Police: no hate crime, but suspect facing charges for smashing synagogue windows

Police: no hate crime, but suspect facing charges for smashing synagogue windows

RACINE, Wis. (CBS 58) -- A suspect is facing charges for vandalizing Racine's only synagogue.

Earlier this week someone allegedly threw bricks through several windows. The windows are still boarded up at the Beth Israel Sinai Synagogue.

The Racine Police Department is not investigating the vandalism as a hate crime, but one of the synagogue's board members says this certainly was not done out of love.

Pastor Anthony Balistreri said, "This place was glass on the floor from one end to the other. The windows were shattered. You could walk right into a window."

It started just before midnight Monday. Police responded to the synagogue when the alarm went off. While they were there, the suspect tried to smash another window on the other side of the building.

Police did not find a suspect at the time, and about five hours later the suspect came back and did it again.

Balistreri said, "When I first heard about it at 2:00 in the morning, my first thought was 'not again.'"

It's happened before: a few years ago, someone smashed windows and spray-painted antisemitic graffiti.

Balistreri's Christian congregation has shared the building with the synagogue for the past four years. He said he's grateful for the relationship; two faiths, branches from the same tree.

Balistreri sits on the synagogue's board. He said the congregation is older -- the youngest member is nearly 70 -- and they had just started coming back to the building this month after a long stretch of virtual services.

This latest incident came just a week after the Jewish High Holy Days ended.

Islamic organizations also spoke out against the incident.

Corey Saylor is the Research & Advocacy Director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations. He said, "An attack on one place of worship is an attack on all places where people go to interact with god."

The Racine Police Department says the vandalism does not constitute a hate crime, but Balistreri says it often feels like it.

He says the congregation will persevere. "They're just looking at life and they're going 'yep, ok, here we go.' They take life in stride; they take death in stride."

Rabbi Martyn Adelberg shared his message to the congregation: "They know their mission is to be present inside the synagogue. That's the house of worship. And have faith things will get better."

Balistreri says that work has already begun. "Whatever that person's was to disrupt, didn't disrupt and will not disrupt anything."

The Racine Police Department has not yet revealed the identity of that suspect, but charges have been sent to the District Attorney's office.

This Saturday's services will go on as planned.

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