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5 Synagogues, 1 Jewish Center Hit by Arson Since Yom Kippur War

November 30, 1973
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Two major Jewish organizations, the Brooklyn Jewish Community Council and Brith Abraham, a national fraternal order, strongly protested yesterday to Police Commissioner Donald Cawley and Mayor John V. Lindsay over the wanton attacks and destruction of five synagogues by fire in Brooklyn in recent months, all in the predominately white middle class Flatbush section.

Rabbi Benjamin Z. Kreitman, president of the Community Council, and Leo S. Spooner, grand master of Brith Abraham, called for intensive police protection. They noted that the five synagogues have been burned since the start of the Yom Kippur War. Rabbi Kreitman wrote in part:

“The Brooklyn Jewish Community Council, which represents all the major Jewish organizations and synagogues in the Brooklyn area, protests these wanton attacks and destruction of our sacred places. We insist upon a more proper police protection and police surveillance of our houses of worship and study. We are cognizant that we have entered a period of great tension and friction within our community. It is at this particular moment that we need intensive police protection of our Jewish institutions within our community.”


He concluded by stating that the Council is ready to be of assistance “to you and your department to work out ways and means of affording this community its needed protection thereby allaying its mounting fears.” Spooner, as grand master, represents more than 200 lodges, stated in part: “In view of all these five fires in synagogues, which strikes us as being anti-Semitic in nature, we urge you to take strong measures in providing additional police protection against these hoodlums.”

The institutions struck by fire are: Sephardic Institute For Advanced Learning which houses a synagogue and yeshiva; Shaare Zion; B’nai Akiva; Ahavath Achim and Mirrer Yeshiva.

The fire at the Sephardic Institute on Nov. 21, the latest in the arson incidents in the Flatbush area, caused damages of close to $1 million according to synagogue officials. In addition, the fire killed a painter working in the building at the time of the blaze. Rabbi Moshe Shama, chief rabbi of the yeshiva, said the institute began receiving telephone threats last month when it started a fund-raising campaign for Israel. He said some police protection had been provided for a short time but it had been withdrawn. He reported that the callers spoke in what he described as unintelligible English and in Arabic.

Meanwhile, a two-alarm fire yesterday gutted the Fort Greene Jewish Center in the racially mixed Fort Greene section of Brooklyn. Fire marshalls have launched an investigation but said that so far they have not found anything suspicious in the building. Yesterday’s fire, the second in a month, caused extensive damage to the building which was leased as a classroom annex to a public school across the street. The annex housed five elementary school classrooms for kindergarten through second grade students. No one was reported injured in the blaze.

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