NORTH MIAMI (CBSMiami) – As South Florida’s Jewish community observed the Jewish New Year, there was a renewed concern for their safety.
A heavy police presence was part of Rosh Hashanah . Police patrolled as observant Jews walked to temples and synagogues on Rosh Hashanah eve Wednesday evening.
Tensions are particularly high after a man accused of spraying hate-filled, anti-Semitic messages on a Jewish temple escaped a half-way house he was being held at.
A swastika, KKK and the words, “all out war,” were written on a banner outside a Jewish house of worship earlier this month.
Surveillance video captured a man with a back-pack walking up to Temple Emanu-El in Miami Beach. Police are now looking for the the 43-year-old accused of doing it, Maximo de la Cruz, who escaped from the facility called Harbor House. A judge allowed the homeless man to stay there, instead of being held in jail.
The spokesperson for the facility released a statement Wednesday saying, “Mr. De La Cruz was placed in our facility on Friday, September 19 late afternoon by the courts. Harbor House is not a detention facility or a mental health hospital. We have neither the security nor authority to act as such. We are a supportive-housing facility that works mostly with individuals that are homeless and experiencing complex challenges such as addiction and/or mental health issues.On Sunday, September 21, after our routine morning headcount, we found that Mr. De La Cruz was no longer at the facility. We immediately notified the authorities and court liaisons.”
Some residents are wondering why the judge made that decision.
“Deranged people should not be on the streets whether he attacks Jews or a place of worship or something else and perhaps the judge needs to have more of a heightened sense of awareness especially with this time of year,” said Rabbi Yehuda Kaproun of the Orthodox Alliance Of Florida.
Anti-Semitic messages left on temples and smeared on windshields with cream cheese, also put the South Florida Jewish community on edge.
“This last year has been very unsettling, very disconcerting for a lot of reasons,” said President and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Miami Jacob Salomon.
To add to the tension, the murderer of a rabbi who was killed in August has yet to be arrested.
Fear boiled over when Rabbi Joseph Raksin who was visiting from New York was gunned down in a pre-dominantly Jewish community in North Miami Beach.
“So clearly, people reacted with a heightened sensitivity and a big question mark as to whether or not it was a hate crime,” said Salomon.
The Miami-Dade Police Department insists there is no evidence that the killing was a hate crime.
Police said the stepped up enforcement is meant to promote safety but also send a message.
“Specifically in the cities that have high Jewish populations, and let them know that we understand what they’re feeling,” said Bal Harbor Police Chief Mark Overton. “I understand the importance of sending that message. That this is not going to be tolerated. We’re going to be out in force.”
Since cell phones aren’t used by those celebrating Rosh Hashanah, the presence will be particularly important to the community.
“So they’ll be able to see where there is an officer so in the event something happens, they don’t have to use the cell phone. They walk up or wave them down,” said Chief Overton.
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