Heights Jewish Center Synagogue in University Heights and Temple Israel Ner Tamid in Mayfield Heights received anti-Semitic, harassing voice messages the evening of Jan. 19, which Anti-Defamation League regional director Anita Gray said were among the most “disgusting” such recordings she’d ever heard.
Both incidents, along with a similar message left at a Cincinnati synagogue, are believed by law enforcement to be connected and also have been reported to the FBI, ADL and Jewish Federation of Cleveland.
According to a police report, Heights Jewish Center reported the incident to University Heights police Jan. 21, as two messages came into its answering machine during Shabbat around 5:30 p.m. An investigation was initiated and the crimes were classified as harassing communications and ethnic intimidation.
University Heights Detective Lt. Mark McArtor said the messages were “very anti-Semitic in nature,” and were not directed at any particular person. He said the incident remains under investigation.
Heights Jewish Center sent an email to members and others affiliated with the synagogue Jan. 23, confirming the incident. It was signed by Rabbi Raphael Davidovich and synagogue president Rob Altshuler. Neither could be reached for comment.
“The appropriate authorities and community partners have been made aware of what happened. Proper follow-up steps are being pursued,” the email read. “We will continue to do everything in our power to ensure the safety and security of our community and will keep you updated as to any significant developments.”
Mayfield Heights police responded to an incident at Temple Israel Ner Tamid, also reported on Jan. 21. According to the police report, a call came from a blocked number and included an “unknown, angry male” saying “kill the f****** Jews,” “rape your wives and daughters,” and “blow up your country.”
“There are a lot of pieces to the investigation,” said Rabbi Matt Eisenberg of Temple Israel Ner Tamid, who declined to comment further on the nature of the calls or investigation. “We appreciate the support we’ve received.”
Special agent Vicki Anderson, who works in the Cleveland office of the FBI, said although the messages are still a local matter and not part of an FBI investigation, the office is assisting local law enforcement where it is able.
Gray, who’s tracked such crimes as a primary aspect of her job since she started the position in 2013, said the messages were unlike anything she’s heard before.
“These recordings were among the most disgusting I’ve ever heard, and believe me, I’ve heard a lot,” she said, adding that they were each a minute to a couple minutes long and seemed to be a male voice. She said the recordings used “vile” and “blasphemous” words, and were disgusting in sentiment.
Gray said Jim Hartnett, director of community wide security at the Federation, is also working on the case, and she commended the efforts of both local law enforcement agencies.
The Federation did not respond to requests for comment prior to the publication of this story.
Heights Jewish Center also received threatening, anti-Semitic voice messages June 18, 2015, and a female perpetrator was identified June 19, 2015. She was deemed by law enforcement to be non-violent and dealing with an ongoing mental health issue.
Gray also said she’s contacted the 26 other ADL offices around the country and none reported recordings that are believed to be linked, thus there is no apparent larger, national trend.
“You can’t figure this stuff out,” she said. “It’s just an unhappy person. Can you imagine living your life like this that you have to do this?”