We learned that Nazi websites had posted a call to burn our synagogue.
A frail, elderly woman approached me as I stood on the steps in front of our sanctuary, crying, to tell me that while she was Roman Catholic, she wanted to stay and watch over the synagogue with us. At one point, she asked, “Why do they hate you?” I had no answer.
I stood outside our synagogue with the armed security guard we hired after the police department refused to provide us with an officer. John Aguilar, a 30-year Navy veteran, took it upon himself to stand watch along with our armed guard. He just felt he should.
Here is what I witnessed:
For half an hour, three men dressed in fatigues and armed with semi-automatic rifles stood across the street from the temple. Several times, parades of Nazis passed our building, shouting, “There’s the synagogue!” followed by chants of “Seig Heil.” Some carried flags with swastikas and other Nazi symbols. A guy in a white polo shirt walked by the synagogue a few times, arousing suspicion. Was he casing the building, or trying to build up courage to commit a crime? We didn’t know.
Later, I noticed that the man accused in the automobile terror attack wore the same polo shirt; apparently it’s the uniform of a white supremacist group. Even now, that gives me a chill.
Alan Zimmerman, President, Congregation Beth Israel in Charlottesville, VA
(all words by Alan Zimmerman, edited by David Sanders)