(JTA) — Weeks after two attacks on a synagogue in Germany, police in the city of Ulm say the motive may have been anti-Semitic.
State security officials are investigating incidents on Aug. 26 and Sept. 2 in which one or more perpetrators kicked at the facade of the New Synagogue and later rammed it with a metal post, breaking through the outer wall. According to reports, repairs will cost several thousand dollars.
On Tuesday, an Ulm police spokesman said that anti-Semitism was not out of the question, but added that investigators were looking into all possibilities. There are no suspects.
Rabbi Schneur Trebnik told the Juedische Allgemeine Zeitung, Germany’s Jewish weekly, that authorities routinely play down reports of anti-Semitic incidents, and that community members are fearful of being recognized as Jewish on the streets.
In this case, he said, local Jews are upset that no one who saw the attack in progress called police.
An image of a possible perpetrator carrying an object resembling a metal post was publicized Sept. 11, along with a telephone number for potential witnesses to call. The photo, which also shows two people with the man, was gleaned from a security video camera.
The police report notes that “investigators are aware that the perpetrator and his companions were seen by witnesses shortly before and after” the incidents.
The New Synagogue, which was dedicated in 2012, is part of the Jewish Community of Württemberg. The state has some 2,800 Jews who belong to the community, according to the Central Council of Jews in Germany.
Meanwhile, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, deputy director of the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center, criticized local authorities for failing to categorize the case as anti-Semitic.
The question of whether such attacks on Jewish property should be termed anti-Semitic remains controversial.
Last year, a German appeals court declined to question a lower court over its verdict that three Palestinian men who tried to set a Wuppertal synagogue on fire in 2014 were not guilty of anti-Semitism. The defendants had claimed they were motivated by anger at Israel and not by anti-Semitism.
The lower court had found that while the targeting of a synagogue was serious circumstantial evidence, it could not conclude that the act was committed out of anti-Semitic motives.
But in another case in 2016, a court in Essen upheld a verdict that anti-Israel chantings of “death and hate to Zionists” at a 2014 demonstration were tantamount to anti-Semitism.