A possible explosive device was found in the B’nai Abraham Cemetery at the 30th annual Newark Cemetery Visiting Day on Sunday, Sept. 16. Upon initial investigation, the object was reported to be harmless by the Essex County Sheriff’s Department’s Bomb Squad, but it was later determined that it could have exploded.
The FBI has since joined the investigation. The Essex County Sheriff’s Department together with the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ is offering a $5,000 reward for any information.
Robert Wilson, chief security officer at the Federation, described it as a can of WD-40 with what looked like fireworks — possibly a Roman candle — attached. Lieutenant Russell Mead of the Essex County Sheriff’s Department noticed the object on a headstone between 10:45 and 11 a.m. The security team cleared the few visitors in the vicinity — at the time there were only two or three — and called in its bomb squad to examine, remove, and ultimately dispose of it.
According to Kevin Lynch, Essex County Sheriff’s Department public information officer, after a preliminary investigation on site the bomb squad determined that the object had been placed there as a “hoax,” fake but made to look like a real bomb, and the cemetery visit continued within an hour.
However, on Tuesday afternoon, just before press time, Lynch said it was determined that the item “was more than what we saw with the naked eye.”
“It is possible that it could have gone off,” he said.
The annual Newark Cemetery Visiting Day is sponsored by the Community Relations Committee of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest on the Sunday between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur to provide safe visits for families at four area cemeteries: Grove Street Cemetery, McClellan Street Cemetery, Talmud Torah Cemetery, and Temple B’nai Abraham Cemetery.
So far there are no suspects and a motive is unclear. There’s also no indication that this was a bias incident intended to target (or scare) members of the Jewish community. Still, Lynch said it “very possibly” could have been.
Federation executive vice president and CEO Dov Ben-Shimon said there was “no indication at this time” that the Jewish community was specifically targeted, but he followed up with the federation’s law enforcement partners, including the Department of Homeland Security.
“I’m deeply grateful to the Essex County Sheriff’s Department and to the board of the Jewish Federation, which just last week voted to increase security procedures at Jewish cemeteries in Newark,” said Ben-Shimon. “We encourage members of the community to remain vigilant and to increase their awareness at our institutions and our communal sites and around the community at this time, as always.”
Alex Rosemberg, ADL’s associate regional director for New Jersey, told NJJN that the organization would respond to the incident via Twitter, but none had been posted as of press time.
Anyone with further information about this incident is urged to contact the sheriff’s Crimestoppers 24/7 hotline at 973-877-TIPS. All calls will be kept confidential.