Family: Man stabbed in Hanukkah attack may have brain damage

NEW YORK — A man wounded in the Hanukkah stabbings north of New York City may have permanent brain damage and be partially paralyzed for the rest of his life, his family said.

The Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council released a statement from the family of Josef Neumann, 71, and a graphic photograph Wednesday showing severe head injuries he received Saturday at a rabbi’s home in Monsey, New York.

Four other people were injured in the attack, which federal prosecutors say was a hate crime.

The photograph shows an intubated Neumann with a swollen and disfigured face lying in a hospital bed. A gash to his head appears to have been stitched up.

Neumann’s family released the photograph for the world and “the Jewish community to understand the gravity of hate,” Yossi Gestetner, the council’s co-founder, said in an interview. Neumann has seven children.

“These things are vividly and viciously disturbing and have long-term consequences,” Gestetner said.

The 18-inch machete used in the attack penetrated Neumann’s skull, the statement said, adding that Neumann’s “right arm has been shattered.”

“Our father’s status is so dire that no surgery has yet been performed on the right arm,” the statement said. “Doctors are not optimistic about his chances to regain consciousness, and if our father does miraculously recover partially, doctors expect that he will have permanent damage to the brain, leaving him partially paralyzed and speech-impaired for the rest of his life.”

The statement also called on Jewish people around the world to share their own experiences with anti-Semitism on social media using the hashtag #MeJew.

“We shall not let this terrible hate-driven attack be forgotten,” the statement said, “and let us all work to eradicate all sorts of hate.”

Federal prosecutors have charged Grafton Thomas, 37, with five federal counts of obstructing the free exercise of religious beliefs by attempting to kill with a dangerous weapon. He also has pleaded not guilty to five state counts of attempted murder and one count of burglary.

Authorities have said Thomas had handwritten journals containing anti-Semitic references and had recently used his phone to look up information on Hitler and the location of synagogues.

Thomas’ family has said he was raised in a tolerant home and had a history of mental illness.

The Hanukkah attack came amid a string of violence that has alarmed Jews in the region.

Former New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind said he recently spoke with an Orthodox Jewish man in New York who told him he had taken off his yarmulke out of fear.

“Part of what we’re trying to get across to people is that these attacks are not just statistics,” said Hikind, founder of Americans Against Antisemitism. “These people have to live with this the rest of their life.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday he has directed the state police to increase patrols in Orthodox Jewish neighbourhoods around New York. Mayor and fellow Democrat Bill de Blasio announced a similar heightened police presence in the city last week.

“Everybody feels very upset and disturbed about what happened,” Cuomo said during a New Year’s Day visit to Brooklyn’s heavily Orthodox Williamsburg neighbourhood, “and everybody stands in solidarity with you.”

Jim Mustian, The Associated Press

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