Moments later, Gold said, he heard gunfire crack. Bullets flew around him as he took cover below his steering wheel and called 911. Twenty-five minutes later, officers in a SWAT truck rescued him.
The attackers “started shooting on the street and ran right into the kosher supermarket in the Jewish community,” he said during an interview with The Washington Post. “They definitely targeted the store. They didn’t look around. They had a destination. … They went straight to the store.”
The hours-long gun battle between two armed attackers and police at a JC kosher market left six people dead, including one Jersey City police officer, three bystanders and the two gunmen.
Gold said he told investigators that from his vantage point, it was obvious the store was targeted. On Tuesday morning, though, law enforcement officers were not labeling the attack as a hate crime.
Jewish leaders were unrestrained in characterizing the attack as anti-Semitic.
The Jewish community in Jersey City is young. But even in the past few years, its members say, they have experienced prejudice and fought pushback as they try to make new homes in the area after being priced out of Brooklyn.
“I moved here from Borough Park because it was affordable and not too far from my family,” Usher Levy, 24, said in front of the boarded-up kosher market. “This is very tragic. We never had an incident before where Jews were targeted. We felt safe and comfortable. Now we have second thoughts about it.”
Rabbi David Niederman, executive director of the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg, told The Post that although they felt anti-Semitism before Tuesday, his community, which includes the father of Tuesday’s 24-year-old shooting victim, Moshe Deutsch, didn’t believe this could happen to them.
“Unfortunately, very fast it became clear that was a big mistake,” he said.
Jersey City, located in northeastern New Jersey and across the Hudson River from Manhattan, is more affordable than New York City and has easy access to the city via public transportation. A subway ride is typically a 20-minute commute. It was historically a manufacturing epicenter and did not have a significant ultra-Orthodox community. But that has changed over the past decade, as Brooklyn-based Hasidic families, priced out of neighborhoods like Williamsburg, moved to the other side of the river.
And they can’t just pack their bags and move, said Yoseph Rapaport, a Brooklyn-based Jewish media consultant and a Yiddish podcaster.
They “need boys schools, girls schools, Judaica book stores, a synagogue — all the accoutrements that come with having a vibrant Jewish community,” Rapaport told The Post. A predominantly African American neighborhood in Jersey City emerged as a good option because it was close to Brooklyn and easily accessible to their old neighborhoods.
On Wednesday, Mayor Steven Fulop said authorities saw it was “clear” the gunmen targeted the Jewish establishment, after reviewing surveillance video. There were many targets the perpetrators ignored on the street and on their way into the kosher market, he said. They got out of their vehicle and advanced while shooting into the deli.
“From my standpoint, it would be hard to argue anything other than intent and them being deliberate to be in that direction, and we grieve alongside that community,” Fulop said.
In a statement Wednesday morning, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said the shooting confirms that “a growing pattern of violent anti-Semitism” has transformed into a national crisis. “And now this threat has reached the doorstep of New York City.”
Jewish community leaders in New York and New Jersey say the mayor is only now seeing what they have been pointing to for years.
According to the Anti-Defamation League’s annual audit, in 2017, there was a 90 percent increase in anti-Semitic incidents in New York City over the prior year. In 2018, 13 of the 17 reported anti-Semitic assaults in New York City took place in Brooklyn.
“We have seen a spike in anti-Semitic violence toward visibly identifiable Jews, mostly Hasidic, and the mayor of New York seems to be blind to it,” said one Hasidic leader who spoke on the condition of anonymity to openly discuss the attacks on his faith community. “He all but dismissed it in one of his tweets relating to this horrible tragedy in Jersey City, saying it’s reached our doorstep when New York is at crisis level of anti-Semitic violence.”
“This is something that is killing everyone,” Niederman said. “The guy who hates the Jew, hates everyone who is not the same as he thinks he has to be.”