Connecticut police arrest a Jewish man in synagogue attacks

WESTON, Conn. — After a spate of hate crimes at three Fairfield County synagogues, the Jewish community tightened security and hoped the perpetrators would be caught.

But it came as a shock when authorities arrested a Jewish man last week.

Alan Jay Lorenz, 56, of Weston was arrested for allegedly dumping medical waste packages at Temple Beth El in Stamford and Congregation Beth El in Norwalk last August.

Lorenz also allegedly had dumped containers of medical waste, including syringes, glass tubes, cotton swabs, bandages and other items at Roxbury Elementary School, Newfield Green shopping center, book drops at the Turn of River and Weed Memorial Libraries in Stamford, and in mailboxes in Norwalk.

Last week, a similar packet was found in the parking lot at Congregation Agudath Sholom in Stamford. Attached to the containers were swastikas and a photo of Buford Furrow Jr., the suspect in the Los Angles-area Jewish community center shootings last summer, and Furrow's quote about "a wake-up call to America to kill the Jews."

Because of the similarities of the earlier incidents, the police departments of Stamford and Norwalk had set up a task force with the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office in Bridgeport to investigate.

Over the months, Lorenz reportedly called the police frequently to offer his help, with the explanation that he sold medical waste disposal equipment. In October, he allegedly brought a binder of clippings to the police headquarters in Stamford.

The clippings included newspaper reports of the incidents and ads for the Demolizer, a product he sells for Thermal Waste Technologies of Bethel. Although police sent the evidence to Connecticut's state-of-the-art forensics laboratory for testing, they did not immediately suspect Lorenz.

However, they became suspicious of his continued offers to help and they matched fingerprints left on clear tape with his fingerprints from Army records.

Federal and local authorities have thus far charged Lorenz with the federal criminal complaint of "obstructing persons in the free exercise of their religious beliefs." More charges may be filed. If convicted, Lorenz faces up to one year imprisonment, fines of up to $100,000, and up to one year of probation.

Lorenz was released from police custody and is now in an inpatient psychiatric center, authorities said. U.S. Attorney Alex Hernandez would not disclose the name of the facility.

Lorenz has lived in Fairfield County for several years. A former Stamford resident, he was married at Temple Beth El — one of the targeted synagogues. He was a member of Temple Israel in Westport until he resigned in July 1993.

Reaction to his arrest ranged from disbelief to anger. Rabbi Mark Lipson of Congregation Beth El said he was satisfied that an arrest had been made.

"This is a shanda for the Jews," Rabbi Joshua Hammerman of Temple Beth El in Stamford said.

Hammerman said he was relieved that the perpetrator is not part of a neo-Nazi group, but expressed concern that "anyone among us could have such an utter disdain and hatred for Jews and Judaism."

Rabbi Robert Orkand of Temple Israel said he doesn't recall Lorenz as a congregant.

"This is a desperate act," he added.

The Connecticut regional office of the Anti-Defamation League issued a statement praising the Stamford police.

"The diligent work of the Stamford Police Department over a sustained period of time sends a strong message to those who perpetrate acts of hate will hopefully take to heart. Hate crimes will be thoroughly investigated and people responsible face the prospect of serious penalties for their actions," said Larry Shanbrom, ADL regional board chair.

Robert Leikind, Connection regional director of ADL, echoed the statement.

"This investigation was a model of how police departments and community groups can work together in the fight against hatred in our community," he said.