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Sunday, May 04, 2008

FBI asked to probe area hate crimes

BY ADAM H. BEASLEY

The same day Chabad of Parkland members scraped spray-painted swastikas off the temple's walls, U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler called on FBI Director Robert Mueller to investigate the recent spate of anti-Semitic attacks in South Florida.

Wexler, who represents much of Broward County in Washington, sent the FBI a letter Thursday asking Mueller to look into both the vandalism at Chabad of Parkland and the suspicious fire at a Miami Beach synagogue last week.

''I am deeply concerned about this string of anti-Semitic crimes in the South Florida community, and strongly believe that the disturbing hate crimes committed against Jewish Americans deserve proper attention from the federal government,'' Wexler said in a statement.

Wexler's request comes a week after Mueller agreed to look into a series of fires at South Florida religious centers, including the blaze that torched The Chabad Shul in Miami Beach during Passover. A fire in October damaged the sanctuary of a synagogue on Chase Avenue in Miami Beach.

Wexler's congressional district does not include Parkland, but it nearly surrounds the bedroom community. Parkland is represented by Ron Klein, who also forcefully denounced the incident, deemed by Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti a hate crime.

'If we are to live up to our mantra of `never again,' we must not sit by silently in the face of any anti-Semitic attack,'' said Klein, who is co-chairman of the Congressional Taskforce Against Anti-Semitism. ``It is our solemn responsibility to speak out against such hate speech.''

Meanwhile, at Chabad of Parkland, 7170 Loxahatchee Rd., Rabbi Josef Biston went about the business of cleaning the swastikas. The vandals also scrawled ''4 Hitler'' on a stop sign.

The desecration has gained attention around the world, with BSO fielding calls from as far away as Israel.

Broward sheriff's deputies went door-to-door handing out Crime Stoppers fliers in an attempt to find those responsible.

Authorities will not have the help of videotape to find the vandals. Chabad of Parkland did not have surveillance equipment set up, and no cameras from nearby business captured the desecration, said Alesia Russell, a BSO spokeswoman.

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