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Old Synagogue Shot at in German Town of Essen, Rabbi’s House Targeted

German police have launched an investigation after four bullets were fired on Thursday night at the Old Synagogue in the western city of Essen. No-one was injured in the incident.

A spokesperson for the Interior Ministry in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia told the Judische Allgemeine newspaper that the four shots were fired at the building at 11.40 pm on Thursday night. According to local police, CCTV images of the area around the synagogue show a man in the vicinity, but the quality of the recordings is reportedly too poor to identify him.

A Byzantine structure that was first consecrated in 1913, the Old Synagogue survived the ravages of Nazi rule and now houses a museum and memorial center. The shots were fired at the neighboring rabbi’s house, which is now the site of the Salomon Ludwig Steinheim Institute for German-Jewish History at the University of Duisburg-Essen.

News of the attack brought instant condemnation from German politicians and Jewish leaders.

“The attack on the old synagogue in Essen shakes me deeply,” said Herbert Reul, North Rhine-Westphalia’s Interior Minister. “The existing video recordings are now being evaluated at full speed. State security is involved.”

Reul added that the Jewish community in Essen “can rest assured that we will do everything we can to identify the perpetrator as quickly as possible.”

Reul’s colleague, Integration Minister Josefine Paul, stated on Twitter that the attack demonstrated that “we must not let up in protecting Jewish life and fighting antisemitism.”

Josef Schuster, president of the Central Council of German Jews, remarked that the Old Synagogue in Essen “stands for living German-Jewish culture. The bullets are an attack on our common values.”

Police said on Friday that there was no ongoing security threat in Essen. The Old Synagogue is located just over a mile from the synagogue that presently serves Essen’s Jews.

The security of synagogues and other Jewish institutions in Germany continues to pose a major challenge to the German authorities. In Oct. 2019, two people were murdered in the city of Halle when a neo-Nazi gunman attempted a massacre at Yom Kippur services at the city’s synagogue.