This story was updated on Thursday at 2:42 pm.
A spokesman for the Satmar chasidic community in Brooklyn has shared the names of two of the civilian victims of Tuesday’s deadly shootout at a kosher grocery store in Jersey City.
They are Leah Mindel Ferencz, 33, a mother of three children, and Moshe Deutsch, 24, son of Abe Deutsch, a prominent Satmar community member in Brooklyn. A police officer, Det. Joseph Seals, was also killed by the shooters, who also died in the incident.
A third victim, Miguel Jason Rodriguez, was identified by Williams Machazek, the pastor of Iglesia Nueva Vida in Newark, according to North Jersey.com. It described Rodriguez as an immigrant from Ecuador working at the store to support his family.
The three civilians and the two suspects were killed at the grocery store yesterday in what officials are now saying was a targeted, and potentially anti-Semitic, attack.
Ferencz and her husband, Moishe Ferencz, were the first members of the Satmar community to relocate from Williamsburg, Brooklyn, to Jersey City’s Greenville neighborhood “due to the skyrocketing prices of housing,” according to Rabbi David Niederman, president of the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg and North Brooklyn. She and her husband ran JC Kosher Supermarket; Rabbi Niederman called her a “caring and nurturing mother.”
Rabbi Niederman described Deutsch as the son of Abe Deutsch, a member of the board of UJO who spearheads a program for food distribution to the needy for Passover. Rabbi Niederman said Moshe Deutsch helped organize the UJO Passover food program and “was dedicated to studying his Jewish faith everyday by learning in a yeshiva he was instrumental in establishing and getting off the ground.” A yeshiva serving the small but growing Satmar community sits a few doors down from the grocery.
The shooting began at a cemetery in Jersey City when Det. Seals approached two people sitting in a truck that was connected to a homicide over the weekend. According to police, the two people in the truck shot Seals and drove to the kosher market.
Though officials and police in Jersey City initially said there was no indication of an anti-Semitic motivation in the attacks, Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop later indicated that the shooter deliberately targeted the kosher market.
“Last night after extensive review of our CCTV system it has now become clear from the cameras that these two individuals targeted the Kosher grocery location on MLK Dr,” Fulop wrote on Twitter on Wednesday morning. “At this time we have no credible further threats from this incident but out of an abundance of caution we will be increasing our police presence in the community.”
The office of New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal took over the investigation from the Jersey City police department. At a press conference on Thursday, Grewal said investigators were looking into the matter as “potential acts of domestic terrorism fueled both by anti-Semitism and anti-law enforcement beliefs.” Grewal did not go so far as to say the shooting was definitively motivated by anti-Semitic beliefs, though he said investigators believe the suspects held anti-Semitic and anti-police views. “We believe that the suspects held views that reflected hatred of the Jewish people as well as hatred of law enforcement,” said Grewal. “We are still working to determine how they chose their targets for the attack.” Craig Carpenito, U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey, said investigators would treat the matter “as a domestic terrorist event with a hate crime bent” and said “the motivations appear to clearly be both a bias towards the Jewish community and law enforcement.”
Grewal confirmed the names of the suspects Wednesday as David Anderson and Francine Graham. Addressing reports of the suspects’ ties to the Black Hebrew Israelites, a group that believes that African-Americans, not Jews, are the true descendants of the ancient Israelites, Grewal said investigators had not found a clear link between the suspects and any Black Israelite groups as of Thursday. “We have evidence that both suspects expressed interest in this group but we have not definitively found links to that organization or any group,” said Grewal.
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The city’s Jewish community had experienced no confirmed recent incidents of anti-Semitism before this week’s shootings, said Jason Shames, CEO and executive vice president of the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey, and the federation had received no reports of tension within the Jewish community or with the majority African-American community in Jersey City. The wider Jersey City Jewish community, which Shames estimated to include around 10,000 people, was on edge this week with Jewish residents asking for more police presence at the area’s synagogues. “People are very concerned now,” Shames said.
Rabbi Niederman of the UJO in Brooklyn called for action. “The grave seriousness of the situation of this [sic] calls for the creation of a working group, a task force, that should include law enforcement members from all levels of the government, community leaders from the Jewish and other communities, to try to study and track down this horrendous problem and come up with a strategy to foster love, stop hate, intercept and take action against haters before it’s too late, and make communities feel safe once again,” wrote Rabbi Niederman.
At a press conference called in response to the attack on Wednesday morning, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced an increased police presence at Jewish institutions across New York City over the coming days. “At this hour there are no specific and credible threats against New York City,” said de Blasio, who said he directed the NYPD to enter a “state of high alert.”
De Blasio also announced a new NYPD unit, called REME, which stands for “racially and ethnically motivated extremism.” The unit will focus on “identifying any trends and any signs of racially and ethnically motivated extremism,” according to the mayor. NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said the unit would be staffed by 25 people to “respond after the fact” to hate crimes. The announcement comes in the wake of an uptick in anti-Semitic incidents of graffiti and violence against Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn.
Deborah Lauter, who was appointed in September to head the new Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes, said her office would convene the “first ever interagency committee” to bring together the various agencies working on hate crimes to figure out “how do we address this long term and holistically.”
Editor’s note: This article originally identified Leah Mindel Ferencz as a mother of 5, it was updated once new information came in.