MOSCOW (JTA) — A homemade bomb that exploded outside a Russian synagogue caused damage to the synagogue and a neighboring house.
No one was injured in the explosion early Monday morning in the town of Tver, about 140 miles northwest of Moscow.
The blast left a gaping hole in the synagogue door, damaged the iron fence of the building and knocked out several windows in the house. Property damage was estimated at $5,000.
Police officials have characterized the incident as “malicious hooliganism"; a criminal investigation has been opened though no suspects have been identified.
Anti-terrorism experts from the Moscow office of the Federal Security Service have been called to Tver to take part in the investigation.
The head of the Tver city administration, Vladimir Babichev, suggested that the explosion could be connected to a series of vandalism incidents at the town’s Jewish cemetery. A group of extremists from the Russian National Unity movement was arrested in 2006 after vandalizing about 200 Jewish gravestones with swastikas. Several more incidents have occurred since then at the cemetery, but no one has been charged.
The Tver synagogue’s two-story brick building was built at the turn of the 20th century and was renovated in 2004. Anti-Semitic epithets have been painted on its walls, according to the Federation of the Jewish Communities of Russia.
Classes at the ORT-KesherNet center located in the back of the synagogue, which is also used as a Jewish community center, will be closed for at least a week, according to Ilya Spivak, manager of the center.
The ORT-KesherNet center is one of 17 across the former Soviet Union that provide vocational training for unemployed and underemployed women.
“The graffiti was enough to put off some prospective students who had phoned us in response to our advertisements -– they would be very keen until we told them the classes were held in the Jewish community center at the synagogue," Spivak said. "People understand that if there have been no arrests for previous incidents, then more serious attacks may happen eventually and they don’t want to be a victim.”