(JTA) — The New Jersey teen charged with making threats to synagogues and other Jewish institutions last year has pleaded guilty.
Omar Alkattoul, 19, of Sayreville, was arrested in November, shortly after many Jewish institutions in New Jersey, including synagogues and schools, briefly shuttered amid warnings from the FBI about a “broad threat.”
Jewish organizations were encouraged to take extra precautions and follow security measures. Some cities sent additional police officers to guard synagogues and schools.
The FBI announced a day after its initial warning that the threat was no longer active and a suspect had been identified. A week later, Alkattoul was arrested and charged, with the U.S. Attorney’s Office alleging that he had pledged allegiance to ISIS as well as researched mass shootings and how to obtain firearms.
Alkattoul had written an extremist manifesto titled “When Swords Collide,” which he shared with at least six people via social media. The manifesto, which was written as if it were made to be found after he had already attacked a synagogue, extensively detailed Alkattoul’s hatred of Jews. But Alkattoul was unclear, in messages with other extremists and with comments to investigators, whether he actually planned to carry out his threats.
Alkattoul will be sentenced Nov. 14. He faces up to five years in prison.
The New Jersey incident came at a time of high alert in the Jewish community — just weeks after the rapper Kanye West made several antisemitic comments and less than a year after synagogue-goers in Colleyville, Texas, were held hostage by a man who broke into their Shabbat services. Later in November, two men who had made online threats to “shoot up a synagogue” were arrested in New York City’s Penn Station.