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SLCPD investigating after synagogue vandalized with swastika

Posted at 9:28 AM, May 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-16 21:07:20-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Police are investigating a potential hate crime at the Chabad Community Center on 1760 South and 1100 West in Salt Lake City.

When members of the Chabad Lubavitch of Utah arrived at their synagogue for Sunday services, they found a swastika carved deep into the glass on their front door.

"My first initial response is we have failed again as humanity," said Rabbi Benny Zippel, Chabad Lubavitch of Utah's executive director.

According to initial investigations by the Salt Lake City Police Department, the crime happened just after 2 a.m. Sunday. The vandalism was discovered around 8:30 a.m.

"One of the community center employees came to open the facility and noticed what can only be described as a hate symbol on their front door," SLCPD Lt. Lisa Pascadlo said. "During the investigation, we've discovered some video surveillance that indicates a suspect did commit that crime at about 2 o'clock this morning."

Rabbi Zippel believes it has nothing to do with ongoing geopolitical struggles in Israel.

"This is just yet another act of antisemitism and bigotry, and we as humans have failed again to love and accept one another in spite of what may be ideological differences," he added.

The vandalism comes on the eve of the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, which Rabbi Zippel says commemorates "the giving of the 10 commandments at Sinai 3,333 years ago."

He said the glass will need to be replaced, and the community center is going to install bulletproof windows around the facility.

"The main thing is, I always like to emphasize the positive," Rabbi Zippel said. "We're going to work extra hard on solidifying our Jewish identity and our Jewish commitment and our Jewish values in this great community."

At this point, the suspect will be facing vandalism charges with potential hate crime enhancements.

"The charges in that case would be up to the district attorney or the city attorney's office," Lt. Pascadlo said. "That is on their part. We conduct our investigation, we hand that over to them, and then they make the determination as to what level of hate crime enhancement would be applicable."

Investigators will continue to gather evidence from surrounding businesses and potential witnesses, but they encourage anyone with information to call SLCPD's crime tip hotline at 801-799-3000 or submit a tip on their website.