Fires at 2 rabbis' homes, Jewish centers possible hate crimes, police say

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May 17, 2019

ARLINGTON, Mass. — Authorities in two Boston suburbs are investigating suspicious fires at two rabbis' homes and Jewish centers. The incidents are being investigated as possible hate crimes, police said.

Acting Arlington Police Chief Julie Flaherty said officers and firefighters responded to a Lake Street home at about 9 p.m. Thursday and doused a small fire on the home's exterior wood shingles with a hand-held extinguisher.

Firefighters also put out a shingle fire at the home, which is also houses the Chabad Center for Jewish Life, Saturday night.

Flaherty placed a full-time detail at the home where Rabbi Avi Bukiet lives with his wife and children and holds religious education classes.

Authorities continue to look for a person seen in surveillance video apparently walking away from the rabbi's house at the time of Saturday's fire.

In Needham, a Thursday night fire at the Chabad Jewish Center in Needham is being investigated as a possible hate crime, police said.

"About 9:30 last night, we smelled some smoke, came outside and we see the house is on fire," Rabbi Medy Krinsky said.

The building is home to Krinsky and his family and serves as a synagogue and Jewish outreach center.

The rabbi was able to extinguish the fire before it escalated. Police said there was damage to the home’s lattice and vinyl siding.

The area is being treated as a crime scene, Needham police said. Needham police were stationed Friday outside of the High Rock Street home.

“There were no threats made and no graffiti on the dwelling, however this is being investigated as a possible hate crime,” Needham police said.

Local and state police, the state fire marshal, agents from the FBI and ATF and the Massachusetts State Police Fusion Center are working together to investigate the fires.

The Anti-Defamation League has reported that violent attacks against the Jewish community in the United States doubled last year.

“An attack on any part of the Jewish community is an attack on all of us,” said Jeremy Burton, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston.

A $20,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest of the perpetrators.