Police Say Fires at Jewish Centers in Chicago & Boston Last Week Were Intentionally Set

Rabbi Avi Bukiet, right, with his wife, Luna, addresses a news conference after multiple recent arson attempts on the Chabad Center for Jewish Life in Arlington, Mass. Video screenshot

A rash of fires that police say were intentionally set at Jewish community centers in Chicago and around Boston last week has left Jewish groups feeling vulnerable.

At the Chabad Center for Jewish Life in Arlington, Mass., where Rabbi Avi Bukiet and his family live about 20 minutes outside of Boston, firefighters were called to put out a shingle fire May 11.

Then they were called there again for another fire May 16.

Then, about an hour later that day, firefighters responded to a nearby fire at the Chabad Jewish Center in Needham, where Rabbi Mendy Krinsky lives with his family about 30 minutes outside of Boston.

Authorities say all three Boston-area fires were deliberately set and are being investigated as potential hate crimes.

“Somebody out there wants to hurt us,” wrote Krinsky’s wife, Chanie Krinsky, who co-directs the Needham Chabad, on Facebook after the fire. “Just because we exist. And that is frightening. Hate can’t be reasoned with. Hate just needs to be eradicated. A little bit of light dispels a lot of darkness. Please take this opportunity to help us end this darkness. Do a mitzvah today to bring more light into this world!”

No one was injured, and law enforcement officials said they have not determined whether the fires in the two Boston-area towns are connected. Nor have they said whether the incidents were linked to a fire that damaged the Diyanet Mosque in New Haven, Conn., the same week, which police also say was intentionally set.

“People are scared but are refusing to be intimidated in any manner,” said the Anti-Defamation League’s New England regional director, Robert Trestan. “An attack on one synagogue is an attack on the entire Jewish community. It’s not just one building.”

An attack on a rabbi’s home is particularly alarming, he said.

“People lived there,” Trestan said. “It’s not like a synagogue, where it’s closed at night and no one’s there. It’s a reminder that people don’t just pray in a large, established building. And when you try to start a fire at an institution like this, you’re also trying to burn someone’s house down.”

Days later, in Chicago, police found Molotov cocktails outside a synagogue and an adjacent Jewish community center over the weekend. Authorities say two attempts were made Saturday night to ignite the Anshe Sholom B’nai Israel Congregation and that windows of cars parked outside the synagogue and another nearby synagogue were smashed.

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Source: Religion News Service