Old books, religious items burned in Corfu synagogue

Unknown vandals broke into the synagogue on the island of Corfu and burned books two centuries old as well as kipot and tallitot.

The break-in occurred at approximately dawn Tuesday, the second day of Passover.

Firemen arrived within minutes and prevented the fire from spreading after being alerted by a police patrol car that was stationed in the front of the synagogue.

The president of the Corfu Jewish community, Zinos Velelis, praised the quick reaction of the fire department and police.

“We never had such an incident or any incident for that matter before in Corfu,” he said. “We hope it is a isolated incident that the entire Corfu population will condemn.”

In its condemnation of the incident, the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece said in a statement, “In contemporary Greece, society cannot allow or tolerate anti-Semitism, given that such attacks undermine our civilization, our dignity, our human nature, our democracy.”

George Petalotis, a spokesman for the Greek government, in a statement condemning the break-in called the destruction of sacred religious books “an immoral and outrageous act.”

About 60 Jews live on Corfu. Some 2,000 Jews lived there prior to World War II; only 187 survived the war. Jews have had a presence on Corfu since the 12th century.