Austin Fire suspects arson in Beth Israel Fire congregation


AUSTIN, TX – The Austin Fire Department is asking the public for help in identifying a suspect suspected of being responsible for the fire at a central Austin synagogue on Halloween night.

Firefighters on Wednesday released a wanted image of a man they believe is responsible for the small fire at Congregation Beth Israel, 3901 Shoal Creek Blvd.

Austin firefighters responded to an outdoor fire around 9:05 p.m. Sunday at the synagogue. Firefighters said no one was injured in the blaze.

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The arson suspect is considered a thin man. He is identified as having brown hair, was last seen wearing olive green pants, a black short-sleeved t-shirt with light-colored screen print on the back and left front, a black watch and a dark colored face cover.

The department said the suspect was last seen walking into the synagogue parking lot. He was driving a latest generation dark-colored SUV (possibly a 2007 Jeep Compass).

Authorities said the man was carrying an olive-green five-gallon jerry can-style container. He could then be seen leaving the area with the same container.

Authorities said the man’s actions were captured by a video surveillance camera.

The announcement of the arson attack comes two days after two dozen religious leaders and clergy from across Austin were joined by community leaders at a rally Monday as they called for unity at the following a recent wave of anti-Semitic incidents against the whole city.

Over the past week, Austin has seen three anti-Semitic incidents take place across the city, including a protest organized by a neo-Nazi group on October 23 that held a banner on Mopac Expressway with the words: “Vax the Jews.” .

That same weekend, a few members of the same hate group also traveled to East Sixth Street to display similar anti-Semitic posters. The group had also traveled to San Antonio for similar protests.

Central Texas nonprofit interfaith action called on the community to come together at B’nai Abraham Synagogue – the oldest synagogue in Texas – in northwest Austin and stand together during this time of need.

“We are people of diverse faiths, cultures and origins from all facets of the Austin and Central Texas community,” said Simone Talma Flowers, Executive Director of iACT. “We express our grief, sadness and anger at the dehumanizing eruptions of hatred our community has experienced recently.… We believe in religious freedom and the right of people to pray and worship in peace.”

Rabbi Kelly Levy said the campus plans to continue hosting worship services online until members can return to their sanctuary. But the pandemic and now repairs from the fire have not made it clear when they will be allowed to return.

Authorities are asking anyone with information about the fire to contact their investigation office at 512-974-0240.


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