Explosion Guts New York Synagogue

ByABC News

S Y R A C U S E, N.Y., Oct. 14, 2000 -- An explosion and fire gutted a Jewishsynagogue, and local and federal agents were attempting todetermine if the building had been bombed. No one was injured.

Tension over violence in the Middle East was “in the back ofeveryone’s mind,” police Sgt. Joe Sweeny said today.

The fire that raced through Temple Beth El late Friday appearedto 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 whatcaused it,” said Syracuse police Sgt. Norm Brown. “Nobody’sclaimed any kind of responsibility and there were no threats priorto it.”

Agents from the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco andFirearms joined the investigation.

String of Attacks

The fire occurred at the start of Sukkot, a weeklong festivalcelebrating the fall harvest and commemorating the desertwanderings 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 inHarrisburg, Pa. In New York City, bottles were thrown at theConservative Synagogue Adath Israel last Sunday, breaking a glassfront 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 statementabout the Middle East conflict.

Elsewhere, two Jews were attacked in separate incidents Thursdayin a predominantly Jewish neighborhood of Chicago.

First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, campaigning at a breastcancer awareness event near Syracuse on today, appealed forreligious tolerance.

“I would just urge that everyone be very careful about how wetreat one another, how we speak with one another, be vigilantagainst any who might want to cause any damage to any church orsynagogue or mosque or any other holy site,” she said. “We do notneed that in New York. We do not need that in America.

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events