Monday, October 16, 2000

Vandals, violence disturbing for Jews

Police looking into incident at local temple

By Cindi Andrews
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Fighting leaves almost 100 dead in the Mideast. An explosion guts a synagogue in Syracuse, N.Y. Vandals strike the Isaac M. Wise Temple in Amberley Village. Related? Too soon to know, law enforcement officials say, but the coincidences have Tristaters putting their guard up.

        “Incidents like this can always tempt copycats,” said Rabbi Arthur Flicker of Congregation Ohav Shalom in Sycamore Township. “I wouldn't say I'm terrified. But times like this you become a little more aware, a little more careful.”

        The incidents in Amberley and Syracuse both occurred Friday night, after violence between Israelis and Palestinians that has jeopardized peace talks.

        Amberley police Lt. Roger Petrie played down the significance of the vandalism at Wise Temple, saying it contained no hate messages, or even words. He declined to specify just what was done for fear it would hinder his investigation.

        “It wasn't really even damage,” Lt. Petrie said. “It was just something that required a little bit of cleaning.”

        An officer noticed the vandalism about 10:15 p.m. Friday, not more than an hour after the last members had left, Lt. Petrie said. There are no suspects, but he believes juveniles did it.

        Wise, which has 1,370 families, is one of the area's most prominent Reform congregations. The rabbi and the congregation president could not be reached for comment Sunday.

        In Syracuse, the fire that raced through Temple Beth El late Friday appeared to have started in an office, investigators said. No one was injured in the explosion. Police don't know what caused it, and no one has claimed responsibility.

        “People shouldn't jump to any conclusions,” U.S. Attorney Daniel French cautioned. “There is going to be concern until we can determine if this is an isolated event.”

        In the Tristate, Phyllis Stein has similar concerns about the Wise Temple vandalism. The Amberley Village resident is not Jewish, but her Jewish name and her proximity to the synagogue give her pause.

        “It scares me,” Ms. Stein said. “This neighborhood could be targeted.”

        Such incidents also make her angry: “It's an attack on one's freedom and beliefs, and it shouldn't happen.”

        But Rabbi Flicker is more accustomed to intolerance.

        “There are those who like to flex their power against minorities,” the rabbi said. “Sometimes it's Jews, sometimes it's blacks, sometimes it's Asians.”

        He said Jewish leaders would consult with police before deciding if heightened security is warranted.

        The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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