The Jewish community in the Columbus, Ohio area is speaking out after a local synagogue was vandalized and a kosher caterer robbed within the same two day period.
On November 4, two rocks thrown at Congregation Ahavas Sholom caused several thousands of dollars worth of damage, and on November 5, kosher caterer Catering by Chani was robbed, the Cleveland Jewish News reported.
The vandalism to the synagogue, located in Bexley near Columbus, caused a stained glass window to crack and its front door was shattered.
The robbery of the caterer, located only two blocks from Congregation Ahavas Sholom, does not appear to be linked or to have an anti-Semitic motive. However, the community is remaining cautious.
“I think people should feel safe walking into synagogues this weekend or on any Shabbat or whenever,” Justin Shaw, senior director of community relations for JewishColumbus, told the Jewish News.
He added that he doesn’t believe the community should be concerned about any further threats and noted that a security covering applied to the glass on the front door of the synagogue prevented the door from giving way.
He explained there are officers at every door for Shabbat services.
“This specific incident, we don’t know what the motivation is. And I don’t think that we should speculate,” he said.
He added that the incident is the first of its kind against a Columbus area synagogue that he has heard of.
“I would say there really hasn’t been anything similar,” he said. “It goes along with living in a large, metropolitan area. These things just unfortunately happen from time to time.”
The vandalism to the synagogue caused $3,500 in damage.
The Columbus Police Department so far has no leads in the case. The department’s counter-terrorism unit responded to the vandalism. It called it a “criminal damaging/endangering,” which is a misdemeanour.
The caterer had its cash register containing $200 stolen.
AJC Cleveland said that, motive aside, the vandalism still needs to be condemned.
“Regardless of motive, we must all have a zero tolerance for acts of vandalism at a synagogue or other house of worship,” Lee Shapiro, AJC Cleveland regional director, told the Jewish News.
James Pasch, director of the Ohio chapter of the ADL, said they have also been in contact with Ahavas Sholom to offer their “support and assistance.”
The vandalism at the synagogue has left community members concerned.
“I’m concerned for the safety of the Jewish community,” Rabbi Stephen Slater of nearby Congregation Agudas Achim told the news outlet.
He has a child at Ahavas Sholom’s preschool.
“Thank G-d it was merely property destruction, but destruction of property historically always has been connected to a rising threshold for anti-Semitic action,” Slater added.