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Arrest made in Molotov cocktail incident at New Jersey synagogue

Images of a masked perpetrator were caught on video surveillance

This is a developing story that may be updated as more information becomes available.

An arrest has been made in the recent Molotov cocktail-throwing incident at a synagogue in Bloomfield, New Jersey.

Nicholas Malindretos, 26, from Clifton, New Jersey, faces a federal charge of attempted use of fire to damage and destroy a building used in interstate commerce, according to a press release from the U.S. attorney’s office. The charge is punishable by a minimum of five years in prison, a maximum of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

Malindretos’ car was tracked down using images on a license plate-reading device and video cameras near the synagogue, which showed a car passing by just before and after the incident, the release said. The car was located in Clifton, and video cameras near where it was parked showed a man who looked like Malindretos getting out of the car and entering a nearby building.

Bloomfield Mayor Michael Venezia said in a Facebook post Wednesday afternoon that  the suspect was in the custody of the FBI and the Bloomfield Police Department. 

Temple Ner Tamid president Josh Katz confirmed the arrest in an email to congregants Wednesday and in a subsequent interview with the Forward.

“I’m still very angry,” Katz said. “But I’m also very, very grateful.”

The Bloomfield Police Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A press conference was held Sunday afternoon outside Temple Ner Tamid In Bloomfield, NJ.
A press conference was held Jan. 29, 2023, outside Temple Ner Tamid In Bloomfield, New Jersey. Photo by Jodi Rudoren

Video surveillance showed a person wearing a ski mask and black hoodie light a bottle and throw it at the door of the Reform synagogue at about 3 a.m. Sunday, hours before Hebrew school at Ner Tamid was set to begin. The bottle broke, but did not cause any damage and no one was hurt.

The incident prompted a visit to the synagogue Tuesday from New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, who called the incident “absolutely despicable.”

Katz told the Forward that it was the first antisemitic incident at Ner Tamid, which has about 540 member families, that he could remember in his decade in the synagogue’s leadership.

“My initial reaction was almost disbelief — but not,” he said. “We all know this has been happening in many places, so there’s that dichotomy of feeling like I can’t believe this happened, but knowing that this is the reality we live in.”

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