Only hours after a Saturday memorial service for the 11 slain victims of the Pittsburgh Synagogue massacre, a man walked to the doors of Messianic Synagogue Shaarei Shalom and, finding them locked, allegedly delivered a slew of anti-Semitic threats across the intercom.
The Cary, North Carolina synagogue was empty when 20-year-old William Josephus Warden rang the doorbell at 10:15 p.m. last Saturday night. The wireless system connected him with a staff member who answered it remotely. Local news source WRAL reported that’s when Warden allegedly unleashed a tirade of anti-Semitic threats, all too familiar to those heard in Pittsburgh the week before. Another local news outlet reports that Warden is the son of North Carolina Court Appeals Judge Lucy Inman.
"The rhetoric was very typical, anti-Semitic hate speech: Get out of the government, get out of Cary, get out of our country," said Messianic Rabbi Seth Klayman, leader of the congregation.
The law enforcement reaction was swift, and Warden was arrested the next day, according to the police report on charges of ethnic intimidation.
After his arrest, the local police and the FBI connected Warden with other hate incidents in Cary including a cross burning in Bond Park, just down the street from the synagogue and across from two churches, the night before the Tree of Life shooting. Information obtained from the police reports shows that Warden lived only five minutes or less from both the Synagogue and the park where he allegedly burned the cross.
In a post in the UMJC Forum Facebook group, Monique Brumbach, executive director of the UMJC (Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations), urged prayer for the Klaymans and the entire Shaarei Shalom community. In correspondence with UMJC congregations, Brumbach urged Messianic leaders to take security precautions. She noted:
These threats come at a time when Jewish communities across the nation are experiencing a wave of anti-Semitic attacks, including arson, vandalism, and vile graffiti. Nearly every Jewish denomination and sect has weathered hate crimes over the last week, including Reform, Orthodox, Chassidic, and Messianic communities.
In the wake of the Tree of Life shooting and other anti-Semitic incidents around the country, Warden’s actions seem to be more than an isolated incident, but his parents believe mental illness played a part.
“As Will’s parents, we could not be more saddened by the alleged conduct of our son on November third,” his parents said in a statement after his arrest. “Our observations and our communications with law enforcement lead us to believe that our son has been exploited by people whose agenda is completely opposed to the inclusive values we espouse and live.”
“As deeply concerned parents, we apologize profusely to the Jewish community and to all who have been impacted. And we are treating this situation with utmost seriousness.”
While his parents say that they believe a long history of mental illness plays a part, officers said Warden was motivated by the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, according to the arrest warrant. During his first hearing, Judge Eric Chasse asked that Warden undergo a mental evaluation and set Warden’s bond at $75,000 based on information from prosecutors that Warden may be connected to additional crimes.
Warden is next due in court on Dec. 10 and his two charges each carry a maximum sentence of 120 days in jail.
Rabbi Klayman, Shaarei Shalom’s leader, said they are grateful that the threat is being taken seriously and the incident will not dissuade their congregation. “This is not going to thwart us from continuing on our path of bringing good and light into our community," he said.