RIO DE JANEIRO (JTA) — Vandals set fire to a synagogue in southern Brazil after painting threats to the Jewish community on its walls.
Flammable fuel was dumped under the main entrance door of the Israelite Society of Pelotas building on Thursday, and set alight causing minor damage. The criminals also wrote pro-Palestinian messages on the wall as well as threats to the Jewish community, which should “wait” for an “international Intifada.”
Local Jewish leaders said the attack was “an insult to democracy and freedom of speech and religion,” and called for the involvement of federal authorities.
The synagogue’s wooden door and furniture, glass windows and the electric installations were damaged.
“It is alarming that the tension in the Middle East translates into an attack on the Brazilian Jewish community. We have contacted the police authorities responsible for investigating and punishing the perpetrators of this criminal act of violence and religious intolerance,” said Fernando Lottenberg, president of the Brazilian Israelite Confederation, the country’s umbrella Jewish organization.
Founded in 1933, the synagogue is the central meeting point for the 70 Jewish families of Pelotas. The city of some 350,000 residents is located in the south of Brazil’s southernmost state, Rio Grande do Sul, which includes the country’s largest population of German immigrants and their descendants and commonly sees neo-Nazi incidents.