Vandal charged with hate crime for defacing Gravesend synagogue

A Gravesend man allegedly attacked a well-hidden local synagogue in an apparent hate crime.
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Police arrested a man for allegedly defacing a Gravesend synagogue in a vicious anti-Semitic crime that will force the house of worship to spend thousands of dollars in repair costs, said the temple’s director. 

“We’re a poor shul. We don’t have the funds to replace our glass,” Susan Altman told Brooklyn Paper. “I don’t know how we’re going to get out of this.”

Osman Butt, 25, allegedly grabbed an Israeli flag from outside the Shore Parkway Jewish Center and smashed it through the synagogue’s windows at about 9 pm on Sunday, according to police.

The assailant then broke into the 26th Avenue religious building by Harway Avenue and destroyed several menorahs, an elevated platform known as a bima, and symbols of the Sukkot jewish holiday, which runs from Oct. 2 through Oct. 9, according to Altman.

The building’s custodian rushed to the scene after hearing the commotion, where he found the intruder wrapping himself in the Israeli flag and trying to break the flagpole, he told police. Butt then continued to throw objects on the ground and shout anti-Semitic remarks, Altman said. 

“It was something like ‘I hate Jews, Jews die,” she said.

The custodian called police, who apprehended Butt inside the Orthodox synagogue at 9:11 pm, according to a police spokesman.  

Officers slapped the defendant with six charges, including burglary, criminal mischief, and criminal trespassing, according to court documents. 

Authorities also deemed three of the charges as hate crimes, which increase the penalties that defendants face — including Butt’s burglary charge, which would typically be a Class D felony with a maximum of seven years in prison, but instead becomes a Class C and carries a maximum sentence of 15 years.

Butt, who lives five blocks from the synagogue, was released without bail, according to Helen Peterson, a spokeswoman for the Brooklyn District Attorney. 

Altman said that the attack has sent shockwaves throughout the community, and has left congregants like herself afraid to enter the house of worship. 

“A lot of our members are concerned, we’re scared,” said Altman, adding that she’s afraid to go to the synagogue alone. “I’m here today, and I can’t stop looking out the window.”

According to NYPD statistics, the 60th Police Precinct, where the Sunday night intrusion occurred, has only seen two other suspects arrested for anti-Semitic hate crimes since the beginning of 2017 — leaving Altman and her fellow worshipers shocked at the unusual nature of the hateful vandalism at their quaint synagogue. 

“The temple is like a hidden secret, it’s in the middle of a residential area,” Altman said. “It’s very quiet. There’s never any crime around here.”

Now, the temple’s leaders will enhance the building’s security in an effort to make members feel safer for their return to religious services. 

“We had outside cameras and now and we have to get inside cameras,” Altman told Brooklyn Paper. “I don’t know what’s going to happen on Saturday, if members are going to come back.”