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'We all want to say, "This is enough" ' : Clerics Join to Fight Temple Vandalism

October 20, 1988|JESSE KATZ | Times Staff Writer

Rock-hurling vandals have shattered windows and spray-painted anti-Semitic graffiti at Temple Beth Torah at least six times during the last several months, leaders of western Ventura County's only synagogue disclosed this week.

Because of the incidents, as well as other attempted break-ins, synagogue leaders said they have spent thousands of dollars on sophisticated alarms and undercover security to protect the Ventura temple and its 1,200-member congregation.

Rabbi Edward D. Kiner, who said he did not reveal the incidents earlier for fear of sparking more hostility, was flanked by clergy from a dozen local churches Tuesday as he called on the public to help halt the attacks.

"We all want to say, 'This is enough,"' said Kiner, as he stood in the temple with Methodist, Catholic, Presbyterian and other Christian church leaders at his side. "There's anger and frustration that this can go on. We're all appalled."

In August, the Ventura County district attorney's office charged two teen-agers, both of whom professed to belong to a neo-Nazi "Skinhead" gang, with felony vandalism counts for allegedly throwing rocks through the temple's thick glass doors.

One of them, a 16-year-old, pleaded guilty and is serving a six-month sentence at a Ventura County juvenile hall. The other, 18-year-old William Greene, was critically injured in a motorcycle accident that left him comatose before his scheduled arraignment, officials said.

But Ventura police, who say they are aware of about 20 local youths known for their shaved heads and white supremacist views, have no suspects in subsequent assaults.

"Our patrol has increased in the area and we've got officers in and out of the grounds as often as we can have them there," Capt. Kenneth Thompson said. "But at this point, there's not a whole lot to go on."

Leaders of the Ventura County Jewish Council, which runs the temple and earlier this month celebrated its 50th anniversary, reported the first incident in May, when someone tried to enter the building but was scared off by an alarm.

Rocks were hurled through the temple's glass doors in June and again in August, which resulted in the two arrests.

Also in August, a classroom at the temple's youth center, where 250 children attend classes three days a week, was spray-painted with anti-Semitic slogans. A few days later some cacti on the grounds were found slashed.

In September, a temple sign at the corner of Telegraph and Kimball roads was destroyed by vandals. Then, late on the night of Oct. 8, someone fired a pellet gun at the youth center, shattering several windows. A temple sign was also defaced and rocks were thrown through several other windows.

On Oct. 12, someone entered the temple, but left after the alarm went off. Finally, on Oct. 13, the sign at Telegraph and Kimball roads was again defaced.

While police are reluctant to reveal the contents of the graffiti, Rabbi Kiner said that in one incident vandals wrote the word "ZOG"--an apparent reference to Zionist Official Government, an anti-Semitic slogan used by white supremacists in the recent film "Betrayed."

If the attacks continue, temple leaders said, they will hire armed guards to patrol the grounds at night.

"We are angry, we resent this and we will not allow it to continue," said Richard Krinsky, the temple's head trustee. "To use a phrase that has come to be well-known, we say 'Never again.' "

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