Hundreds of people showed up at Temple Israel in Alameda Friday night at a vigil for what is now being investigated as a hate crime.
Sometime early on Aug. 17, two classroom windows at the synagogue had been smashed by a rock, and an unknown assailant had tried to break down the building’s front door, which is made of glass. The assailant’s image was caught on surveillance cameras, according to KTVU-Fox News, which put the number of those at the vigil at 250.
Members and clergy from several local congregations, Jewish and Christian, showed up Aug. 18 at 7 p.m. to show their support for the Temple Israel family. Representatives from other East Bay synagogues were there, including Temple Sinai and Congregation Beth Abraham in Oakland, Piedmont’s Kehilla and Congregation Beth Emek in Pleasanton, according to the Temple Israel website. Also present were Alameda elected officials, Oakland City Councilman Dan Kalb, and representatives from the JCC East Bay, the Anti-Defamation League, Union for Reform Judaism and the Jewish Community Relations Council.
At least two dozen members of Temple Sinai were at the vigil, including Rabbi Jacqueline Mates-Muchin, who brought her entire family with her. Earlier in the day, Sinai posted a notice on its Facebook page asking congregants to show up there instead of attending regular worship at Sinai.
“We wanted to show our solidarity,” said Oakland resident Sam Schuchat, president of Temple Sinai’s board, who was there with other board members. “It could have been us. Probably next time, it will be.”
After the vigil, many of those attending crowded into the synagogue for Shabbat services. The crowd was so numerous that it overflowed the sanctuary, spilling over into the social hall, whose doors had to be opened to make room.
Temple Israel is currently without full-time clergy, letting go of its rabbi and cantor just last month, and interim Rabbi Steven Chester was out of town, so services were led by former Cantor Brian Reich, assisted by congregational president Genevieve Pastor-Cohen. Several rabbis and Christian clergy members spoke from the pulpit as well.
The congregation cheered when Alameda Police Cpt. Lance Leibnitz announced the incident would be investigated as a hate crime, according to KTVU.
Earlier that day, state Assembly members Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) and Marc Levine (D-Marin and Sonoma counties) issued the following joint statement:
“We were deeply troubled to learn Temple Israel in Alameda was the target of vandalism yesterday. This is even more alarming with the recent rise of anti-Semitic attacks throughout our country. We stand with the congregation and the people of Alameda. We hope that police find the vandals responsible for this destruction and bring them to justice.”