13-year-old boy charged in synagogue vandalism

Vandals hurled a rock through a stained glass window of a Tacony synagogue on Monday morning. But unlike two similar prior incidents, police have arrested one of the alleged culprits, who is a 13-year-old local boy.

After two earlier acts of vandalism in December and January, leaders of Temple Menorah Keneseth Chai, at 4301 Tyson Ave., installed surveillance cameras on the Jewish house of worship. The cameras recorded Monday’s attack and enabled police to identify the two suspected vandals.

On Monday night, police found the 13-year-old and brought him to the local police station with his parents for questioning. The boy admitted that he and a friend did the damage, said Lt. Dennis Rosenbaum of Northeast Detectives. Police had identified but not found the suspected accomplice as of Tuesday afternoon.

Investigators do not believe anti-Semitism or targeted hate was at play.

The 13-year-old “didn’t even know what a synagogue is,” Rosenbaum said. “He said the other kid talked him into going there. It was just kids being mischievous. It was not a hate crime.”

The boy was charged as a juvenile with mischief, institutional vandalism and possessing an instrument of crime.

The incident occurred at about 10 a.m. According to Rosenbaum, the video showed the boys hurling the rock several times at the synagogue before the projectile broke through a yellow pane of glass. The rock landed inside the building. No injuries or further damage were reported.

After a similar incident on Dec. 2, the synagogue paid $350 to have a window replaced. On Jan. 6, projectiles thrown from outside the synagogue shattered about five colored windows. 

The damage was valued at about $2,000. The Local 252 of the glaziers union donated materials and labor to repair the windows.

Both of the earlier incidents occurred on Friday nights as members were gathering for religious services. The same two boys have not been implicated in the earlier cases.

Police have no evidence that the synagogue incidents are related to vandalism discovered at Mount Carmel Cemetery, a Jewish burial ground in Wissinoming, on Feb. 26. Hundreds of gravestones had been overturned. Later, investigators discovered that the damage may have been inflicted over weeks or months. Police have not named suspects in the case. ••