompting a broader conversation about the persistence of hate crimes targeting religious institutions.