Alameda police investigating vandalism at Synagogue as hate crime


Vandalism at an Alameda synagogue is now being investigated as a hate crime.

That conclusion, from the police department, after analyzing evidence at the scene.

Friday evening, the development was met with applause at a vigil attended by more than 250 people. 

Temple Israel welcomed faith leaders and parishioners from many faiths, who wanted to show support. 

"Alameda stands against hate, Alameda stands against violence," declared Assemblyman Rob Bonta, as the crowd lit candles and held them aloft. 

"We are kin, the members of this temple are our brothers and sisters," exclaimed Rev. Laura Rose, from the First Congregational Church of Alameda. 

About 100 feet away from the crowd, two boarded-up windows were visible on the side of a classroom. 

They were shattered this week by someone who apparently lobbed a rock at them.

The classroom is used for Sunday school and Hebrew classes on Thursdays.

"This is the children's space where they come to learn how to be a good Jewish person or learn language," teacher Jennifer Levine told KTVU, "and it's a small community so this really feels like a violation."

At the vigil, the synagogue community seemed multiplied, with so many Alameda residents of various faiths attending. 

"Whoever did it, it's hateful," participant Eleanor Wiley told KTVU.

Wiley is an Episcopalian, and member of an interfaith council that spread word of the vandalism.  

"We have to be here for whatever happens, because what's going in our country is so sad, it makes me cry," Wiley added. 

Only one surveillance camera caught an image of the vandal, as he tried but failed to break the main doors to the sanctuary, made of glass.   

Police say they are following leads.

They were vague about the motive for the attack until now.  

"We've had the opportunity to review the video, process the evidence, and we are treating this as a hate crime," Acting Alameda Police Chief Lance Leibnitz told the crowd. "We in the police department take this incidents very seriously."

That validation is something teenager Sasha Waldorf needed to hear. 

 She says as a freshman at Alameda High school last year, she was the target of anti-semitic taunts and slurs, some by text message.

"Saying Hitler should have finished off the job and finished off your family, that Jews belong in the ovens, and Jews are all kikes," Waldorf told KTVU.

"I believe anti-semitism is taken more lightly, because lots of people consider Jews to be white and have white privilege." 

Whether the vandalism was inspired by recent events in Charlottesville, VA, no one can say. But the current surge in intolerance seems unmistakable.  

"There are things coming out in this country, that are like somebody  lifted up a rock and saw what was underneath it and it's pretty frightening," temple leader Walt Jacobs told KTVU.

Jacob's grandfather was one of the synagogue founders almost 100 years ago.

He was heartened by the big show of community support; in fact so many people, vigil organizers ran out of candles. 

"Our philosophy as Jews is "tikkun olam", which means cure the world, do the best you can as an individual, for everybody else," Jacobs concluded.  



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