A combination of vandalism and freak accidents have forced Racine’s Israel Sinai Synagogue to fix itself repeatedly in recent years.
The most recent incident was on Oct. 9 or 10, 2022, when an object similar to a steppingstone was thrown through a window.
Congregants do feel safe at the synagogue, at 3009 Washington Ave., said President Joyce Placzkowski, but the small congregation is asking for help to further harden itself against attacks.
After the vandalism in October, Racine Mayor Cory Mason and others visited Shabbat services to show support. Meanwhile, Racine police have identified a suspect and referred the information to the Racine County District Attorney, said Racine Police Spokesperson Sgt. Kristi Wilcox.
Placzkowski recalled that the small congregation has faced a string of vandalism and bad luck in just the last few years:
- Antisemitic graffiti was found there on Sept. 22, 2019, as board members arrived for a meeting in the afternoon.
- A car hit a parking meter, launching it through two panes of glass and through the sanctuary in June 2020.
- “We had one other window broken once, but that was just a really freak accident where a rock flew up from the street and hit a window,” recalled Placzkowski.
For the current incident, the shul and others nearby had video cameras.
“We watched the footage,” Placzkowski said. “There was a person who took a stepping-stone type of thing and threw it through a window. She also went to the front of the building and threw a rock at the window, which broke the outer pane but not the inner pane.”
The vandalism happened on two occasions, several hours apart, front and back, apparently by the same person.
Placzkowski is seeking donations to increase security and make it harder to damage her small congregation’s property. She said she was meeting with Milwaukee Jewish Federation to discuss options.
Placzkowski said the shul has insurance, but there is a deductible, and she was to work with police on a dollar amount for the cost of the damage, to determine whether the crime would be a misdemeanor or a felony.
“It’s frustrating,” said Rabbi Martyn Adelberg, who noted the synagogue’s only Shabbat services, on Saturday mornings, have continued weekly without interruption. “We’re trying to keep a semblance of normalcy as much as possible.”
Placzkowski just knows, as a volunteer for a synagogue with only a part-time rabbi for staff, she doesn’t enjoy getting woken up to head down to the flashing lights of police squad cars at the shul, processing insurance paperwork, and so forth.
“It’s not easy to do,” she said.
“We’re holding our own keeping our small group together,” said the rabbi. “Everybody’s committed to keeping it alive as an institution.”