NEW YORK (Dec. 10)
The rabbi of a Conservative synagogue in the Boro Park section of Brooklyn that was vandalized Friday by Orthodox Jewish zealots, said today it was “the act of a few irresponsible young fanatics and not the work of any responsible organized group.” Rabbi Baruch Silverstein of Temple Emanu-El, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, however, that “one has to blame the atmosphere which breeds such intolerance for Jews who don’t practice the way they do.”
But the rabbi noted that the flood of sympathy calls he has been receiving. since the incident included many from Orthodox rabbis and other members of the heavily Orthodox populated community. The act was also strongly condemned in statements by Reform and Orthodox rabbis and by two national Jewish leaders.
Temple Emanu-EI, the only Conservative house of worship in the Brooklyn neighborhood, was attacked by members of a group calling itself TORAH. An unidentified person claiming to be a spokesman for the group said it was an acronym for “Tough Orthodox Rabbis and Hasidim. “They claimed responsibility for shattering stained glass windows and spray-pointing swastikas and a slogan in Hebrew, “May Their Names Be Erased” on the walls of the temple.
The spokesman refused to say how many Jews took part in the vandalism. He claimed the act was the beginning of an Orthodox-Hasidic campaign against Conservative and Reform synagogues throughout the city.
He said a Reform synagogue in Boro Park, Rodeph Sholom, was ignored because it is “too small” to be of concern to his group. He said the campaign against non-Orthodox synagogues was to protest the “inroads” by the Conservative and Reform movements in Israel and that the TORAH group considered Reform Jews no more Jewish than “Jews for Jesus.”
ATTACK ON SYNAGOGUE CONDEMNED
Silverstein, who was born in Europe, commented on the irony that this group “hates me with as much intensity as Hitler did.” Silverstein studied at the Mirrer Yeshiva and at Yeshiva University before attending the Jewish Theological Seminary of America where he was ordained as a Conservative rabbi.
Commenting to the JTA, Rabbi Pinchos Stolper, executive vice president of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, called the vandalising of Temple Emanu-EI an “ugly and repugnant act.” He said, “I can think of no Jew who wouldn’t condemn such an act regardless of his ideological bent. “He added, “I don’t believe any. Jew will be convinced to change his ways by employing the methods of Esau.”
Rabbi Nisson Wolpin, a long-time resident of the Boro Park community who is editor of the Agudat Israel organ Jewish Observer, told the JTA, “This action doesn’t represent any responsible group and one can only stand back in horror at acts of vandalism committed in the name of Torah.” Wolpin said he was expressing his personal viewpoint.
The vandalism was denounced as well by a leading Reform rabbi and two national Jewish leaders. Rabbi Alexander Schindler, president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations. who is in Toronto attending the 55th biennial convention of UAHC, assailed “the besmirching of a synagogue” and said that “goons are goons, whether they wear Ku Klux Klan sheets or talesrm (prayershawls).”
Nathan Perlmutter, director of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, said “the desecration of a house of worship is contemptible whether committed by anti-Semites or by Jews.” Responding to a report that the act of vandalism had been committed by Hasidic Jews, Perlmutter declared: “Hasidism is beautiful, desecration by individuals alleging Orthodoxy is ugly and the very antithesis of our rich Orthodox tradition.”
Henry Siegman, executive director of the American Jewish Congress, declared: “Violence in the name of religious zealotry is no more acceptable here than it is in Iran. The desecration of a house of worship is a particularly despicable form of hooliganism. It is unlawful and the guilty should be fully prosecuted.”