Synagogue arson

Congregation Beth Israel, on Shoal Creek Boulevard above 35th Street, had its beautiful wooden doors damaged by an intentionally-set fire on Halloween night. Smoke penetrated the sanctuary such that ceiling tiles will have to be replaced. Damage is estimated at $25,000. Austin fire department released fuzzy surveillance photos of a white male suspect, who also could be Hispanic.

Beth Israel was where I studied Talmud a few years ago and I also participated in a Passover meal with the other Talmud scholars. It’s one of the few, and the most prominent, synagogues outside the confines of the fenced Jewish community center on Hart Lane in northwest Austin. Beth Israel (House of Israel) was built in the 1870s and expanded in the 1950s.

“The fire…comes just a week after an anti-Semitic banner [with swastikas] was displayed over TX-Loop 1 [near the JCC]. City leaders since then condemned the incident, saying the message has no place in Austin. Shalom Austin [which manages the JCC] called the incident ‘extremely upsetting and unsettling.'” 

And Beth Israel’s arson followed. Hardly a coincidence.


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