San Jose Jewish community tries to rebuild after synagogue fire


When the Chabad House was in San Jose flared up in flames last month and then vandalized a few days later, Ruth Litwin immediately questioned whether it was motivated by anti-Semitism.

Litwin, who attended the South San Jose Synagogue chapter.

A month after the catastrophic event at the Jewish place of worship, officials have yet to determine the cause of the fire or receive any information. Although police told the news organization the morning after the fire that their investigation had determined that the fire was not a hate incident, that did nothing to put it out. turn off concerns from some members of the church.

even though Donations have been poured in help rebuild Chabad House in San Jose, some congregations are still desperately seeking answers about what happened on the morning of the fires, especially in light of a national increase in hateful acts and the May 15 attack. 1 into a synagogue in suburban Texas.

Over the past few years, the United States has seen an increase in anti-Jewish hate crimes according to the annual audits of the Anti-Defamation League. FBI Director Christopher Wray said that the attack in Texas, where a British citizen held four people hostage for 11 hours in a synagogue was considered “an act of terrorism against the Jewish community.” “

This month alone, at least 13 cases of anti-Semitism have been reported across the United States, including a handful in California. Over the past two weeks vandals have knocked and damaged a fountain at the Holocaust Memorial in Santa Rosa Memorial Park, a swastika drawn over a pedestrian tunnel in Marysville and anti-epidemic leaflets linking Jews to the COVID-19 pandemic and the anti-vaccination movement found at elementary schools in Santa Monica.

Seth Brysk, a Bay Area native, said: “What we have seen as a result of polarization and the rise of public debate in our country over the past few years is that it has led to normalize more extreme views and beliefs”. The Anti-Defamation League-based regional director, added that it was a natural response to consider anti-Semitism when such incidents occurred at the Chabad House in San Jose on last month. “These are attempts to tear apart the fabric of our community, and when we see actions against anti-Semitism or racism or other forms of bigotry, we need to remember that it will affects everyone.”

In San Jose, Rabbi Mendel Weinfeld, who moved from Brooklyn two years ago to start Chabad House in the Almaden Valley, said he is focused on helping his community recover.

During the past month, the church has received over $600,000 in donations to rebuild the synagogue. Amazed by the overwhelming support, Weinfeld is setting his sights even higher with plans to launch a fundraising campaign called “rise from the ashes” with the goal of raising $4.5 million to buy a facility that’s more than twice the size they had before.

“We immediately went into recovery mode,” Weinfeld said. “But after reflection, what we realized is that the community really needs a warm, lasting home where they can gather, embrace their legacy, and celebrate it openly.

“The ultimate goal will be for the community to have a place to learn, gather and grow together.”

After moving to the South Bay, Weinfeld and his wife have been hosting gatherings and retreats at their home for over a year. Then, during Rosh Hashanah in September 2021, the synagogue celebrated its grand opening at a property they started leasing at 1088 Branham Lane.

The fire that consumed the synagogue broke out around 1 a.m. on December 22, 2021. Security camera footage shows an individual walking into the building’s garage with smoke and flames billowing from the area. that right after. Fire spread from the garage to the space between the first and second floors of the building, damaging almost everything inside.

The fire was not reported until just before 7 a.m. when garbage collectors arrived to pick up the trash. But the firefighters, with the help of a community member, were still able to save the synagogue’s Torah scrolls. According to Erica Ray, a spokeswoman for the city’s fire department, grainy images of an individual near the parking lot at the time of the fire have been sent to the San Jose Police Department to assist in locating the vehicle. that individual’s mind. Three days after the fire, Chabad House was broken into and vandalized, Weinfeld said, but the building’s security cameras were taken down so no pictures were taken for investigators. San Jose Jewish community tries to rebuild after synagogue fire

Huynh Nguyen

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