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Wisconsin Area’s Sole Synagogue Vandalized on Jewish Holiday of Sukkot

Synagogue vandalized during Sukkot

For the second time in three years, Racine’s only Jewish synagogue was defaced.

Three times between Sunday night and Monday morning, bricks were thrown at or through the windows of Beth Israel Sinai synagogue, 3009 Washington Ave.

“Why is it happening? I don’t understand myself,” said David Lee, the synagogue’s treasurer.

The synagogue’s alarms first went off at 11:28 p.m. Sunday. The Racine Police Department responded and reported that they saw “a window that was shattered by a brick paver.”

While officers waited in the parking lot behind the building for someone from the synagogue to arrive with a key to allow the inside of the synagogue to be searched, the officers reported hearing another loud bang. They ran back to the front of the synagogue and found a brick lying below a window, but the window remained unbroken and no suspects could be seen in the area, according to the RPD.

Five hours later, at 4:47 a.m. Monday, the alarm went off again. More windows had been smashed.

Windows in the front and rear of the synagogue are now boarded up.

“We deal with it, because there’s nothing else we can do,” Lee said during a phone interview Wednesday morning. “It’s kind of never-ending … It’s occurring all over the country all over the time, to varying degrees.”

“It’s kind of crazy,” said Pastor Anthony Balistreri, who sits on the synagogue’s board.

The synagogue was previously defaced Sept. 22, 2019, with antisemitic language and Nazi symbols, including a swastika, being spray-painted on the place of worship’s outer walls and windows.

Within days, community members volunteered to help clean up the building, with workers from the City of Racine sandblasting defaced brick. Via a prayer service and other acts of support, the greater Racine community wrapped its arms around its Jewish neighbors.

“That was a real, live show of support,” Lee recalled.

Within three months, an Oak Creek man, Yousef O. Barasneh, was arrested and charged. He allegedly was radicalized through an online-focused neo-Nazi organization known as The Base. The same week that Barasneh defaced Racine’s synagogue, at least one other member of The Base defaced a synagogue in Hancock, Michigan.