Vandals hit Knoxville Jewish Temple, Synagogue

By: Mike McCarthy Email
By: Mike McCarthy Email

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Knoxville Police and the FBI need your help locating the suspect or suspects who vandalized a Knoxville Jewish Temple and Synagogue.

Temple Beth-El and Heska Amuna Synagogue both found the broken glass Friday afternoon.

Thrown rocks broke several of stained glass windows in Temple Beth-El and vandals attempted to break the windows and Heksa Amuna Synagogue, but the glass was thick enough that the rock only chipped it.

The two sanctuaries sit right down the street from one another along Kingston Pike.

But Rabbi Schwartz says they're the only two places of worship vandals aimed their rocks.

Vandals shattered the glass in Deborah Robert's spiritual home. However, she says they've also, in-part, broken her heart.

"It's disheartening to have that kind of damage done purposefully," Deborah Roberts said just after leaving Friday night's service at Temple Beth-El.

Knoxville Police say whoever cast the stones did it sometime between Tuesday night and Friday Morning. The temple's rabbi said the building was closed for New Years.

"That's very disturbing. We know Knoxville is not that kind of town. We know that in the 50 years that this building has been here, there's never been this kind of vandalism," said Rabbi Beth Schwartz.

Schwartz's Jewish house of worship isn't alone.

"We have a little bit of glass broken out of our window," said Marty Iroff with Heska Amuna Synagogue.

Iroff says he hop it's a random act, someone just going down the street causing problems as opposed to a targeted act.

But Rabbi Schwartz worries the sanctuaries were targeted.

"We were the targets. The Jewish houses of worship were targets....The only damage done to 10 or twelve houses of worship has been the two synagogues" Schwartz said.

Besides the congregation, Knoxville Police also attended Friday night's service.

"It makes me feel better to know they're here and I think it sends a good message to those who would want to do something that it's not easy," Roberts said.

Roberts says the temple where she's grown-up will never be the same.

"Nothing is ever the same. Things change all the time. Sometimes for the better and sometimes not," Roberts said.

This time she says it's not for the better.

Knoxville Police is still investigating. Officers say they've contacted FBI as well. However, that's a precaution in case this becomes a hate crime investigation. That hasn't happened.

If you have any information call the Knoxville Police tip line at 215-7212.

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