For Malcolm Adler, walking down the aisle of the main sanctuary in Temple Menorah Keneseth Chai has become a bit of a foreboding activity.
On Jan. 6, shortly before Shabbat services for the evening were set to begin at 7:30 p.m., he noticed a rock on the floor. He picked it up and moved the curtain from the window and was greeted with a broken window.
Then, he noticed a second rock. And a second broken window. And then a third.
After seeing the broken windows, Adler, president of the synagogue, knew to act quickly. He quickly put his coat on and ran outside to see if he could find the person or people that did this, but he didn’t see anyone.
This is not the first time something like this has happened.
On Dec. 2, also just prior to the start of Shabbat services, Adler was heading down the aisle of the sanctuary to speak with the cantor when he was almost hit by a baseball-sized rock that came crashing through a stained glass window.
While the same window was not hit again this time, more than a few other stained glass windows were.
“Now we find out that there are six broken windows, not three,” Adler said. “Friday night it was dark out, and I guess I was a little hot to trot and a little upset and now I find out in the daytime that there’s six.”
All six windows are stained glass and located around the second-floor sanctuary.
Philadelphia Police Department officers responded, Adler said, and he also made a call to the Anti-Defamation League. On Jan. 8, he had a meeting with the board of directors and officers of the synagogue during which they discussed installing security cameras around the building.
Following the first incident, a GoFundMe campaign was created on Dec. 8 to raise money for security cameras. As of Jan. 9, $2,265 toward the $3,000 goal had been raised.
“I presented all the proposals to the board yesterday and we agreed on what we’re going to do,” he said. “We’re getting security cameras installed, and the company will be there on Thursday and Friday of this week to put them in. We’re asking the police to be in unmarked cars Friday night and Saturday.”
There will be six cameras installed, Adler said, “because we’re talking about all the way around the building.”
The congregation’s response to the incident has been “very negative and very upset,” Adler said, noting he, too, is distraught by what happened. He and his wife have been members for five years.
But the community’s response has also been a positive one.
He said a business representative from District Council 21 International Union of Painters and Allied Trades who lives in the neighborhood came out and offered to replace all six windows — maintenance and materials — for free as a donation to the synagogue.
Adler also visited the local office of Pennsylvania state Rep. John Taylor about the incident.
He noted that he is planning to reach out to churches in the area to see if “this is happening anywhere else with them.”
While no one has come forward yet, Adler believes it is the same person or people who did it the first time, and “somebody who doesn’t like Jewish people.”
For now, police are characterizing the incident as vandalism, though Adler called it a hate crime.
The incident remains under investigation, according to police.
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