Jewish Home for Aged in Dc Fire-bombed, Suspect Sought

Eight incendiary devices were set off inside the Hebrew Home for the Aged in nearby Rockville, Maryland, shortly before dawn today but none of the 200 residents averaging about 82 years of age was reported injured. Montgomery County Police Lt. Charles Federline said a recent trainee at the institution’s practical nursing education class is being sought for questioning. Police would not give the suspect’s name. The intruder was described as a “black male” about 6 feet 4 inches tall and 180 pounds, in his early twenties, wearing a hospital orderly’s white jacket.

Only 45 minutes before police were notified of the fire-bombings Lt. Federline said, three similar fires were started in the laundry room of the Home for Incurables in Washington’s Northwest section. Police believe the two incidents are connected, he said. Alvin J. Steinberg, chairman of the District of Columbia-Maryland Regional Board of the B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation League, declared after an ADL investigation that “there is no reason to believe” that the bombing at the Hebrew Home “was motivated by organized anti-Semitism.” He said, “There is a strong indication that this was the act of a single disgruntled individual rather than a group activity linked either to Arab terrorism or to any organized anti-Semitic group. It is essential,” Steinberg emphasized “to disabuse any fears arising in the community that this incident is a cause for alarm.”

Jay Silverman, director of ADL’s regional office, said that “this case must be disassociated” from acts of desecration and damage to a number of Jewish religious institutions in recent years in this area, including bullets fired into a synagogue. Silverman said that “the fire-bombs were in the nature of Molotov cocktails that caused explosions with considerable damage to property but not to-individuals.”

According to Montgomery County police, an intruder entered the Hebrew Home–a sturdy brick and concrete structure dedicated May 20, 1969–after smashing a large glass panel adjoining the door leading to the lobby. A nursing supervisor confronted him briefly as he was lighting his first bomb and then telephoned police who received her call at 4:15 a.m. After leaving two fires in the lobby, the intruder was next seen on the fourth floor where he started a fire in the nurse’s station and then hurled a bomb into a resident’s room.

Damage, according to Lt. Federline, was mainly to beds, furnishings and equipment at nurse’s station. He declined to give a dollar figure on the damage. Forty firemen and 24 policemen responded to the alarms.

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