Heights Jewish Center Synagogue

Heights Jewish Center Synagogue in University Heights

A 23-year-old Cleveland man has been arrested for allegedly leaving harassing telephone messages, which at the time were described as “anti-Semitic,” “vile” and “blasphemous,” at Heights Jewish Center Synagogue in University Heights, Temple Israel Ner Tamid in Mayfield Heights and Northern Hills Synagogue in Cincinnati in January.

Abdulrahman Abukhalil was arrested April 17 on two counts of harassing communication and was transported to University Heights Police Department jail, according to a University Heights police report. 

Abukhalil has since been released on bail, according to University Heights Police Lt. Dale Orians, and is awaiting trial date at 10 a.m. May 23 in Shaker Heights Municipal Court. 

After the messages were discovered, Anti-Defamation League Cleveland regional director Anita Gray, who tracks such crimes as a primary aspect of her job, said the January recordings were among the most “disgusting” she’d heard and were anti-Semitic in nature. 

In an initial police report, ethnic intimidation was also listed as a possible charge, however, Orians said the crimes did not meet the elements required to be charged as such under state law.  

The police investigation revealed the suspect also called Beachwood Kehilla in Beachwood, Park Synagogue in Cleveland Heights and Pepper Pike and Jewish Learning Connection in University Heights, although messages were not left, according to an email from Jim Hartnett, director of community wide security at the Jewish Federation of Cleveland.

Orians also said his department worked in conjunction with the Federation. 

“They were very cooperative with any information we needed in the investigation, and we certainly appreciated that,” Orians said. 

The Cleveland FBI and ADL also were advised on the incidents when they occurred. 

The first harassing message Heights Jewish Center received Jan. 19 said, “All Jews must die,” which was repeated multiple times and ended with “Burn the Jews,” according to the police report. Another harassing message was left Jan. 20. 

Synagogue president, Rob Altshuler, also received three calls on his personal cell phone that were also anti-Semitic and threatening, according to the police report. 

According to the Mayfield Heights police report, a call came into Temple Israel Ner Tamid from a blocked number Jan. 21 that said “kill the f****** Jews,” “rape your wives and daughters,” and “blow up your country.” 

University Heights and Mayfield Heights police departments increased patrolling at Heights Jewish Center and Temple Israel Ner Tamid as a precaution after the calls were reported, according to a security alert from JFC Security, LLC. 

Orians said the suspect was identified through a phone number search. 

“When one of the calls that came in, the suspect’s target number was shown up on caller ID,” he said. “We use an investigative program and searched that number and came up with a name … from there we needed to subpoena phone records, and we did that and came up with the same suspect.”

Mayfield Heights police did not respond to requests for comment. 

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