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Brooklyn man faces four hate crime charges after synagogue is defaced with anti-semitic messages, fires set

James Polite, 26, faces multiple charges, including fourth-degree criminal crimes as a hate crime and second-degree aggravated harassment as a hate crime in connection with anti-semitic remarks found at the temple and fires set at several locations in Brooklyn hours later ,

On Thursday night, graffiti was found on four floors of the Union Temple at Brooklyn's Prospect Heights neighborhood, some of which said "Hitler," "Jews are better be ready," and "The Jews are here," the New York Police Department said ,

Polite was charged with second-degree arson and second-degree reckless endangerment – both hate crimes – in the closet of a Yeshiva school at Hewes Street in the Williamsburg neighborhood and at six other nearby locations, the NYPD said.

The locations appear to be associated with the Jewish community in Brooklyn.

A janitor at the Yeshiva school noticed the fire, which was likely set between 2 and 2:30 a.m., and called authorities, NYPD Sgt. Lee Jones said. Police apprehended Polite at the scene. He was taken to Woodhull Hospital in Brooklyn for a psychological evaluation, Jones said.

While Polite was at the hospital, police say he was wanted in connection with the anti-Semitic graffiti at Union Temple, Jones said.

New York City's Mayor Bill de Blasio attended Shabbat services at the temple Friday night as a show of solidarity.

After the service, he said the incident was a horrible act of hate and "deeply disturbing all New Yorkers."

"But it is particularly painful for members of the Jewish community who feel very vulnerable right now," said Blasio.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he was directing the state's hate crime unit to investigate.

"The disgusting rhetoric and heinous violence in this nation has reached a fever pitch and ripping at the fabric of America, and it must stop," he said. "In New York, we've got community through chords of commonality and we always want to stand together against discrimination and discrimination."

Polite was silent at Woodhull Hospital. He has not appeared in court, the NYPD said. It was not clear when he would be arraigned.

Suspect had troubles, mentor says

Polite learned he had bipolar disorder after completing a required rehabilitation program in 2015, according to The New York Times, who profiled polite in December 2017. Polite smoked marijuana as a way to manage stress during college, according to the Times, and was placed on a "health leave of absence" before entering the rehabilitation program.

Former New York City Council Leader Christine Quinn said she knows Polite. Polite had an internship with Quinn when she was on the council, according to The New York Times profile.

Quinn tweeted that she and others have tried to help him through the foster care and mental health systems and deal with homelessness.

And he has experienced hardships that can not be read wrote.

The Times story said Polite worked for Quinn on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. The article said Polite called his fathers parents, Jenny Levison and Josh Waletzky, his second parents.

Quinn could not be on Sunday. Polite's foster parents named in The Times article were unsuccessful.

Polite had been a volunteer for Barack Obama's first presidential bid, registering voters and canvassing neighborhoods in New York, and with Quinn at a gay pride rally for Obama in 2008, the Times reported. An Obama spokesperson declined to comment on Sunday.

Polite graduated from Brandeis University at Waltham, Massachusetts, in 2018, according to a spokesperson Julian Cardillo, who did not provide additional details of Polite's time at the university.

Other cities recently saw anti-Semitic acts

Swastikas have appeared in at least a handful of US cities since a massacre at Pittsburgh in which 11 worshipers were killed.

On Wednesday morning, a New York resident posted pictures of swastikas that had been scrawled on the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood.

Anti-Semitic incidents surged nearly 60% in 2017

The Nazi symbols thus appeared on Navy property this week at Bucks County, near Philadelphia. Warminster Township Manager Gregg Schuster posted online that have been removed to the symbols.

"The use of the swastika is a cowardly act," he said. "In light of what our neighbors in Pittsburgh recently went through, I hope our can not accept this behavior." There is no place in Warminster for this disagusting act and I do not accept this behavior. "
A swastika so what was scrawled on a piece of paper at an elevator Monday at the Eastman School of Music at Rochester, New York, according to CNN affiliate WHAM.

So this week, authorities said a synagogue in Irvine, California, had been vandalized with anti-Semitic graffiti.

Someone spray-painted "F *** Jews" early Wednesday on the wall of the Beth Jacob Congregation in Irvine, police said.

Anti-Semitic incidents have been increasing in the United States in the last few years, according to the Anti-Defamation League.
The Rabbinical Assembly, at International Association of Conservative Rabbis, said last weekend's shooting is a reminder that anti-Semitism is "on the rise in America at a rate unprecedented in decades."

There were 151 anti-Semitic hate crimes complaints in the city of New York in 2017, according to a report on the police department website.

CNN's Tony Marco, Amanda Watts, Joe Sutton, Laura Ly, Mark Morales, Elizabeth Joseph and Madeleine Thompson contributed to this report.



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