(March 13, 2023 / JNS) Rabbi Yossi Labkowski, director of Chabad of Cape Coral, Fla., wants to make it clear that he and his congregation “will not cower,” despite an attack on their synagogue following Shabbat-morning services on March 11.
It was a little before 1:30 p.m., and “most people had already left,” said Labkowski. “I was just putting a few things away when we heard a sound. At first, we thought maybe the wind blew something. It was an unusual sound. Then we heard an even stronger sound.”
Those initial noises were believed to be of the attacker toppling a 4-foot-by-8-foot plywood menorah that was outside the building. Then, said the rabbi, “the noise got louder and louder, and there were vibrations from the bricks being thrown” at the synagogue’s glass doors.
Labkowski recounted that he approached the glass doors thinking that if the attacker saw him coming, the person would leave. That didn’t happen. Instead, a man continued to throw bricks.
Those inside the Chabad center at the time, including the rabbi’s son, put the synagogue’s emergency plans into action, as their neighbors began to come to their aid.
“When the neighbors came out, that’s when he took off,” said Labkowski, but not before damaging the rabbi’s car, which was the only one in the lot at the time.
On Monday, the Cape Coral Police Department released a photo of the assailant’s vehicle—a light-green, older model Ford Edge—and a brief description of the attacker: a balding white male in his 50s, approximately 6-feet tall and 200 pounds wearing a white shirt, tan pants and glasses.
Labkowski and his family have lived in Cape Coral for more than 18 years and said that nothing like this has ever happened before. “This is a very nice neighborhood; people are kind and respectful, and I always get good vibes.”
“We are not going to be scared and will not cower,” he said. “We had a minyan yesterday and this morning. People are coming but being more cautious. Thank G-d, no one is holding themselves back. On the contrary, people want to show their Jewishness—that this will not scare us.”
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