An explosion and fire gutted a Jewish synagogue, and local and federal agents were attempting to determine if the building had been bombed. No one was injured.
Tension over violence in the Middle East was “in the back of everyone’s mind,” police Sgt. Joe Sweeny said today.
The fire that raced through Temple Beth El late Friday appeared to have started in an office at the rear of the synagogue, investigators said.
“It was some type of an explosion, but we don’t know what caused it,” said Syracuse police Sgt. Norm Brown. “Nobody’s claimed any kind of responsibility and there were no threats prior to it.”
Agents from the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms joined the investigation.
String of Attacks
The fire occurred at the start of Sukkot, a weeklong festival celebrating the fall harvest and commemorating the desert wanderings of the Hebrews during the Exodus.
Last Monday, on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year, an arson blaze gutted part of a synagogue under construction in Harrisburg, Pa. In New York City, bottles were thrown at the Conservative Synagogue Adath Israel last Sunday, breaking a glass front door. No one was injured in either attack.
Four young men were arrested in connection with the New York City vandalism, and a criminal complaint said they did it to make a statement about the Middle East conflict.
Elsewhere, two Jews were attacked in separate incidents Thursday in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood of Chicago.
First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, campaigning at a breast cancer awareness event near Syracuse on today, appealed for religious tolerance.
“I would just urge that everyone be very careful about how we treat one another, how we speak with one another, be vigilant against any who might want to cause any damage to any church or synagogue or mosque or any other holy site,” she said. “We do not need that in New York. We do not need that in America.