Arlington, MA– There have been two suspicious fires at the home of an Arlington rabbi this week. The first was on Saturday night, May 11, at approximately 11 p.m., and the second was on Thursday evening, May 16, at about 9 p.m. Arlington police are looking for evidence of arson and are treating the incidents as possible hate crimes.
The fires occurred at the rabbi's home on Lake Street. On Saturday, the rabbi, his wife, and his three children were startled awake to the sound of a fire alarm. The rabbi said he smelled smoke and hurried everyone out of the house. When the responding officer arrived at the scene, he found some external wood shingles on the side of the house were burning. The officer was able to put out the fire with a portable fire extinguisher. Another fire was reported on Thursday night. Neither fire resulted in any damage to the inside of the house. Both fires are considered suspicious, since external shingles don't just light themselves on fire.
In an interview, the rabbi was asked what motive an individual would have to target him and his family. He said that he conducts religious services directly from his home. His home address, as a registered Chabad Center, is also publicly available online.
The rabbi said he has not received any threatening messages. A neighbor's security camera footage shows a suspicious person leaving the area on Saturday night. Police are looking for more leads. Arlington PD has added patrols for the neighborhood and will continue to post officers on Lake Street for added security.
MassLive quoted Acting Chief of Police Julie Flaherty, who said that the police "strongly encourage anyone who may have information about this fire or the suspicious person seen leaving the area to contact the Arlington Police Department."
Chief Flaherty also said in a statement: "These are extremely concerning incidents in which an innocent family has had the safety and security of their home compromised by some else's violent actions. The Arlington Police Department will use every resource at its disposal to find the facts and ensure that any suspect or suspects are brought to face justice."
Antisemitic hate crimes are on the rise in the U.S. and in Massachusetts specifically. In Massachusetts, the ADL (Anti-Defamation League) recorded 177 anti-Semitic incidents in 2017, a 42 percent increase over 2016.