Swastika, racial slur spray-painted on exterior of Warwick synagogue

| June 4, 2010

WARWICK — Two graffiti hate symbols spray-painted on the walls of Temple Am David on Gardiner Street are being investigated by the police.

The symbols — a backward swastika and the first four letters of a six-letter racial epithet — were discovered Thursday morning by a neighbor, who notified the synagogue’s spiritual leader, Cantor Richard Perlman.

“At first, I was shocked. Then I became angry. How can anyone display such a cowardly and frightening act directed at both the Jewish community and people of color,” said Perlman. “This to me is certainly frightening and it’s spiteful and it’s hateful.”

He said a spray-paint can that may have been involved in the incident was discovered by a Channel 10 intern and taken by the police for testing.

Police Chief Stephen M. McCartney said the incident “certainly has the earmarks of a hate crime, but we won’t know how to prosecute it until we have all the information once we make an arrest.”

If an investigation shows that hate was the motive, state law allows prosecutors to seek additional penalties after a suspect is convicted.

Temple Am David, created through the 1980 merger of Temple Beth Am and Congregation Beth David-Anshe Kovno, is one of four synagogues in Rhode Island affiliated with the Conservative movement. It has about 200 families, according to President Ronald Freeman.

The building is located on a quiet sidestreet just north of Hoxsie Four Corners, with no direct access to busy Warwick Avenue nearby. Because the temple is in an out-of-the-way location, “there may be a local motive behind this, but we can’t dismiss anything at this point,” McCarthy said.

Marty Cooper, a spokesman for the Jewish Federation of Rhode Island, said in a news release the Jewish community had received alerts from various sources warning that anti-Semitic activities might result from the weekend attempt to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza, which resulted in the deaths of nine people.

Freeman said the community often gets alerts from Jewish organizations when they think Jews might face increased risk because of world events or holy days. The incident came one day after more than 60 people demonstrated in front of the federal building in Kennedy Plaza calling for Israel to end the blockade.

McCartney said that, in Warwick, police probably have to deal with an apparent hate-related incident involving the Jewish community every year or two.

Perlman said that a few years ago, a man was arrested after he repeatedly tried to break the door to the synagogue. He was arrested by Warwick police minutes after he finally succeeded, but not before he damaged a memorial sculpture. “This was a person who came to the temple and really wanted to do damage.”

“We’ve had smaller types of incidents over the past few years,” said Perlman, “never anything this blatant.”



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Category: Synagogue/Jewish Security

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