On Sunday evening March 29th the world was sad to learn of the passing of Rabbi Yosef Neumann z”l, 72, the victim most gruesomely wounded in a hate-filled machete attack during a Chanukah celebration at the home of Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg in Monsey, N.Y. On December 28, 2019.

Grafton Thomas, 37, has already been charged with attempted murder and federal hate crimes. The Rockland district attorney plans to upgrade the charges against Thomas to second degree murder. Thomas was caught in Harlem the night of  the fateful attack just an hour after fleeing.

Rabbi Yisroel Kahan, who is the community liaison for the Ramapo Police Department that serves Monsey and executive director of Oizrim Jewish Council, shared the devastating news.

“We were hoping and praying when he started to open his eyes that he would then pull through. This is so very sad he was killed celebrating Chanukah with friends just because he was a Jew.”

Neumann clung to life since the attack at the Westchester Medical Center before improving just enough to be moved to a nursing home, where he perished.

The levaya at the Viznitz Cemetery in Rockland County was a tremendously sad event which like so many others, was harshly impacted by the novel coronavirus pandemic. A typical Viznitz funeral would attract hundreds of mourners, let alone one of this caliber. Monday’s funeral unfolded even as the defense team considered actions to force an autopsy.

While most on the outskirts practiced social distancing, many mourners clustered near the ahron overcome with grief. “His loss is felt deeply in the community,” according to Yossie Gestetner of the Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council.

“It’s devastating, it’s painful, it’s deep and it brings up to the surface again the pain that was felt three months ago,” Gestetner noted.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says he will honor the victim by naming a proposed domestic terrorism measure the Josef Neumann Law.

Neumann, described by friends as a calm gentle person, was a retired retail store owner and a father of seven, grandfather, great-grandfather and brother. At a January 20th press conference, his daughter Nicky Kohen said the family prayed he would recover and find a world that had changed for the better.

He did not recover. The world certainly is a different place.

By Shabsie Saphirstein