Central Valley

Vandals caught on tape defacing Modesto synagogue

Modesto police released this photo Wednesday, March 18, 2009, of how vandals defaced the Congregation Beth Shalom synagogue. - -
Modesto police released this photo Wednesday, March 18, 2009, of how vandals defaced the Congregation Beth Shalom synagogue. - -

Police detectives were looking for two vandals who spray-painted anti-Semitic slurs, including swastikas, on a central Modesto synagogue early Tuesday.

The vandals sprayed their hate-filled marks about 2 a.m. on the front entrance area of Congregation Beth Shalom at 1705 Sherwood Ave., said Modesto police spokesman Sgt. Brian Findlen. The vandals left behind several anti-Semitic drawings, he said.

"This is clearly a hate crime," Findlen said. "It's intolerable; it's despicable. We're hoping someone will come forward and provide information about these suspects."

The vandalism is being investigated as a hate crime because the symbols and slurs that were painted targeted a particular religion.

Detectives were reviewing video from a surveillance camera at the synagogue in hopes of identifying the male vandals, Findlen said. No arrests had been made Tuesday night. On Wednesday afternoon, police released copies of the surveillance video to the media (see below) as well as a still photos of the damage.

Police said one of the men wore a dark hooded sweat shirt with a drawing on the back; the second wore a light-colored shirt.

Congregation members discovered the vandalism about 9 a.m. Tuesday, said Laura Biewer, the congregation's executive director.

The vandals used black spray paint to plaster Nazi lingo, swastikas and derogatory terms used against Jews during World War II, Biewer said. She declined to say what words were written, because the messages were inappropriate to repeat.

She said they had covered over 90 percent of the vandalism by Tuesday afternoon.

"We quickly paint over it, so people passing by won't see it and so our congregation members won't have to see it," Biewer said.

This is not the first time the synagogue has been struck by vandals.

Members of three Modesto houses of worship arrived at their sanctuaries on the same morning in June 2006 to find graffiti and vandalism.

In addition to Congregation Beth Shalom, vandals struck Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church next door and less than a mile away, the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation.

Findlen said this latest attack was not part of a new trend, and there were no other similar incidents reported.

  Comments