See article in Washington Post

On a sunny Tuesday morning, Aug. 19, 1999, my synagogue was violated by
 a vicious hate crime. A package of medical waste emblazoned with swastikas
had been tossed into our parking lot the night before. I walked out to the
 corner of the lot. Our custodians had already cordoned off the area with
 traffic cones, as if to contain the contamination — not of the bloody syringes
 and tubes that were dumped, but of the swastikas themselves. They were
 crudely drawn in marker, small, almost dainty spiders, like the stick-figure
 drawings a first-grader brings home.
Only later did I feel the anger. My first sensation, astonishingly, was just the
opposite. For the first time in my life, I felt utterly connected to the essence
 of the Jewish condition. Suddenly the eternal dialogue between God and
the Jewish people now ran through me. I was no longer a bystander. I had
become, in the eyes of at least one crazed individual, the Other.
Recall that world of mid-1999. It was a summer of fear all across America,
but particularly for Jews. In the shadow of the Columbine massacre lurked
the figure of Dylan Klebold, grandchild of proud Jewish community bene
factors in Ohio who became not a Jew but a hater of Jews, who admired
Hitler and white supremacists. Then there was Buford Furrow, who
attempted to murder Jewish preschoolers in Granada Hills, Calif.,
then proudly turned himself in proclaiming, “I killed the Jewish
 children.” To those outrages were added the torching of synagogues in Sac
ramento and Long Island.
What happened in my parking lot seemed to fit perfectly into this pattern of
hate crimes. And the leadership of Stamford and its surrounding towns —
places already burdened with a checkered history of intolerance — was
determined to respond proactively.
I was exceedingly moved by these gestures. I recall sitting at the rally
listening to the speeches of love and support for Jews, imagining how history
 could have been changed if this same scene had played out in Germany in
1933. Not to compare Heidelberg and Munich to Greenwich and Darien, but
I could not help but wonder how miraculous it is — and how simple — that
former bastions of prejudice can so quickly be turned into citadels of sym
pathy. It was if the person who intended to defile our sacred space had in
stead brought about a mass communal exercise in atonement.
But that viewpoint on the incident was short-lived. Several weeks later, the
 perpetrator was apprehended — and shockingly, he turned out to be a Jew.
Not only that, but at one time he had been a member of my own congrega
tion. Alan Lorenz was a salesman of containers used to dispose medical
waste and, through some bizarre logic, he had apparently perpetrated this
outrage as a publicity stunt to improve business.
But Amalek is always one of us, I now realize, because something of Amalek
 resides within each of us.  The battle against hate is internal as much as
Ironically, Lorenz was charged with the federal civil rights crime of
obstructing persons in the free exercise of their religious beliefs. In fact, his
act had brought people to a deepened awareness of their faith attachments.
Service attendance increased substantially after the incident.
He had also clarified for us the battle lines, redrawn every generation,
between victim and villain. Everything was crystal clear, that is, until his
identity became known. I could feel myself backpedaling as I told the local
reporter that “we still must fight bias, whatever the source,” but my
discomfort was acute. It was embarrassing.
I can’t exactly dedicate this to Alan Lorenz, but, with this week’s arrest in
Israel in mind, maybe his death can come to have a purposefulness that
eluded him in life. Before I knew his identity, I turned Lorenz into a devil
that he never was. The lessons I learned then are worth recalling now.
Perhaps I was also too quick this time to assume that the perpetrator
making threatening phone calls to Jewish Community Centers was a white
supremacist or an Islamic State-inspired extremist — and maybe the
surprising facts present an opportunity for healing here in America. Maybe
President Trump can ask in this moment that our society steer away from
hate, rather than barrage the reeling Jewish community with a fusillade of
“I told you so.”
And perhaps my sense of betrayal and anger must be accompanied by a
new resolve to address the widening gap between Israelis and American
Jews. This is a moment of profound sadness for both Jewish communities
— we need to ask how our cruel stereotypes of other Jews might have led
this teen astray.
I have come to realize that the line between victim and villain is not so easy
 to draw. It’s squiggly and amorphous. Kind of like a chalk-drawn swastika
after a few days of rain.