Move to Halt Attacks on Synagogues

An emergency conference to mobilize community and law-enforcement agencies to combat the recent wave of burglaries, arson and vandalism against synagogues and other houses of worship in the New York metropolitan area was held at the American-Israel Friendship House here today. The participants included representatives of Jewish and Christian communal and religious groups, ranking police officers and city and state officials.

The conference, sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of New York, was presented with an eight-point emergency program to deal with crime and desecration of houses of worship. In addition, a $500 reward was offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrators.

Mrs. Peggy Tishman, vice president of the JCRC and chairman of its committee on police liaison, declared, “We consider this an urgent and serious problem not only for the Jewish community but for all people of New York. “She noted that churches and religious schools, like synagogues, have been the targets of such assaults and said her organization is proposing “an all-out drive involving all ethnic and religious groups to assist police, the district attorneys and others responsible for law enforcement in their efforts to stop these crimes.”

ELEMENTS IN THE PROGRAM

Malcolm Hoenlein, executive director of the JCRC, introduced the program. It calls for intensive efforts to improve security at houses of worship in cooperation with the Police Crime Prevention Unit; to approach the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration to fund the development of model security programs for houses of worship and to make available security devices at reasonable costs; to request the New York State Legislature to increase the penalties for crimes against houses of worship; to work with insurance companies to provide coverage to all synagogues and reduce the cost of premiums; and to seek an increase in the New York Police Department’s houses of worship patrols.

Deputy Police Chief Rudolf J. Ponzini, commanding officer of the Queens detective area, and Robert Mclnerny of the crime prevention section, expressed the Police Department’s concern over these crimes. They stressed that the police will need “the cooperation” of the community to help solve the problem.

The two police officials assured the conference that the police will do “everything we can” to prevent crimes against houses of worship in the future. M inerny urged houses of worship in the metropolitan area to ask for free security surveys of their premises by the Police Department as one preventive measure.

Charles Straut, executive director of the Council of Churches, Brooklyn Division, pledged the support of the Christian community. “If we don’t speak up now, we can be next,” he said. Another community leader, Manuel Sanchez, executive director of the Council on Inter-Religious Relations, condemned the crimes against houses of worship and called for a concerted effort by the entire community to combat them.

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