Hanukkah stabbing victim may never walk, talk again; daughter begs to 'stop the hatred'

Five people were stabbed during a Hanukkah celebration at a Rabbi's home.

January 2, 2020, 5:20 PM

The daughter of a man critically hurt in a machete attack during Hanukkah is pleading with the public to "stand up and stop this hatred."

Josef Neumann was one of five hurt in the Dec. 28 assault at a rabbi's home in Monsey, New York, where Hasidic Jews had gathered to celebrate Hanukkah.

"He really may never ever speak again," Neumann's youngest daughter, Nicky Kohen, said at a news conference on Thursday.

Neumann, a father of seven, has been unconscious the entire time after the "heinous crime," Kohen said. He turned 72 on Dec. 30 while unconscious, she said.

"The prognosis is not good. He sustained multiple injuries. He has a fractured skull. He's been sliced, like, through his neck. He has a shattered arm," Kohen said. "The doctors do not have high hopes for him. If he wakes up, he may never be able to walk, talk or even process speech again."

PHOTO: People hold signs of support near the house of Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg on Dec. 29, 2019, in Monsey, New York.
People hold signs of support near the house of Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg on Dec. 29, 2019, in Monsey, New York.
Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

Overcome with emotion, Kohen faced the cameras and begged those watching to "please stand up and stop this hatred ... all types of hatred against any race, religion, orientation, anything else."

About 100 people were at the rabbi's home when Grafton Thomas allegedly forced his way inside, swinging an 18-inch machete.

PHOTO: Members of the Jewish community gather outside the home of rabbi Chaim Rottenberg in Monsey, N.Y., Dec. 29, 2019, after an attack that took place earlier outside the rabbi's home during Hanukkah.
Members of the Jewish community gather outside the home of rabbi Chaim Rottenberg in Monsey, N.Y., Dec. 29, 2019, after an attack that took place earlier outside the rabbi's home during Hanukkah.
Kena Betancur/AFP/Getty Images

Authorities are now increasing security in the area, including more police patrols, license plate readers, security cameras and a high tech panic button.

“We want to make sure that no place of worship -- a synagogue, a church, a mosque, a Hindu temple, any place, any school -- ever suffer the bloodshed that occurred this past weekend,” Town Supervisor Michael Sprecht said Thursday.

Thomas, 38, is charged with attempted murder as well as federal hate crimes.

"You may think you just hurt one lone Hasidic community," Kohen said at the news conference. But she said her father's reach goes beyond their community.

"He's made everybody feel something, important, special," she said. "If my father can do that, I'm begging you all, please, you can do that, too."

PHOTO: People gather in front of the house of Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg, Dec. 29, 2019, in Monsey, N.Y.
People gather in front of the house of Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg, Dec. 29, 2019, in Monsey, N.Y.
Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

Kohen said she hopes her father "wakes to a changed world with peace, unity and love for all."

Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg, who hosted the Hanukkah party where the attack took place, said Thursday through a statement read on his behalf: "We continue to pray for the victims and for a world where mutual respect overtakes hate."

What prompted the attack at Rottenberg's home is still under investigation, Ramapo Police Chief Brad Weidel told reporters on Thursday.

"We want to know why, just like you want to know why," Weidel said. "I hope we can come back with an answer."

At the home of the suspected stabber, investigators recovered journals which had anti-Semitic sentiments including references to Hitler and "Nazi Culture" "on the same page as drawings of a Star of David and a Swastika," according to the federal complaint.

PHOTO: Ramapo police officers escort Grafton Thomas from Ramapo Town Hall to a police vehicle, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, in Ramapo, N.Y. Thomas is accused of stabbing multiple people at a rabbi's home in the Orthodox Jewish community north of New York City.
Ramapo police officers escort Grafton Thomas from Ramapo Town Hall to a police vehicle, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, in Ramapo, N.Y. Thomas is accused of stabbing multiple people as they gathered to celebrate Hanukkah at a rabbi's home in the Orthodox Jewish community north of New York City.
Julius Constantine Motal/AP

On the day of the machete attack, Thomas' phone was allegedly used to access an article titled, "New York City Increases Police Presence in Jewish Neighborhoods After Possible Anti-Semitic Attacks. Here's What To Know."

On Thomas' phone were searches including "Why did Hitler hate the Jews," according to the complaint.

Defense attorney Michael Sussman said Thomas has "severe psychiatric issues" and a psychological evaluation should be conducted immediately.

Thomas' family said in a statement that he "has no known history of anti-Semitism and was raised in a home which embraced and respected all religions and races."

Thomas has pleaded not guilty to the attempted murder charges. That case will be presented to the Rockland County grand jury on Friday, the district attorney said.

ABC News' Aaron Katersky contributed to this report.

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