Reno shul attacked again on New Years Day

Thirteen months after five skinheads firebombed Temple Emanu-El in Reno, the synagogue was attacked in the first hour of 2001.

Police said an arsonist apparently used a flammable liquid to ignite the fire, which engulfed the front entrance and charred the entryway of the synagogue.

The flames, discovered at 12:45 a.m. Monday, were quickly extinguished.

Police officials, who classified the attack as a hate crime, had few clues other than a poor-quality surveillance photo of the arsonist.

One month ago, a federal judge sentenced five self-avowed skinheads for hurling a concrete-filled soda bottle and a Molotov cocktail at a synagogue window in December 1999.

The youngest defendant received a five-year prison sentence, and the other four received between 14 and 15 years.

"We had hoped that the harsh sentences would send a strong message to people, but I guess some people didn't get the message," Rabbi Daniel Mehlman of Emanu-El told the Reno Gazette-Journal.

The Conservative congregation, founded in 1921, is the oldest synagogue in northern Nevada. The current facility was completed in 1973.

"The damage to the building is limited, but the damage to our hearts and souls is great," Mehlman said. "Everybody is shocked and scared."

Mehlman invited the general community to attend the synagogue's services tonight.

Also, Karen Zatz, assistant director of the Anti-Defamation League Central Pacific region, was to attend a forum for the entire community at the synagogue yesterday evening.

"We want a number of things to occur simultaneously," said Jonathan Bernstein, director of the ADL's Central Pacific region. Noting that the FBI is now involved, Bernstein said, "We want to encourage law enforcement to be vigorous in pursuit of this case, and we're going to share information with them on hate groups and individuals in the area."

He added that he hoped the wider community would respond. "We don't want the Jewish community to feel vulnerable and all alone," he said.