Photo Credit: Google Maps
Rabbi Rottenberg's Shul on Monsey, NY

“There were many people there, people running in every direction,” Josef Gluck told The Jewish Press. “A few went upstairs, downstairs, into the Rebbe’s study, in the coat closet, underneath the coats. About 90 percent of the Rebbe’s grandkids were in the house when the attack happened.”

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Gluck is the shamesh at Congregation Netzach Yisroel next to Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg’s home in Monsey. His quick actions saved many when Grafton Thomas entered a Chanukah party at the rabbi’s home with a machete around 10 p.m. on Motzei Shabbos, wounding five, one seriously.

Gluck was in the rabbi’s dining room when Thomas entered it swinging a machete. He ran out but later came back in to see if he could help anyone and saw Thomas instead approaching an elderly man he had wounded earlier. “I tried to distract him, to come after me and not go after the old guy that he already attacked… He didn’t come after me, and I begged the old guy to come out. He said, ‘I can’t, I’m wounded,’ so I said, ‘So go under the table.’”

Gluck ultimately grabbed a heavy marble-topped coffee table and threw it at Thomas’s face. “That’s when he came after me,” Gluck said. Thomas couldn’t get his hands on him, though, and ran to his vehicle to escape. “Thank G-d, I had the presence of mind to go after him to his car. I got his license plate and that’s how he was caught so quickly.”

Gluck said from the time Thomas entered the house till the time he drove away was about five minutes, but the actual attack was somewhere between 90 seconds to two minutes.

“People obviously were basically in panic…. Everyone was basically running around trying to figure out what was going on,” a chaplain from the New York State Chaplains Task Force who was dispatched to the scene minutes after the attack told The Jewish Press. “People were in shock.”

After the attack, detectives took statements from Rabbi Rottenberg, his kids, and many party attendees. Later that evening, Rabbi Rottenberg hosted a melavah malkah.

Thomas was pulled over by NYPD officers on 144th St. and 7th Ave. in Harlem. According to reports, he was covered in blood and smelled of bleach. In his car was a machete as well as a knife with dried blood and hair on it. He was charged with five counts of attempted murder and burglary.

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Baruch Lytle is a Jewish Press staff writer.