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CCPD: We all ‘stand in solidarity with Chabad’

Cape Jewish center victim of 'hate crime'

By CJ HADDAD - | Mar 14, 2023

The Chabad Jewish Center of Cape Coral was the victim of what police are calling a hate crime after the temple, which was occupied, was struck by bricks Saturday. Photo contributed

A Cape Coral synagogue underwent what police are calling a hate crime Saturday afternoon.

Chabad Jewish Center of Cape Coral Rabbi Yossi Labkowski said in broad daylight around 1:15 p.m., an individual threw bricks at the temple on Cape Coral Parkway, frightening those inside.

“It was a very, very loud noise,” Labkowski told The Breeze. “We heard one loud noise. We didn’t know what it was, and I was going to approach the door and see what was going on, then I hear another loud noise and I look at the glass door and see somebody outside, a white male, picking up bricks and just throwing it at the door.”

Labkowski said thankfully their service had ended before the event, and that not too many people were still inside. Nonetheless, it was a frightening 5 to 7 minutes.

“It was. It was,” Labkowski said when asked if it was scary. “We’re thankful that (the brick) didn’t penetrate the glass.”

The Chabad Jewish Center of Cape Coral was the victim of what police are calling a hate crime after the temple, which was occupied, was hit by bricks Saturday by a man who also threw bricks at parked vehicles. Photo contributed

Labkowski, along with Cape Coral Police Chief Anthony Sizemore, said it’s abhorring to see hate crimes occur so close to home when you see them play out in other places.

“It’s very unfortunate. We never believed it would happen here,” Labkowski said. “It’s a very nice community, a very welcoming community, and we never expected it to happen. Obviously it’s happening all over the United States, but to have it here, you would never believe it would happen here. But unfortunately, it did.”

During a press conference Monday, Sizemore said CCPD is investigating the attack on the synagogue, and that cities as large as Cape Coral are not absent of these kinds of events.

“This was a despicable act, in which an individual committed vandalism, attempted burglary, and struck fear in the hearts of not only those present at the Chabad center, but the Jewish community of Southwest Florida and the entire community,” Sizemore said. “This is one of the unfortunate side effects that you see — I tell people when they ask about crime rate, they ask about certain things, and I pivot people off of that, and I like to highlight that fact that if we talk numbers, we’re the eighth largest city, and the third most populous state in the country. And there’s a lot of wonderful things that come with that, but one of the side-effects is that we have a lot of the nation’s problems, here. And hate crimes are on the rise, particularly attacks on Jewish communities and Jewish centers. And it happened here. We need to acknowledge that.”

Sizemore said he and Labkowski are close, and that he’s participated personally at Chabad over the last decade. Sizemore, who said the ordeal has become “personal” for him, said he spoke with Labkowski personally to let him know the department is doing all it can to bring justice.

“Rabbi Yossi and his family are valued members of our diverse, vibrant, and resilient community,” Sizemore said. “And this disgusting act will not take away from that. (We all) stand in solidarity with Chabad, and we stand against any time of hate crime in our community.”

Labkowski wanted to send a message to the community on behalf of Chabad of Cape Coral and its members: “We’re not going to be afraid. And we’re going to heighten security to ensure this doesn’t happen again. This person has a lot of hate, and we have to combat hate with love and kindness. And the more that we increase in kindness to our friends and our neighbors, the more kindness spreads, and people become kinder people. Hopefully, this will bring the community together and get rid of this hate.”

Police ask anyone with information pertaining to the case, call Crimestoppers at 1-800-780-TIPS (8477).

–Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj