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Rights panel condemns vandalism at temple

Urges Haverhill to fight against hate, bigotry

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Andrew Keegan
Globe Correspondent / July 21, 2008

The Haverhill Civil Rights Commission is urging the community to condemn and fight hate after a local synagogue was again targeted by vandals.

In an interview yesterday, Rabbi Ira Korinow said when he arrived at Temple Emanu-El on Main Street on July 13 to prepare for Sabbath services, he found the door handle covered in feces.

He immediately called police, and they are investigating, he said.

Police said they could not comment on the investigation yesterday.

In response to the vandalism, members of the civil rights commission met last week and crafted a statement, calling the "cowardly attack a hate crime."

The Rev. Gregory Thomas, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, was among the local ministers who read the statement to their congregations yesterday.

"We felt that we needed a public statement," Thomas said, "and we left the meeting earlier in the week with the admonition that this message would be heard."

The Rev. Marcus Crapsey, who is rector of Trinity Episcopal Church and vice president of the rights commission, said the vandalism reflects the "pretty steady drum beat of vandalism, particularly at religious institutions," he has seen in his 18 years in the city of about 60,000 on the Merrimack River and the New Hampshire border.

"It seems that we see this every couple of years. . . . No one burns down buildings, no swastikas; just general ugliness like this."

In 2005, both Temple Emanu-El and Calvary Baptist were victims of a series of vandalism that appeared to be hate crimes, the Globe reported.

On Dec. 26, 2005, the power cord to a menorah used as part of the Hanukkah ceremony was cut, and bags filled with tomato sauce, small bones, eggshells, and meat were thrown against the temple's front doors.

Immediately after this, Thomas told the commission that racial slurs had been found on the Calvary's property twice in the past year.

The Haverhill Civil Rights Commission, a citizen group founded in 1990 after a string of activities by the Ku Klux Klan spread across Northeastern Massachusetts and Southern New Hampshire, has been speaking out against such crimes.

After the most recent vandalism at the Temple Emanu-El, the commission expressed support for the Jewish community and residents of Greater Haverhill.

Deputy Police Chief Donald Thompson told the Eagle Tribune that those found guilty of a hate crime could be punished by up to 2 1/2 years in jail and a fine of up to $2,000.

He said that a detective who handles civil rights violations is investigating the case and that extra patrols have been assigned to check on the temple.

"We're taking this very seriously," he said.

Korinow, who also serves as commission chairman, says the panel has discussed ways to get students involved in the effort to fight hate and bigotry.

Crapsey said people should condemn and act against these acts of vandalism.

"My concern, and the concern of other members of the commission is that there is a cost of just dismissing this as foolishness or stupidity," he said. "It's important to note that people of the community should, and will say, 'this will not stand.' "

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