‘He talked about hell … the devil’: Brighton Police charge man who terrorized Rosh Hashana at Temple B’rith Kodesh

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BRIGHTON, N.Y. – Two bomb threats and a man who terrorized a congregation in Brighton were among the threats against Jewish communities on one of the holiest weekends.

Brighton Police have identified the man who started yelling inside Temple B’rith Kodesh during the Rosh Hashana service Friday night. Christopher Avila, 31, of Farmington, was taken into custody on a warrant for disruption or disturbance of religious service, which is a misdemeanor, according to Brighton Police. He was arraigned and released, police said.

Security Friday had their attention on a man who walked into the temple. And moments later, the man had people screaming and running.

“Greeters greeted him. There was something about him that didn’t seem right,” said Mark Henderson, director of Jewish Community Security. “It was noted.”

Henderson said they use the “Hello” strategy that tracks body language and avoidance of eye contact.
The man was sitting in the middle, near the front.

Brean: “What was it about this person that didn’t seem right, that raised red flags when he walked into temple?”

Rabbi Peter Stein, Temple B’rith Kodesh: “I can’t quite put my finger on it but there was something about the way that he was walking through the crowd without engaging.”

Security was positioned near him. Then, just as the service was to begin, he got up and started yelling.

“And he talked about hell and he talked about the devil and it was clear that it was disruptive and it was clear that the intent was to disrupt,” Henderson said. 

Chief David Catholdi, Brighton Police: “We’ve positively identified him. We know who he is.”

Brean: “Did you know him in the past? Have you had encounters with him before?”

Chief: “He’s had prior law enforcement contacts.”

Brighton Police ask anybody who has seen Avila at their place of worship to contact Captain Jose Caraballo at (585) 784-5171.

Sunday, the rabbis at a temples in Geneva and one that shares space with a church in Fairport opened their email to find identical bomb threats.

The Sunday church service was evacuated.

Rabbi Ann Landowne, Temple Beth-El, Geneva NY: “It was very scary because it talked about there will be people lying in a pool of blood. So it was sort of graphic to alarm you but it also seemed like a hoax.”

Rabbi David Abrahams, Congregation Etz Chaim, Fairport: “We were targeted but they were affected. Anti-Semitism does not just affect Jews. It affects everybody and it spreads like a cancer.”

An Anti-Defamation League audit found an average of 10 anti-Semitic incidents in this country every day in 2022, the highest level since 1979.

Sunday, former President Donald Trump posted on his social media called Truth Social. Part of what he wrote read “A quick reminder for liberal Jews who voted to destroy America.”