ARLINGTON (CBS) – A $20,000 reward is being offered for any information that will lead to an arrest after three suspicious fires at rabbis' homes in Arlington and Needham.
Around 9 p.m. Thursday night, a fire broke out behind the Chabad Center for Jewish Life on Lake Street in Arlington for the second time in five days.
"The officers responded within a minute and were able to locate a small fire at the same location at the rear of the building. The officer used a fire extinguisher to put the fire out," said Acting Police Chief Julie Flaherty at a press conference with multiple community leaders Friday. "These are extremely concerning incidents in which an innocent family has lost their all-important sense of safety and security that the home is meant to convey."
One hour later, Needham Police and Fire responded to a similar fire at a rabbi's home where services are also held on High Rock Street.
"Over the course of the investigation, officers indicated that there was a similar incident in Arlington and we are currently working with the Arlington Police Department to determine if these are related," said Needham Police Chief John Schlittler. "I stand here and speak directly to the Jewish community in Needham and Arlington and beyond: members of the Needham Police Department stand and support with you… we ask that all of you to be vigilant and report anything suspicious to your local law enforcement officers."
After Thursday's fire, Arlington Police placed a full-time detail officer on Lake Street. The first fire there was reported around 11 p.m. Saturday.
Police were able to gather surveillance video of a "suspicious person seen leaving the area" Saturday but there does not appear to be footage of either of the Thursday fires.
"Arlington is a very safe community and we understand this is something which is an anomaly," said Avi Bukiet, the rabbi of Chabad Center for Jewish Life. "What has gone on, these past two incidents, it has targeted not just a Jewish center, it has targeted our personal family. We are hurting because of this but yet at the end of the day, with all of the overwhelming support and love and care that people are showing us from across the board…it just shows us that we are in a community where we want to stay."
"Our message is and will always be: open doors," said Bukiet.
"This is very sad and very painful," Rabbi Mendy Krinsky of Chabad Jewish Center in Needham, which was also targeted. "This is a place of worship and a community center. It looks very small but we do a lot of Jewish outreach."
The center is also Krinsky's home.
At Friday's press conference, Director of the Anti-Defamation League Robert Trestan announced the organization would add $15,000 to the $5,000 reward already in place from the State Fire Marshal's Office.
The Mass. chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations also offered $1,000 to the reward fund and condemned the fires.
"When there is an attack on any member of the Jewish community, whether it's here or outside of these two towns, outside of the state, the Jewish community stands together and that's why all of us are here today," said Trestan, who stressed the need for a speedy resolution.
None of the fires caused extensive damage and no one has been injured.
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