NEW YORK (May. 6)
Jews in two suburban communities are pondering today whether two vicious acts of anti-Semitism over the weekend were motivated by Jewish protests against President Reagan’s visit to the war cemetery at Bitburg, West Germany, yesterday, or whether they were just the latest manifestations of anti-Semitic vandalism that would have occurred regardless of the Bitburg controversy.
A fire at the South Baldwin Jewish Center in Baldwin, L.I., yesterday afternoon was clearly arson and, according to Rabbi David Artz, spiritual leader of the congregation, was a pre-planned attempt to destroy the building.
Earlier, slogans such as “Jews Die”, “Jews for Sale” and “We Kill Jews”, along with swastikas were found scrawled on the stairwell walls and ceilings of an apartment building in Great Neck, L.I., where the residents are mainly Orthodox Jews.
Det. Carl Mickle of the Great Neck police, said the graffiti appeared “to be the work of teen-agers bent on doing criminal mischief.” It was discovered Saturday morning but was not reported by the observant tenants until after the Sabbath. According to Mickle, the vandalism may have occurred last week but was not detected earlier because the residents use the elevators rather than the stairs, except on the Sabbath.
The fire at the South Baldwin temple showed signs of deliberate intent. Artz said hundreds of prayer books and prayer shawls were stacked up in two piles in the sanctuary in front of the podium and set on fire. Also burned were the American and Israeli flags that normally stand on the podium.
The books, flags, carpeting and lecterns on the podium were destroyed but the fire was discovered and extinguished by the local fire brigade before more extensive damage was done. Artz carried the temple’s Torahs to safety from the smoke-filled sanctuary.
Harry Okin, president-elect of the congregation, told reporters yesterday, “We have to feel that the fire is quite symbolic. There’s so much symbolism here.”