Vandals Hit Two N.Y. Institutions

Police are investigating vandalism committed last week against two Jewish sites in Manhattan.

In the more serious incident, an Orthodox synagogue in Manhattan’s Washington Heights section was set on fire May 5 by vandals who stole two Torahs, four mezuzas and other religious items.

The fire destroyed Congregation Beth Hamedrash Hagadol’s ground-floor sanctuary, along with several more Torahs, hundreds of volumes of Talmud, prayer shawls and prayerbooks. Damage was estimated at $100,000. The synagogue had no insurance.

Police said they have not yet uncovered evidence that the case was motivated by anti-Semitism, but they acknowledge that it has been the frequent target of burglars and vandals in recent years. In the past, the silver crowns of the synagogue’s Torahs have been stolen, windows have been broken and a sukkah was raided.

Over half of the congregation’s 200 members are Holocaust survivors. The neighborhood is a hotbed of drug-related activity. In the second incident, vandals scrawled two swastikas and the German words “Juden Verboten” — Jews not allowed — on the walls of the headquarters of the United Synagogue of America, the association of North American Conservative congregations.

Police have not identified any suspects.

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