June 20, 2018
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Bangor police seek public’s help in catching synagogue vandals

Andrew Neff | BDN
Andrew Neff | BDN
Vandals struck both the Beth Israel and Beth Abraham Synagogues on York Street in Bangor sometime early Friday night by spray painting offensive symbols and graffiti on the pillars and staircases of both buildings. A worker at Beth Abraham reported to police that the vandalism occurred around 7 p.m. Police said graffiti incidents have been increasing over the last week.
By Nok-Noi Ricker, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — Police continue to look for the vandal or vandals who spray-painted swastikas and other graffiti on two synagogues on York Street and are asking the public for help, Bangor police Sgt. Paul Edwards said Monday.

“I still think someone knows who did this,” the sergeant said. “I’m certain that someone, besides the person who did this, knows who did this. We would like that person to do the right thing” and report the crime.

The graffiti included Nazi swastikas — an anti-Semitic symbol — and an upside-down cross with the numbers “666” — known as the sign of the devil — placed across the top.

“Graffiti is one thing, but when it starts becoming swastikas on synagogues, it’s no longer just graffiti. It’s a hate crime,” said Norman Minsky, a Bangor attorney.

Minsky, who had European relatives on his father’s side whose lives were affected by the Nazis during World War II, was attending services at Beth Israel when the initial vandalism occurred.

Someone applied the offensive symbols on the steps and pillars of Congregation Beth Israel and Beth Abraham Synagogue sometime early Friday night, then returned and added more.

“It’s one thing to deface someone’s home or business, and it’s another thing to deface a church or synagogue. It steps it up,” Edwards said. “I believe it’s more of a hate crime.”

The case has been assigned to the department’s Criminal Investigation Division, he said.

The graffiti were applied during the Jewish High Holy Days, a 10-day period of prayer that starts with Rosh Hashanah — the first day of the Jewish year and anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve — and ends with Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year.

“[it] is a sad reminder that anti-Semitism is alive,” Derrek L. Shulman, regional director of Anti-Defamation League New England, said in a statement released Sunday.

Rabbi Justin Goldstein of Beth Israel Synagogue said the incident was upsetting but isolated. The Jewish community has been gathering at the synagogue for a century, and “this is the only incident like this here in recent memory,” he said.

The Bangor City Council recently held discussions on graffiti and ways to limit instances and penalize offenders, known as “taggers.” In addition, Maine already has hate crime laws that cover the desecration and defacement of places of worship.

Anyone with information about the vandalism is asked to call the Bangor Police Department at 947-7382. The department’s anonymous tip line can be reached by pressing ext. 6.

BDN reporter Andrew Neff contributed to this story.

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