Synagogue Arson in California

Source: Los Angeles Times

On June 23, 1999, the Los Angeles Times reported that
over 100 federal, state, and local investigators have recovered a
great deal of “high-quality evidence” from the three synagogue fires
that took place in Sacramento, California on the early morning of
June 18th. James Maddock, the FBI special agent in charge of the
investigation in Sacramento, stated: “Some of the leads appear very
promising. We are all optimistic on the task force that this
investigation will be done quickly and will identify those
responsible and bring them to justice.” The total damage is estimated
at $1 million, in which the majority was at Congregation B’nai
Israel, where the sanctuary was damaged and a library with more than
5,000 books was destroyed. Knesset Torah Israel, about 10 miles away,
suffered smoke damage and Congregation Beth Shalom sustained water
damage from its sprinkler system.


Synagogue Arson in California

Source: The San Francisco Chronicle

On June 23, 1999, The San Francisco Chronicle reported
that up to $6 million in federal loan guarantees will be available to
the three burned synagogues as a result of the 1996 Church Arson
Prevention Act, which helped churches in the Midwest and South that
were destroyed in a string of arsons. Andrew Cuomo, secretary of the
U.S. Housing and Urban Development, stated: “I would urge you to
consider not just rebuilding the temples, but to expand the temples
while you’re at it. Let’s make a clear sign that this act has not
dissuaded us, this act has not torn us apart, but if anything, has
brought us together and energized us.” In addition, Cuomo also stated
that we “must repair the bonds between us as Americans, just as we
must repair the building. And frankly, it is sometimes more difficult
to repair the bond because that deals with our hearts and minds,
rather than just repairing bricks and mortar.” California Governor
Gray Davis offered a $25,000 reward for information leading to the
conviction of the arsonists who struck the synagogues.


Synagogue Arson in California

Source: Sacramento Bee

On June 21, 1999, the Sacramento Bee reported that
several community leaders in Sacramento called for the creation of a
Sacramento “museum of tolerance” at a rally held across the street
from Congregation B’nai Israel. Sacramento Mayor Joe Serna Jr. and
Assemblyperson Darrell Steinberg vowed to raise the resources, both
publicly and privately, to construct a museum that would be similar
to Los Angeles’ Museum of Tolerance at the Simon Wiesenthal Center.


Synagogue Arson in California

Source: Los Angeles Times

On June 20, 1999, the Los Angeles Times reported that
makeshift Shabbat services for Congregation B’nai Israel, held in
Sacramento’s Community Theater, attracted more than a thousand
people. Some of those attending were from the Northern California
United Methodist conference across the street. Rev. Faith Whitmore
presented the Jewish community with $6000, which was the proceeds
from a collection taken at the conference. Throughout the city, there
has been an outpouring of support for the burned synagogues from
public officials, churches, other synagogues and community leaders.


Synagogue Arson in California

Source: Sacramento Bee

On June 19, 1999, the Sacramento Bee reported on the
efforts by area temples to help the three congregations. Area
congregations have donated prayer books, Torahs, and sanctuary space.
Marc Carrel, chairman of the Jewish Community Relations Council,
stated: “Any incident against one house of worship is an act of
violence against the whole community. Every Sacramentan should be
outraged.” Mosaic Law Congregation, a Conservative synagogue, opened
its doors to Congregation Beth Shalom to have Shabbat services and a
Bat Mitzvah ceremony and offered a Torah to the Orthodox Knesset
Israel Torah Center.


Synagogue Arson in California

Source: Los Angeles Times

On June 19, 1999, the Los Angeles Times reported that
three Sacramento synagogues were set on fire about 35 minutes apart
on the morning of June 18th. Flyers were left at the synagogue
linking Jews and the “Jewsmedia” with profiting from the war in
Kosovo through Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who recently
discovered her Jewish ancestry. Abraham H. Foxman, national director
of the Anti-Defamation League, called the arsons, “clearly the worst
such attacks in years.” Sacramento has been the scene of previous
hate crimes, with a firebombing outside Congregation B’nai Israel six
years ago and a black church burned to the ground three years ago.
Within hours of the attacks, the FBI and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol,
Tobacco, and Firearms were mobilized to join the investigation with
local police.


Synagogue Arson in California

Source: The Buffalo News

On June 19, 1999, The Buffalo News reported on the
synagogue arsons in Sacramento. These are being investigated as hate
crimes; a hate flier that was recovered from the Knesset Israel Torah
Center blamed Jews for the war in Kosovo and the destruction caused
by NATO bombing.