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Etz Chayim rabbi reacts to new details and reward in synagogue vandalism case

Updated: Jan. 26, 2021 at 11:21 AM CST
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - It has now been more than nine months since someone vandalized two Huntsville synagogues with swastikas and other anti-Semitic messages.

Etz Chayim Synagogue and the Chabad of Huntsville were vandalized on the first and second nights of Passover, respectively, in April of 2020.

Now, the Huntsville Police Department and FBI have upped the reward and released new details about the lone suspect in both vandalisms.

Stephen Listfield is the rabbi at Etz Chayim, he said he’s happy to hear about the reward and hopes it convinces someone to tell the truth.

“Do the right thing, come forward,” he said. “Let us all be accountable to one another to help create a society where all of us can live peacefully, cooperatively, harmoniously, have our differences and yet enjoy and engage with each other more.”

The reward is now at $18,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person who vandalized the synagogues.

The new details are much more than we’ve known in the past. HPD officials said the suspect has a significant limp and they believe he or she has a prosthetic left leg. On top of that, they said this person was possibly driving an early-model, light-colored Toyota Prius.

Police also said the person was seen walking in the Blossomwood neighborhood on April 4, 2020.

This reward campaign will also include digital billboards displayed across north Alabama and southern Tennessee.

Listfield said he’s a big supporter of the billboards.

“If billboards remind people, ‘Isn’t it wonderful to do the right thing? Isn’t it good to have a civic sensibility that we all like each other.’ That would be wonderful,” he said.

Listfiled also acknowledged a lot of good has come out of the crime.

“The main bright spot is the response from the community of Huntsville, the leadership, the political leadership, the police, our neighbors, churches, and just people who are appalled by hatred and desecration,” Listfield said.

At the same time, though, the supportive efforts of the community are diminished by the portion of the community who knows something about this crime and haven’t come forward.

“A few people, if as you suggest, are complicit in covering the crime, whoever did the crime, that is all it takes to undo a lot of good,” he said.

Listfield said it’s time for the person who did this or someone who knows them to come forward so likeminded people don’t think this is a crime people can get away with.

”We live in a time where hate, anti-Semitism, racism, other kinds of prejudice they are like the wildfires in California, they don’t slow down, one leads to another, one emboldens another,” he said.

Investigators are asking anyone with information about the possible identity of the person who vandalized the synagogues or additional information about the incidents to contact the FBI’s Birmingham Division, Huntsville Resident Agency at (256) 539-1711 or the Huntsville Police Department at (256) 427-7009. Tips can also be submitted online at tips.fbi.gov.

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