Austin police investigate possible synagogue arson just a week after antisemitic ‘Vax the Jews’ banners displayed

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(JTA) — Police in Austin, Texas are investigating a possible case of arson after a fire was lit outside a synagogue there Sunday night. The fire was discovered just one week after banners emblazoned with the words “Vax the Jews” were hung by a neo-Nazi group from an overpass near a number of synagogues and the Jewish Community Center.

The Austin Fire Department’s arson investigators responded to the fire at Congregation Beth Israel, located about five miles from the JCC, Sunday night. There were no injuries.

While it is not yet clear if the fire was intentionally set in an act of antisemitism, the fire follows a series of antisemitic incidents in Austin in recent weeks.

On Oct. 24, Members of the Goyim Defense League, a neo-Nazi group whose name mocks the Anti-Defamation League, hung banners with the message “Vax the Jews” from an overpass near a number of synagogues and the Jewish Community Center, called Shalom Austin. Though officers from the Austin Police Department responded to the anti-Semitic banner demonstration, similar banners were hung from the same overpass just a few days later on Oct. 26.

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The banner incident came just a few days after racist and antisemitic graffiti was discovered at Anderson High School, about a mile and a half away from the JCC.

Shalom Austin had responded to the initial banner incident with a message to the Jewish community warning of possible further acts of antisemitism in the days to come.


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