Police arrested a 25-year-old man on Wednesday suspected of defacing the Shore Parkway Jewish Center synagogue in Brooklyn, the local Brooklyn Paper reported.
At around 9 p.m. on Sunday, the assailant, Osman Butt, allegedly grabbed an Israeli flag from outside the synagogue and smashed it through the synagogue’s windows. He then reportedly broke in and vandalized the synagogue, while destroying several items and symbols marking the holiday of Sukkot.
The synagogue's director, Susan Altman, told the Brooklyn Paper that the attack is a disaster for the synagogue, which is experiencing financial difficulties as it is.
“We’re a poor shul. We don’t have the funds to replace our glass. I don’t know how we’re going to get out of this,” Altman said.
The incident was reported to police by the building’s custodian, who found the intruder wrapped up in the Israeli flag while trying to break the flagpole, throwing objects and shouting antisemitic slurs.
The alarmed custodian rushed to call police, who arrived to the scene and comprehended Butt at 9:11 p.m. inside the synagogue.
Butt now faces six charges, including burglary, criminal mischief, and criminal trespassing, with three charges being classified as hate crimes - dramatically increasing the penalties that Butt faces. Butt’s burglary charge for instance, which would typically be a Class D felony and carry a maximum of seven years in prison, has instead become a Class C felony, which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years.
But that doesn't change the impact that the attack has had on the local Jewish community, with many members afraid to go to the synagogue alone, Altman said.
“A lot of our members are concerned, we’re scared,” Altman said. “I’m here today, and I can’t stop looking out the window.”
Altman noted that the area is usually peaceful, pointing at the fact that it will take some time until the shocked community returns to normal.
“The temple is like a hidden secret, it’s in the middle of a residential area. It’s very quiet. There’s never any crime around here,” Altman said.
Only two other suspects were arrested for antisemitic hate crimes in the area since the beginning of 2017, according to NYPD statistics.
Altman noted that efforts have already been taken in order to enhance the building's security and make members feel safe.
“We had outside cameras and now, and we have to get inside cameras,” Altman said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen on Saturday, if members are going to come back.”
The Shore Parkway Jewish Center synagogue is located in Gravesend, Brooklyn, one of the many neighborhoods with large Orthodox Jewish populations that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said would be forced to enter lockdown for the second time, in an effort to combat the spread of coronavirus.
The mayor noted, however, that at this point houses of worship are not part of the closure plan and will be allowed to remain open.