RUTHERFORD, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Bergen County’s Jewish community is on edge amid new security sweeps for bomb-making materials. The sweeps began after a 19-year-old was charged earlier this week with firebombing two synagogues.
Accelerant-sniffing dogs have been going from one synagogue to another trying to figure out if Anthony Graziano, who allegedly firebombed two temples, may have planned other attacks.
The security measures have synagogues, Jewish centers and schools on alert.
“We don’t want to turn our institutions into armed camps; we want to project a welcoming atmosphere. But we are certainly taking greater precaution today than we might have last year at this time,” Rabbi Arthur Weiner, of the Jewish Community Center of Paramus, told CBS 2’s Christine Sloan.
Many synagogues and centers are reviewing their security. Rabbi Randall Mark, with Shomrei Torah Wayne Conservative Congregation, said the sudden increase of hate crimes has left everyone feeling nervous and vulnerable, especially the children.
“When they’re in their homes, in their schools, they’re here at the synagogue, we’re making sure they’re safe and that they have nothing to worry about,” Mark said.
It’s not just the young but also older members of the congregation.
“We have in our congregation a number of Holocaust survivors and so it’s the sense of anti-Semitism is not something that goes away or gets solved. It’s something we have to deal with when it arises,” Mark said.
Canine units have been canvassing synagogues and centers within a 10-mile radius of where Graziano lived because he allegedly used a bike to carry out his attacks. Investigators only said they’re looking for flammables and accelerants.
“We are concerned, but we are looking forward and we’re not going to allow anyone to prevent us from living our lives as proud Jews,” Weiner said.
Prosecutors said Graziano firebombed the Rutherford synagogue and one in Paramus because they were out of the way and not secure. The rabbi in Rutherford said the public has raised enough money for them to install surveillance cameras and beef up security.
Graziano has pleaded not guilty to nine counts of first-degree attempted murder as well as bias intimidation and aggravated arson.
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