NEW YORK (JTA) — Hundreds rallied in front of the Venezuelan Consulate in New York to protest the vandalizing of a Caracas synagogue.
The rally, organized on short notice Monday afternoon, expressed solidarity with the Venezuelan Jewish community and accused the country’s president, Hugo Chavez, of fomenting an anti-Jewish atmosphere in which such anti-Semitic violence was inevitable. Demonstrators called on the Chavez government to bring the perpetrators of the attack to justice. Chavez has condemned the attack.
“We hold you accountable,” veteran activist Rabbi Avi Weiss told the crowd as footage of Chavez delivering a speech played behind him on a video screen behind the consulate window.
The rally was responding to an attack over the weekend on the Tiferet Israel Synagogue in the Venezuelan capital. According to reports, 15 armed men overpowered a security guard before desecrating religious objects, painting threatening messages on the walls and stealing community information.
At the rally, local political figures and Jewish communal officials led the crowd in chanting “Never Again” and its Spanish translation, “Nunca Jamas.”
Manuel Kohn, a Venezuelan Jew who has lived in the United States for nearly 50 years, addressed the protesters, describing his native country’s history of hospitality to Jews and other minorities.
“God bless you all, God bless Venezuela, and never again,” Kohn said.
David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee, sounded an ominous warning in noting the theft of administrative information about the local Jewish community.
“Historically,” Harris told JTA, “that has never ended well.”