Bombing of Cape Town Shul Outrages South African Jewry

South African Jews are outraged by the bombing of a synagogue in a suburb of Cape Town early last Friday, which some suspect of being perpetrated by Muslims protesting the U.S. bombardment of Iraq.

Nobody was hurt in the explosion, which occurred just after midnight, about two hours after congregants had left the synagogue following a Chanukah party Thursday evening.

But the blast shattered the ornate stained-glass doors and windows inside the synagogue, one of the oldest in Cape Town.

“Thank God, nobody was hurt and there was no damage to anything inside” the sanctuary, said Mickey Glass, executive director of the Union of Orthodox Synagogues in Cape Town.

The blast rocked the entire suburb of Wynberg, once a stronghold of Cape Town Jewry, and now an area occupied by a large number of Muslims.

In the 1950s and early 1960s, Muslims and Jews lived side by side in the street where the shul is situated, and there were a number of Muslim shops nearby. But after an act restricting where certain groups could live was strictly enforced, Muslims were restricted to an area in Wynberg that is less than a mile from the synagogue.

The Muslim community in Cape Town has a high percentage of fundamentalists and fringe groups that are supported by Iran and Libya.

Although no group claimed immediate responsibility for the bombing, it is thought to be the work of Muslim fundamentalists, who were allegedly responsible for bombs placed in a Jewish home and bookstore in an adjacent suburb last year and at the Planet Hollywood restaurant on the city’s waterfront in August.

“It is probably in retaliation for the U.S. bombing of Baghdad,” said Rabbi Rafi Wolff, the spiritual leader of the Wynberg Synagogue.

Wolff, who lives in a house next to the shul, said services at the synagogue would continue.

“This has only served to strengthen our resolve to intensify our activities. The entire community has been incredibly supportive, and, instead of staying away, we doubled our attendance at the morning minyan today,” he said.

In New York, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America issued a statement saying it was “extremely troubled” by the incident, and it called on its member synagogues to take extra precautions to protect against such attacks.

The security already in place at the synagogue was being credited for the bomb being placed outside, and not inside, the building.

Seymour Kopelowitz, national director of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, the country’s Jewish umbrella group, said the community was “shocked and outraged at the senseless and cowardly bombing.”

He added, “Anti-Semitism of any sort has no place in South Africa today, and we demand that the perpetrators be brought to justice.”

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