Arson Suspected in Three Fires At Jewish Centers

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Fires at Jewish centers in Massachusetts were deliberately set, authorities now believe. Two were an hour apart, and two struck one house the same week.

Police responded to reports of fires two Massachusetts cities Thursday night. One, at a Chabad rabbi's home in Arlington, burned for less than a minute before police responded to put out the flames.

On Thursday night, police responded to a second fire in a Massachusetts Chabad house. Arriving at the Needham Chabad house, police found another exterior fire. Rabbi Mendy Krinsky, who runs that center with his wife Chanie, had already put out the fire. Needham is just over ten miles, less than an hour's drive, from Arlington.

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Chabad is an Orthodox Jewish organization dedicated to outreach work around the world. Last month, a white supremacist opened fire in a Chabad house in California, killing one and wounding several.

Police responded to a third suspicious fire, at the same Arlington Chabad, last Saturday. In a post Wednesday, police described that first fire as "suspicious."

None of the fires reached the interior of either building.

Police are investigating to see if a hate crime occurred. The vast majority of religion-motivated hate crimes in the United States are committed against Jews.

In a statement to Vice News, State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey’s office confirmed the arson attempts on Jewish houses of worship. "Arson fire causes fear and anxiety in the community, but one in a house of worship especially so," it said.

Chabad Rabbi Avi Bukiet, whose home was twice on fire this week, told reporters he would be taking measures to protect against attacks.

"We are taking this seriously," Bukiet said. "We are putting safety precautions in place, we are gathering a security committee to make sure to enhance the safety of our location and make sure that people come in and out without having any fear."

Bukiet and his wife Luna, who jointly run the Arlington center, promised that sabbath programming would be happening as usual that weekend.

Chanie Krinsky, of the Needham Chabad, called on others to take constructive actions of their own.

"Hate can't be reasoned with. Hate just needs to be eradicated," she said. "A little bit of light dispels a lot of darkness. Please take this opportunity to help us end this darkness. Do a mitzvah [religious deed] today to bring more light into this world! Tonight we will usher in the Shabbos [sabbath] with our candles, our opportunity to add more light. Please join me and make your home a home with more light."