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Family of great-grandfather stabbed in Hanukkah attack says his condition is "dire"

Anti-Semitic references by stabbing suspect

The family of a man stabbed multiple times during a Hanukkah attack at the home of a New York rabbi says he is in "dire" condition. The family released a graphic photo of Josef Neumann Wednesday showing the severe injuries he sustained in the knife attack Saturday at the home of a rabbi in Monsey, New York. 

WARNING: Image below may be disturbing to some viewers

Federal hate crime charges say 37-year-old Grafton Thomas entered the home where dozens of people were lighting candles and saying prayers just before 10 p.m to celebrate the seventh night of Hanukkah. 

Thomas, his face covered with a scarf, allegedly said words to the effect of, "Nobody is leaving," and then took out a machete and started stabbing and slashing people. Five were wounded.

People in the home recalled throwing a table at the attacker and one took down his license plate number as he fled the scene, leading to the suspect's arrest about two hours later in New York City. Police found a blood-stained 18-inch machete in his car, according to the complaint. Investigators later found anti-Semitic writings in Thomas's Greenwood Lake home and web searches on his phone for terms including "Why did Hitler hate the Jews," the federal complaint says.

The victims, according to the federal complaint, were "members of the Hasidic community and thus, easily identifiable as adherents to the Jewish faith." The five wounded were hospitalized and suffered injuries including a severed finger, deep lacerations and slash wounds, according to the complaint. 

The family's statement said that Neumann was "severely stabbed multiple times."

"The knife penetrated his skull directly into the brain," the statement said. "He also suffered three cuts to the head, one cut to the neck, and his right arm has been shattered."

The statement says Neumann's status is so dire that doctors have not attempted a surgery on his right arm. Doctors are "not optimistic about his chances to regain consciousness," the statement says.

"...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 said.

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Grafton Thomas CBS New York

The family said Neumann has seven children, many grandchildren, a great-grandchild and brothers and sisters. The family thanked the community for their prayers and support. 

The stabbing rampage is part of a growing surge of anti-Semitic attacks in New York and and across the country. The family urged fellow members of the Jewish community to share the image of Neumann on social media as well as their own experiences with anti-Semitism.

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

Thomas' family has said they believe the attack was driven by Thomas' mental illness, not by anti-Semitism. A lawyer said Thomas was experiencing auditory hallucinations and may not have been taking his medication for depression and psychosis.

The lawyer, Michael Sussman, said he reviewed some of Thomas' writings and said they showed the "ramblings of a disturbed individual," and said they did not suggest any anti-Semitic sentiments. 

"This is the action of an individual who for a long time has decompensated and has been treated in mental health facilities," he said.
He said he has requested a mental health evaluation of his client.

Thomas is charged with five counts of attempted murder and one count of burglary. He also faces federal hate crimes charges of obstruction of free exercise of religious beliefs involving an attempt to kill. 

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