Jewish groups in New England are denouncing “reprehensible” voicemails described as "antisemitic and anti-Israel" that a Newburyport, Massachusetts synagogue received last summer.
The case is now proceeding through the legal system with the suspect, 20-year old New Hampshire resident Aidan Kelley, arraigned on Friday.
Kelley faces one charge of making the phone calls and voicemails. Newburyport police had also charged him with criminal harassment but the charge was dropped by the court.
"Targeting a synagogue with antisemitic and anti-Israel messages is reprehensible and unlawful. We are glad to see this incident treated with the seriousness it deserves. We all have the right to worship safely, without fear of harassment or intimidation,” Anti-Defamation League spokesperson Shellie Burgman told The Daily News of Newburyport.
According to the police, over the summer Kelley called the synagogue three times and left threatening voicemails. But the head of Congregation Ahavas Achim, Alex Matthews, said that they received five voicemails allegedly from Kelley between June and September.
In an email to congregants on Sunday, Matthews wrote: “Leaving numerous, anonymous voicemails accusing all Jews of terrorism and murder is dangerous hate speech and needs to be condemned. This represents the continuation of a disturbing trend that has grown since the most recent conflict between Israelis and Palestinians this past spring, in which the line between political discourse about Israel and blatant antisemitic rhetoric is erased."
According to local media reports, the first voicemail, from July 23, contained anti-Israel statements accusing Israelis of killing Muslims and Christians. On August 2, the synagogue received another voicemail that referred to Israel as a “terrorist state” and used “the phrase “apartheid free Palestine."
The messages were reported to the police.
A third voicemail was received on September 9 that blamed Israel for the deaths of Iranian scientists and said, "Shame on Israel. Israel terrorists, assassin.”
While the police report did not mention specific references to the Jewish community in the voicemails, Mathews described one of the messages referring to a “Jewish, supremacist occupation," The Daily News reported.
After being arraigned, Kelley was released by the court, with the judge telling him to have no contact with Congregation Ahavas Achim. He is scheduled to appear on April 1 for his pretrial hearing.