Temple Emanuel vandalized just before Friday services

Temple Emanuel vandalized just before Friday services

The organist at Temple Emanuel did not see anything suspicious on the afternoon of Jan. 20, but when the vocalist came back shortly afterward, there was a broken window in the stairwell leading down to the sanctuary, Temple President Allison Nathan Getz explained.

This is the fourth time that Temple Emanuel has been subject to vandalism in two months, Getz said.

“We’re experiencing vandalism here, yet the area businesses are not. Triangle Blueprint, Hall McSween, there’s several businesses around us,” she said. “They’re not experiencing the same vandalism, which makes me think that possibly we’re a target.”

Getz posted pictures of the broken window on her Facebook account later that evening on Inauguration Day. Her post received dozens of comments and reactions from the community.

“It breaks my heart that on a day that we should be celebrating a peaceful transfer of power, we can’t gather in prayer on our holy Shabbat without those throwing rocks at our windows as we arrive at our Temple to pray,” she wrote. 

“I just can’t have people throwing rocks when our members are trying to come here to pray,” she said in an interview with The Examiner. “It’s just insane.”

Getz pointed to the stained glass windows along the back of the sanctuary.

“You can see where, if one of those things came flying through there, and usually we’ve got all our kids back there if they’re loud or whatever, they go to that back part. So that’s even worse, because that’s where the kids would be.”

Getz hoped to express the importance of a Jewish congregation to a community. Her children are the sixth generation in her family to be part of Temple Emanuel.

“As with all religious entities, they should be off-limits to acts of vandalism and violence,” she said.

The temple is not sure what the motives could be behind these acts.

“You can’t read motive into a rock through the window. Some people immediately assume hate crime,” said Rabbi Joshua Samuel Taub. “It’s hard to know if it’s simple annoying vandalism or an act of hateful vandalism.”

Getz agreed. She said she is unsure if the violence is politically motivated.

“I don’t think the person who threw the rock knew what day it was,” Taub said. “It just happened to be the day of the inauguration.”

The last incident was just before the holidays, Getz said. Rabbi Taub expressed concern because this one followed it so closely.

“We’ve never had two incidents like this in such close proximity,” Taub said. “And this one occurred so close to worship.”

After the last vandalism, the Temple replaced the Plexiglas and installed exterior metal grates, in addition to the burglar bars already on the inside of the building, to prevent further damage, according to Mike Spector, who handles most maintenance.

Spector explained the last broken windows cost nearly $1,000 in repairs, but he doesn’t have an estimate for the cost of last week's vandalism. He performs some of the work on his own time, which saves the congregation money.

Taub said the temple has received support from both the local community and national organizations.

“The outpouring […] of support and concern just within the Beaumont community has been overwhelming,” he said. But Taub also he received calls from the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Houston Rabbinical Association, the national desk of the Jewish Federations of America and the president of the Union for Reformed Judaism, whose national office is in New York City.

“We continue to see acts like this as very random and obviously mean,” even if not necessarily a hate crime, Taub said. He said he is mostly concerned for his congregation’s safety.

“I don’t want them to feel unsafe or unsettled in the building,” he said.

Temple Emanuel is also a state historical landmark, close to 100 years old, Taub said. The congregation, established in 1895, has been meeting in Beaumont for nearly 125 years.

“I think sometimes that there’s some misconceptions about Judaism, and I’m hoping to use this as a way to educate people on what we’re about,” Getz said. She explained that Temple Emanuel is an inclusive congregation that does not try to convert people and reaches out to those less fortunate within the city. 

The Board of Trustees decided just last week to plant an orchard across the street for the homeless people downtown, Getz explained.

Taub and Getz said that the Board of Trustees is discussing additional security measures such as additional lighting and more surveillance in the rear of the synagogue.

“We’re going to protect our building, we’re going to protect our congregants, and keep our doors open to everyone who wishes to enter,” Taub said.