A gunshot was apparently fired through the window of a Jewish synagogue in Evansville, Indiana.
Rabbi Gary Mazo, of Temple Adath B’Nai Israel, said the damage was discovered on Monday. The shot was reportedly fired into the window of a classroom at the temple on Sunday. No one was inside the building at the time.
Sergeant Jason Cullum, a spokesman for the Evansville Police Department, told The Huffington Post that investigators are trying to determine exactly what kind of “projectile” was used in the attack. Police aren’t aware of any earlier threats against this synagogue and are currently reviewing security footage.
Cullum said the FBI is aware of the investigation, but is not currently playing an active role in it. He said local police are “keeping an open mind” that this could have been a hate-based attack.
“In light of recent events around the country, the possibility of this being a hate crime is something we are keeping on the table, but at this point we have not collected enough information to classify it as a hate crime,” Cullum said.
Mazo told HuffPost he believes there was never any real danger to congregants, but that someone was trying to send a message to the synagogue, which serves Jewish communities in Kentucky, Illinois and Indiana.
“This is an individual just trying to make us afraid,” Mazo said. “Somebody could have inflicted way more damage, but their goal is to instill fear. We stand up to fear ― we do that as a community and as a religion.”
The apparent attack on the synagogue comes amid increased reports of anti-Semitic acts and vandalism around the country. Since the beginning of the year, over 70 Jewish community centers have been targeted in at least five waves of phoned-in bomb threats. No bombs have been discovered at these centers, but the repeated phone calls have Jewish community members on edge. HuffPost is tracking the threats here.
Mazo noted that it’s a “scary time” for Jews across the country. He called the recent desecration of cemeteries in Philadelphia and St. Louis “reprehensible” and called the incident at his synagogue an act of hate.
“I believe it’s in response to the climate in our country right now, it comes in response to the rhetoric that comes from the top,” he said. “It’s sickening. It’s upsetting, and I do believe it’s an act of hate.”
Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke called on his community to stand with Jewish residents.
“What’s happened here, and across the United States, is sickening and unacceptable behavior,” Winnecke said in a Facebook statement. “Our children deserve better role models than those who commit acts of injustice and hate.”
On Tuesday, the Islamic Society of Evansville offered its support on Facebook.
“These hateful attacks are not only against the Jewish community, but are attacks on us all as one human family; attacks on the values we hold dear as Americans. Religious and ethnic intolerance have no place in our society and we stand with our Jewish brothers and sisters against religious intolerance.”
The Temple announced on Facebook that it has been “overwhelmed” with messages of love from supporters, including from “Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Hindu and atheist friends.”
Mazo told HuffPost that an interfaith service will be held on Friday to spread “hope and love.”