Vigil Held Outside Home Of Needham Rabbi After 3 Fires Intentionally Set At Local Jewish Institutions

Download Audio

Community members gathered for a vigil Saturday night outside the home of a rabbi who was affected by one of three fires intentionally set at local Jewish institutions in Arlington and Needham in the past week.

The vigil was held outside the Chabad Jewish Center in Needham, where Rabbi Mendy Krinsky and his family live. The center was set on fire Thursday.

The Chabad Center for Jewish Life in Arlington, home to Rabbi Avi Bukiet and his family, was also set on fire twice — first on Saturday, May 11, and again on Thursday.

No one was injured. Authorities investigating the fires said they cannot definitively say whether the fires in the two towns are connected.

Bukiet said he's shocked and rattled that someone intentionally set fire to his home and a place where people come to pray. But, he said his family won't retreat.

"Our message is and will always be open doors," Bukiet said. "We are opening our doors to everyone — anyone who wants to study, anyone who wants to learn, anyone who wants to have a little piece of spirituality, Judaism in your life. We will be there for you."

State and federal investigators also are on the case. Law enforcement officials said repeatedly that the Jewish community has their support.

"Members of the Needham Police Department stand and support with you," said Chief John Schlittler. "While many of the facts and circumstances remain to be discovered, we ask that all of you be vigilant and report anything suspicious."

Needham police said while no verbal or written threats or graffiti were involved, the Needham fire is being investigated as a hate crime. State and federal officials also joined the investigation.

"These are extremely concerning incidents in which an innocent family has had the safety and security of their home compromised by someone else's violent actions," acting Arlington Police Chief Julie Flaherty said in a statement. "The Arlington Police Department will use every resource at its disposal to find the facts and ensure that any suspect or suspects are brought to face justice."

Investigators have surveillance footage of someone they're calling "a person of interest." The video shows a person walking away from the scene of the fire Thursday night in Arlington.

A combined $21,000 reward is being offered by the Anti-Defamation League, state fire officials and the Massachusetts chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those behind the fires.

This article was originally published on May 17, 2019.

This segment aired on May 17, 2019.

Headshot of Quincy Walters

Quincy Walters Producer, WBUR Podcasts
Quincy Walters was a producer for WBUR Podcasts.



More from WBUR

Listen Live