Death Threats, Bullets and a Pig's Head: Attacks on Synagogues

A French synagogue has received death threats and bullets; a pig’s head is left at a synagogue door in Lithuania.

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Chana Ya'ar, | updated: 19:27

Kaunas Synagogue
Kaunas Synagogue
Israel news photo: Wikimedia Commons

Neo-Nazis are continuing to perpetrate anti-Semitic attacks in countries across both eastern and western Europe, with at least two incidents reported this week, although one actually occurred earlier in the month.

Officials at a French synagogue received an envelope containing bullets and a letter with death threats when they returned this week from summer vacation. The letter, also marked with a swastika, was mailed August 14 but was only discovered Tuesday.

The synagogue is located in Drancy, a northern Paris suburb that had been the site of a Vichy government internment camp during World War II. Some 65,000 Jews were imprisoned in the camp from which they were then deported to Nazi death camps.

According to the AFP news agency, a memorial at the site of the Drancy internment camp has been vandalized by anti-Semites at least twice since it was was established in 1976.

Sammy Ghozlan, head of a national French organization that monitors anti-Semitism, has urged the government to “beef up security in all places of worship” in advance of the approaching Jewish High Holy Days.

Ghozlan himself was targeted in May by arsonists who torched his car outside his home in the Paris suburb of Blanc-Mesnil. A retired French police captain, Ghozlan heads the Bureau National de Vigilance Contre l'Antisemitisme (National Bureau for Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism).

The Jewish New Year, Rosh HaShanah, begins September 9, followed 10 days later by the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur, and shortly thereafter by the week-long holiday of Sukkot, which concludes with the holiday of Simchat Torah.

Pig’s Head at the Synagogue Door
A pig’s head was left at the door of a synagogue in the second largest city in Lithuania, Kaunas – a particularly offensive attack due to the non-kosher status of swine in Jewish dietary laws. The incident occurred on Saturday, the Jewish holy day of rest.

Chief Rabbi Chaim Burstein and Lithuanian Jewish community executive director Simonas Alperavicius together issued a statement condemning the incident. “The Lithuanian Jewish community and the religious community of Lithuanian Jews judge this as a Nazi provocation aimed at insulting the ethnic and religious feelings of Lithuanian Jews,” they said.

“We hope that Lithuanian society will not be impassive as this act of a few anti-Semitic vandals does not reflect the attitude of Lithuanian society,” Gurevicius added in a subsequent comment to the AFP news service.

Barely 10 percent of Lithuanian’s 5,000-strong Jewish population lives in Kaunas, according to Gurevicius. The Jews of Lithuania are a scant remnant of the 220,000 Jews who once resided in the country. Prior to the Holocaust, Kaunas had some 25 synagogues and shtiebelach (prayer houses). Today, only one synagogue, built in 1872, remains.

The nation’s capital, Vilnius, was known prior to World War II as “Jerusalem of the North,” with more than 100 synagogues in that city alone. A cultural metropolis for Torah Judaism, Vilnius was the world center for yeshiva learning at the end of the 1800s.

The Nazis and their Lithuanian collaborators succeeded in murdering 95 percent of the country’s Jewish population between 1941 and 1944.

 Kaunas police have launched a formal investigation into the latest anti-Semitic incident, but no suspects have as yet been arrested.