Rabbi reacts to arrest of suspect in string of crimes at houses of worship across Portland

Published: May. 8, 2022 at 10:16 PM PDT
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PORTLAND, Ore. (KPTV) – Portland police have arrested 34-year-old Michael Bivins after police said he was responsible for vandalizing three houses of worship across the city. Bivins faces multiple charges from criminal mischief to arson.

“It breathes a sigh of relief that someone who did these crimes against different houses of worship, Jewish and Muslim, purely through hatred is not going to be able to do that anymore,” Rabbi Michael Cahana said.

Cahana is the senior rabbi at Congregation Beth Israel in Northwest Portland. That synagogue was one of the three places targeted by Bivins. Cahana said everyone is relieved the person responsible has been caught.

“The sense of vulnerability that we felt when we saw Nazi language being written on the walls of our sanctuary was really overwhelming and as I said to you before we were not going to let words of hatred, deter us, keep us from our sanctuary,” he said.

He said throughout the week he and his congregation have received nothing but love and support from the community.

“We stood strong and resolute and since that time we’ve received words of support from political leaders and regular citizens who wanted to let us know those words of hate did not reflect did not reflect out community and we know that and believe that strongly,” he said.

Cahana said this is a stark reminder that these crimes need to be reported to law enforcement.

“I think most of us at the beginning of this week thought that these events were completely separate, isolated events happened coincidentally around the same time and now law enforcement feels very confident these were perpetrated by the same individual and they only that because everybody gave the evidence and reported these crimes,” he said.

Bivins has been booked into the Multnomah County Detention Center.