Police Investigate Fires at Rabbi's Home, Jewish Center

A Lake Street neighbor captured an image of a person in the area around the time of the fire

Authorities in a Boston suburb are investigating a second suspicious fire at a rabbi's home in less than a week.

Acting Arlington Police Chief Julie Flaherty said officers and firefighters responded to the home at about 9 p.m. Thursday and doused a small fire on the home's exterior wood shingles with a hand-held extinguisher.

Firefighters also put out a shingle fire at the home Saturday night.

"The two fires occurred at the home of a local rabbi who runs the Center For Jewish Life of Arlington - Belmont", Flaherty said Friday during a news conference. "The home is also the location where the center runs a Hebrew school, adult learning classes, and religious services. Both fires have been ruled suspicious in nature and as a result of what appears to be a direct assault on our community."

Flaherty has placed a full-time detail at the home where the rabbi lives with his wife and children and holds religious education classes.

"These are extremely concerning incidents in which a family has lost the all-important sense of safety and security that the home is meant to convey," said Flaherty.

Authorities continue to look for a person apparently seen in surveillance video walking away from the rabbi's house at the time of Saturday's fire.

According to officials, the first fire occurred earlier this week on May 12. 

Similarly, Needham police announced Friday that they reponded to reports of a fire at the Chabad Jewish Center around 10 p.m. Thursday. 

The fire was reportedly on the outside of the building on the lattice and vinyl siding on the building. It was extinguished by the person who reported it before authorities arrived. 

Officials say the person who reported the fire believes it was intentionally set. Police said they treated in area as a crime scene and are investigating it as a possible hate crime. 

Needham police say they cannot not conclusively say the two incidents are connected. Both incidents are currently being investigated by local, state and federal authorities.

"Every arson fire causes fear and anxiety in the community, but one in a house of worship especially so," said State Fire Marshall Peter Ostroskey in a press release.

Jeremy Burton, Executive Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston, said although the physical damage is limited to the two centers, the entire Jewish community is experiencing the pain.

"Any attack on the Jewish community is an attack on all of us and we will be united and we will be standing with each other and we will be supporting each other," said Burton. "We will be supporting all of our Jewish communities and all of our Jewish centers as they take the steps that are necessary and appropriate to ensure that they continue to be safe and welcoming places for us to celebrate Jewish life and to be a part of the fabric of this community."

According to The Department of Fire Services, 21 arson fires have been set at houses of worship in Massachusetts in the last decade.

The Anti-Defamation League has reported that violent attacks against the Jewish community in the United States doubled last year.

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