There is a person of interest who has been identified in connection with the vandalism on Jan. 6 of Temple Beth El Synagogue, but Battle Creek Police Chief Jim Blocker says his department is treading carefully.
Blocker’s comments come days after the Anti-Defamation League announced that it is putting up an additional $2,000 which has been added to an earlier $3,000 reward offered by Silent Observer for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for the damage done at Temple Beth El.
“There have been multiple incidences against houses of worship. The challenge with each incident is putting on the label of hate crime or crimes of opportunity,” Blocker says. “With this last incident, it was clear to us that there may be hate associated with it.”
In the January incident, a stone block near the front door of the synagogue was damaged with the word “Lier” and an unidentified symbol, painted in black, according to the BCPD. This was the second time in six weeks the same area of the synagogue was damaged. In November of 2018, the menorah embedded in stone was damaged using a sharp tool.
Blocker cautions against attaching labels or jumping to conclusions, saying instead that his department needs to take care when it comes to these incidents.
“It’s easy to say that it’s one type of incident or another and have someone jump to conclusions and that’s why we walk so gently around these incidents,” he says. “We have a very specific person of interest.”
The challenge, he says, is being “pretty darn sure” to the point where that person can be charged and brought to court.
Carolyn Normandin, ADL regional director for Michigan, said in a written statement that her organization condemns “this cowardly, anti-Semitic incident.”
“Battle Creek is a vibrant community, and there is no room for such destruction of places of worship,” she said. “Hopefully, this reward will help the police apprehend the person or persons responsible for this disgusting act.”
Blocker says he and his department have been in close contact with the leadership of the synagogue since both incidences.
“We’ve been in direct contact with regional and local leadership and that’s been continuous and ongoing,” he says. “We’ve worked with them to develop security and safety and crime prevention plans. This is not work specific to the synagogue. We do this same work with all faith-based organizations.”
Anyone with information is urged to Silent Observer – by phone at 269-964-3888, with a text message to CRIMES (274637) with SOTIP in the message, online at www.crimereports.com,
or via the free “TipSubmit Mobile” app for iPhone and Android.