Sacramento’s Jewish Community Reflects Nearly 20 Years after Synagogue Firebombings

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SACRAMENTO -- Nearly 20 years since three Sacramento synagogues were firebombed, several of those congregations are holding remembrance services so the local Jewish community can remain strong and vigilant in the wake of tragedies in San Diego and Pittsburgh within the last year.

Mona Alfi was a brand new assistant rabbi of the Congregation B’Nai Israel in Sacramento 20 years ago.

“And I’d been living in Sacramento for just a year,” Alfi said.

On June 18, 1999, hers was one of three synagogues firebombed by two white supremacist brothers from Shasta County.

“I remember being in disbelief, not really being able to accept the idea this has happened in Sacramento,” she said. “I’m a native Californian. It came as a shock to me.”

Benjamin Matthew and James Tyler Williams were later arrested and convicted for the attacks and other hate crimes authorities say they committed that summer, including the murder of a gay couple from Shasta County and firebombing an abortion clinic.

“Walking through this building, I’ll never forget the smell, I’ll never forget the fear,” Alfi said.

But Rabbi Alfi says something beautiful came from the ashes.

“Immediately following the attacks, the larger community in Sacramento really rallied together,” she told FOX40.

And it’s that unity following the tragedy Rabbi Alfi says her community wants to hold remembrance services this next week.

Friday evening, a special Shabbat service was held at Congregation Beth Shalom in Carmichael.

“I mean everybody has upped their security,” Willie Recht, executive director of the Jewish Federation of the Sacramento Region, told FOX40.

Recht says with attacks on synagogues in San Diego and Pittsburgh, this past year has been hard on the Jewish community across the country.

“And it’s just how much can happen? So as we approach 20 years of something that started way beyond 20-years ago, it’s really important for the community to be able to come together to remember it to stay strong together,” Recht said.

“It’s a reminder to us that the things that threatened us 20 years ago haven’t disappeared,” Alfi said.

A luncheon will be held Saturday at Congregation Kenesset Israel and a community-wide service will be held Tuesday evening at Congregation B’Nai Israel.

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