Boca police probe ‘hate crime’ vandalism at synagogue, church, cemetery
BOCA RATON – Anti-Semitic and racial vandalism discovered Feb. 15 at a local synagogue appears to be only part of a damage spree that also involved a nearby church and cemetery.
Boca Raton police are investigating an incident at Temple Beth El on SW 4th Avenue, another at St. Joan of Arc Church across the street and at the Boca Raton Cemetery just south of the two houses of worship.
Public Information Officer Sandra Boonenberg said that just before 10 p.m. Monday, police patrolling the area around Temple Beth El heard an alarm sounding in the temple.
Officers who checked the temple found damage to the bathroom doors consisting of a swastika, “KKK”, “Hail Hitler” and a racial slur for blacks, all scratched into the paint. Boonenberg said several chairs were broken when they were thrown from a third floor walkway and four vases were broken at the mausoleum.
Boca Raton Fire Rescue Services responded to a fire alarm in the education center. The fire captain told police they had been out to the temple several hours earlier for a pulled fire alarm and this time they saw damage to several bathroom doors that hadn’t been there earlier.
The next day, said Boonenberg, the foreman of Hunter Construction said unknown suspects jumped the fence, pushed over a Port-O-Potty and also splashed glue on the floor inside a building under construction on St. Joan of Arc Church property on SW Third Avenue.
In another case, at the Boca Raton Cemetery on SW 4th Avenue, the caretaker reported several items were knocked over, including vases, trash cans, a fountain and a table.
Rabbi Dan Levin of Temple Beth El issued a statement saying: “These events are not simply attacks on Temple Beth El and the Jewish community, but on the larger community in which we live. In spite of this event, we know that the fabric of this community, and the values we teach in our congregation, are stronger than any act of hatred can break.”
The Anti-Defamation League also issued a statement condemning the crime.
“When a synagogue is vandalized and anti-Semitic slurs are scrawled on synagogue property in the heart of Boca Raton where a large Jewish community resides, it’s a reminder that anti-Semitism remains a current event here in our backyard,” said Andrew L. Rosenkranz, ADL Florida regional director
“Attacks against houses of worship attempt to threaten, intimidate and harass entire communities, not just the Jewish community. Such cowardly acts are un-American and we hope that that the community will stand up to condemn this anti-Semitic hate crime and send a clear message to the perpetrators that hatred and bigotry will not be tolerated in Boca Raton.”
Anyone with information about these crimes is asked to call Detective Scott Hanley at (561) 338-1344 or Palm Beach County Crime Stoppers at (800) 458-TIPS.