Police, elected officials, and prominent members of the local Jewish community Friday condemned three recent acts of arson at Chabad centers in Arlington and Needham and said authorities are working to determine whether the incidents are connected.
During a news conference Friday at Arlington police headquarters, the officials were joined by Rabbi Avi Bukiet and his wife, Luna, whose home at the Chabad Center for Jewish Life Arlington-Belmont in Arlington was targeted by an arsonist May 11 and again Thursday night.
About an hour later Thursday, another fire was intentionally set at the Chabad Jewish Center in Needham, officials say. All three fires were quickly put out.
Acting Arlington Police Chief Julie Flaherty said the first fire at the Arlington center, which houses the Bukiet family and which holds Hebrew classes and religious services, started around 11 p.m. last Saturday in the rear of the building.
That small fire was quickly extinguished, Flaherty said, but police were called back around 9 p.m. Thursday, when an officer used a fire extinguisher to put out another blaze in the rear of the residence, limiting the damage to an exterior shingle.
Flaherty said the fires “appear to be a direct assault on our community” and remain under investigation. She said police have released video footage of a suspicious person leaving the area Saturday and urged anyone with information about the case to contact law enforcement.
Needham police Chief John Schlittler also addressed reporters and said the Thursday night fire in his town broke out at the Chabad Jewish Center around 10 p.m. Ostroskey’s office said that blaze was “intentionally set,” and Schlittler said Needham and Arlington police are reviewing their cases together to see if there’s any connection between them.
Speaking to the Jewish community “in Needham and Arlington and beyond,” Schlittler said “members of the Needham Police Department stand in support with you.”
Robert Trestan, executive director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Boston office, said a $20,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone responsible for the fires.
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