Teens charged with vandalizing synagogue

April 13, 2008 4:23:24 PM PDT
Three teenagers are facing charges of committing a hate crime in connection with a break-in and damage done to the Norwich Jewish Center. Norwich police said the teens, who live in the village, were between 13 and 14 years old. The three also were charged late Saturday with third-degree burglary and second-degree criminal mischief, both felonies, and fifth-degree conspiracy, a misdemeanor.

The charges fit the criteria under the Hate Crimes Act of 2000.

Police did not release their names. All three were issued Family Court appearance tickets and released to their parents. Norwich police were assisted by the FBI and state police in their investigation.

Norwich Police Chief Joseph Angelino estimated damage to the synagogue at tens of thousands of dollars

Police said the entire interior of the large three-story brick building was vandalized. The crime was discovered by a member of the synagogue and reported to police as a burglary Wednesday afternoon.

Chief Angelino said anti-Semitic graffiti was found inside the building, but he did not elaborate on the message.

The damage happened some time between April 5 and Wednesday, when co-president Leslie Dopkeen was to have met caterers to plan a communal seder.

In addition to smashed windows and light fixtures and the anti-Semitic graffiti, there were signs the vandals tried to set a fire, said Larry Rosenblum, a member of the congregation.

The center also was the target of a hate crime in 2003, when windows at the rear of the building were damaged. That case ended with an arrest and the perpetrator was sent to jail.

The congregation of about 40, which welcomed an influx of German-Jewish refugees in the 1930s and 1940s, has existed since the 1920s and is the only synagogue in Chenango County.