Polish synagogue’s alleged attacker under psychiatric evaluation

Cnaan Liphshiz

(JTA) — A man who was arrested for allegedly hurling a rock into a Polish synagogue on Yom Kippur in Gdansk recently also assaulted a church and is undergoing psychiatric evaluation, local Jews said.

Officials handling the investigation of the Sept. 19 incident gave this information this week to Michal Samet, the head of the Jewish Religious Community in Gdansk, he told JTA Friday.

“I think it’s being handled correctly,” Samet said. The suspect, whose name has not been published as per Polish laws on privacy, assaulted the Catholic church in recent weeks, Samet said, citing information given to him by police. The man was arrested last week in a town near Gdansk.

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“That said, the suspect did try to conceal his identity, he changed his hairstyle after the attack so he could not be easily identified through security cameras, so he’s not completely stupid,” Samet said. Still, he said local Jews have “great confidence” in police, who showed up on the scene within minutes of the report of the attack “and great to great lengths to identify the culprit,” he said.

The incident led to an outpouring of sympathy and interest by non-Jewish locals in Gdansk’s tiny Jewish community of fewer than 200 people. Its website registered half a million entries in just two days and emails and letters expressing support reached it from across Poland.

The rock fell “in the atrium where women waiting for neilah — the final prayer of Yom Kippur,” the Jewish Religious Community in Gdansk wrote on its Facebook page. “There were children around. The rock flew several centimeters from where women were standing.”

Stopping short of saying the incident was a hate crime, the community in its statement did say that in the 1930s, ultranationalists “would often target synagogues on Yom Kippur.” Such attacks are very rare in Poland today, where documented anti-Semitic incidents are mostly verbal.

Jews in Gdansk are celebrating the High Holidays “without fear” and as usual, Samet said.

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