Police probe second suspicious fire at Boston-area Chabad

Penny Schwartz

BOSTON (JTA) — A second suspicious fire in less than one week burned Thursday night outside of the home of the rabbi of a Chabad center in suburban Boston.

The fires at the Center for Jewish Life Arlington-Belmont are being investigated as hate crimes.

The Arlington Police Department and its Fire Department are working with state officials to investigate the second fire, according to a statement the town provided to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. The first fire, on May 11, damaged outside shingles. Neither fire damaged the inside of the house, the residence of Rabbi Avi Bukiet, his wife and their three children.

A police officer who arrived on the scene 30 seconds after the report of the fire used a handheld extinguisher to douse the flames on the wood shingles on one side of the house. A police officer is on duty around the clock on the street where the Chabad center is located, a main thoroughfare in a residential neighborhood with an elementary school.

Police continue to search for a person on a neighbor’s surveillance video seen walking away from the Chabad center after the first fire. There is no surveillance from the second fire, according to the town.

“These are extremely concerning incidents in which an innocent family has had the safety and security of their home compromised by someone else’s violent actions,” acting police chief Julie Flaherty said. “The Arlington Police Department will use very resource to find the facts and ensure that any suspect or suspects are brought to face justice.”

The town is planning a news conference for later Friday, a spokesperson for the town told JTA.

Robert Trestan, the director of the New England office of Anti-Defamation League, said he is hearing from rabbis in the Chabad community following the fires in Arlington. He urged the public to be on alert.

“Everyone has a role to play, to keep their eyes and ears open,” he said.