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Posted Friday, June 25, 1999

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Wednesday, June 23, 1999

Reward for Solving Synagogue Fires

By Steve Lawrence Associated Press Writer

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- Calling arson fires at three Jewish synagogues "an act of violence against every American," Gov. Gray Davis offered a $25,000 reward for information that solves the crimes.

U.S. Housing and Urban Development [HUD] Secretary Andrew Cuomo also promised to help the three Sacramento area congregations obtain low-interest loans to rebuild their damaged facilities.

"Whenever any human being is under attack or any faith is under attack, all of us are under attack," Davis said Tuesday after he and Cuomo inspected damage at one of the synagogues. "All of us have an obligation to stand up for everyone else."

 WE ARE proud to add $1,000 to the reward offer for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrators, if they turn out to be Rightwing crackpots.


HUD also will make available experts and an unspecified amount of money to help Sacramento start programs designed to build understanding between different faiths and ethnic groups, Cuomo said.

"There is zero tolerance for this kind of disgrace," he said.

Fires were set within minutes of each other early Friday at the 150-year-old B'nai Israel in Sacramento and two suburban temples, the Congregation Beth Shalom and the Kenesset Israel Torah Center.

The arson caused about $1 million in damage, including destruction of B'nai Israel's 5,000-volume library. There were piles of partially burned books in the synagogue's parking lot as Davis and Cuomo spoke to reporters.

Anti-Jewish fliers were found at two of the sites.

Federal officials refused to discuss specifics of their investigation or possible suspects.

John Malone, head of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms' office in San Francisco, said "high-quality evidence" recovered from the synagogues will be analyzed at the ATF lab in Walnut Creek.

Copyright 1999 The Associated Press

Several recent items in The Sacramento Bee [the improbably named newspaper of California's capital city] provide further coverage of the synagogue arsons.

  • "Still, that the the temple's 34 Torahs-including 30 miniature scrolls-apparently survived the attack was a miracle, some said." Jack Levy, past temple president said: "The Ark of Covenant did its job."
  • An appeal to contribute to The Unity Fund to help rebuild the synagogues has been launched.
  • Community leaders appeal to create a Museum of Tolerance. Mayor Joe Serna Jr. and Assemblyman David Steinberg vowed to tap corporations, labor organizations, area governments and community groups to pay for the museum.
  • A reader writes: "In about 1983 a synagogue in Redwood City, California near our previous home also burned from an apparent arson job. As far as I know no one was apprehended. If I recall correctly, there are similarities to the current occurrence. The rabbi had removed a very valuable ancient manuscript of some sort. It survived the fire. He also started a rebuilding fund. They had ample insurance coverage."

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