Fire at Portland synagogue set intentionally, police say, but no evidence of link to antisemitism

Portland, OR - A Northwest Portland synagogue fire that police said was set intentionally was probably not an act of antisemitism, the synagogue’s senior rabbi said Thursday.

Firefighters arrived at Congregation Beth Israel about 9:10 p.m., Wednesday, to find a fire against the synagogue’s side door, Portland police and Rabbi Michael Cahana said. After putting out the flames, firefighters ceded the scene to investigators, who concluded that the fire was likely set on purpose.

Cahana’s staff told him the flames came from a mason jar left hanging on a door handle. Investigators took the jar as evidence, Cahana said. A photo taken after the incident shows a black scorch mark emanating from above the right door handle, as well as graffiti.

The door in question is a side-entrance to the main house of worship, Cahana said. The door has an overhang, he said, and people have sometimes camped out in the spot. Cahana’s impression is that the suspects were “just people who happened to be there and lit a fire,” he said, not antisemites.

“You always worry about those kinds of things,” Cahana said. But “the initial sense seems to be not that we were being targeted.”

The Portland Police Bureau said in a statement they don’t have evidence that the fire was set as an act of antisemitism, though “it is nevertheless concerning that a fire might have been intentionally set near a place of worship.”

Cahana stressed that the investigation is ongoing, and that he does not actually know the suspects’ intentions.

Source: Oregon live