Police investigating Pawtucket vandalism as a hate crime

(WPRI Photo/ Steph Machado)

PAWTUCKET, R.I. (WPRI) — Police continue to investigate after someone spray-painted a swastika outside a synagogue in Pawtucket.

The anti-semitic symbol was painted Sunday morning on a sign for the Kollel Center for Jewish Studies at Congregation Ohawe Sholam on East Avenue.

City and religious leaders held a news conference Monday morning condemning the vandalism.

“It can’t be tolerated, it shouldn’t be tolerated, and it won’t be tolerated,” said Rabbi Raphie Schochet. “This symbol that’s been blotted out over here is a symbol of bigots and bullies.”

Police announced they’re investigating the act as a hate crime.

“The police department will go through any neighborhood video, hopefully we can catch anyone coming from or leaving the scene,” said Pawtucket Police Chief Paul King. “We’re asking neighbors, we’ll check Facebook, but what we really need is the help of the public. If you thought you saw something that looked a little bit off – please notify us.”

Ohawe Sholam President David Pliskin said the Orthodox congregation includes descendants of Holocaust survivors, to whom the swastika – which adorned Nazi flags during World War II – is a painful reminder of the genocide.

The vandalism was immediately met with a rush of support from the community, according to Pliskin. He said one person gave them a blanket to cover up the swastika and another offered money to fix the sign.

‘The immediate result has been an outpouring of compassion and many acts of kindness from the entire community,” said Pliskin. ‘We should be thankful there are so many good and wonderful people around us.”

“This act is an act of cowardice,” Rabbi Schochet added.

The sign has since been covered up. The city’s Department of Public Works plans to take it off-site Monday and begin the restoration process.

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