B.C. rabbi says congregation resilient after arson as police release video of suspect

B.C. rabbi says congregation resilient after arson as police release video of suspect
THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Vancouver Police Department
An image from video showing a man in the vicinity of a recent Vancouver synagogue arson attack is shown in a police handout. Police in Vancouver have released video showing a man who is believed to have set fire to the front entrance of a synagogue last month with the prospect that someone may recognize the suspect.

Rabbi Andrew Rosenblatt says the congregation of the Schara Tzedeck synagogue in Vancouver has “come back and been resilient” after an arson attack that charred the doors of the temple last month.

“They have not been shy. They have been supportive. They’ve been supportive emotionally,” said Rosenblatt, at a news conference in front of the synagogue on Tuesday after police released videos of a suspect.

Rosenblatt said the synagogue had welcomed its largest ever crowd for worship after the arson attack almost four weeks ago.

Police say they released the videos in the hope that someone may recognize the suspect.

One video shows a man wearing a dark jacket, light ball cap and a medical face mask approaching the front steps of the synagogue on May 30 with a time stamp of 9:41 p.m.

The man is carrying a clear bottle with liquid inside, and he unscrews the cap before disappearing from the frame.

Less than a minute later, there is a bright flash and the video shows the man walking quickly down the synagogue stairs and onto the street.

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A second video shows the front entrance from a different angle as orange flames spark and then flare up as the man walks away.

A police statement said investigators were looking to speak with anyone who might recognize the suspect in the video, as well as the driver of a beige or silver minivan that was seen in the area at the time of the fire.

Rosenblatt said last month that people were inside the synagogue after services that same night, when they heard a “bang” outside.

But he said it was a passerby who alerted them that their building was on fire, before a member of the congregation put out the flames with his jacket.

Rosenblatt is now pleading for people with information about the suspect to come forward to restore a sense of safety.

He said the suspect had a “very unique way of walking,” which he believes could help with identification.

Rosenblatt said that as an immigrant from the U.S., “one of the things that I can say about the experience of living in Vancouver is that this is a city that prides itself on law and order, and this act was an act against the civility of our city, and we need your help.”

He called it “a crime against the entire city.”

He said members of the Jewish community were grateful for the support received from people offering help, including volunteering to launch a community watch in front of the synagogue through the night.

Rosenblatt said some people who wanted to help but didn’t know how had brought traditional Jewish bread.

“So I’m hoping that those same people who didn’t know what to do and wanted to bring us food will bring us information,” said Rosenblatt.

READ MORE: Antisemitism anxiety at synagogues after week of attacks on Jewish institutions

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 26, 2024.

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