MIAMI BEACH, Fla. (WSVN) — A man accused of threatening the congregation of a Miami Beach synagogue over the weekend denied having made the incriminating remarks after returning to the scene of the incident late Tuesday afternoon.
Diego Chaar was arrested Sunday and is facing misdemeanor assault and stalking charges. When asked why he approached Orthodox Jews at Ohev Shalom Synagogue Saturday night with the purpose of converting them, Chaar replied, “I want to take them to paradise. I don’t want them to burn in hell for the rest of eternity. I feel like that they’re worshipping right now is nothing, it’s fake. It don’t exist, in my opinion.”
Rabbi Pinchas Weberman, the synagogue’s head rabbi for over 54 years and a chaplain for Miami Beach Police and Miami-Dade Police, said he remains concerned for his congregation’s safety after the suspect approached members of the congregation, including his son. “A group of young men were outside in the front area, the front lawn, sitting on the benches, and they were approached by somebody who was screaming, ‘Allahu akbar (‘God is great’ in Arabic). I’m gonna cut your heads off.’ He repeated that, and they went and called the police. They used the term that the terrorists used when they killed the infidels, and they threatened to cut their heads off.”
Miami Beach Police patrolled the synagogue Tuesday to ensure the safety of the congregation, but the stepped-up police presence did not stop Chaar from showing up outside the premises. He told 7News he has the “responsibility” to convert people to Islam, adding he converted while in prison.
Chaar, however, said he didn’t want to come across as he was forcing the congregation members to convert to Islam. “I don’t got to force it upon them, but I could offer them my insight, I could offer them what I think is the truth, is the right path to Heaven,” he said.
Chaar then denied having said he wanted to cut off the congregants’ heads. “Oh I did not say that,” he said.
Weberman said he now wants the case investigated as a hate crime. “I never like to over-exaggerate, and I don’t like to minimize, so what I do is, I report this to law enforcement agencies, those that I feel are responsible for it and those that I feel will take a professional approach to it and handle it,” he said.
The rabbi is also urging his community to be more cautious of any suspicious or harmful behavior. “I like the Jewish community to be aware of these things,” said Weberman. “It’s happened in certain places, which it was really a serious thing, and therefore, if they see anything suspicious, they should report it immediately.”