Act of hatred or just an act?

LUZERNE TOWNSHIP, Pa. — The Barber family says neighborhood antagonists have poisoned their dogs, defaced their property with swastikas and tried to burn down their house. They claim they are under attack because they are Jewish.

“Have you ever seen ‘Deliverance?’ ” said Rollin “Mike” Barber, who equates his family’s situation with the movie depicting four city men who are terrorized by hoodlums from a backwater. “That’s what we’re up against.”

Residents of the Fayette County hamlets of Luzerne and Redstone say Dr. Barber’s claims are false and absurd.

“Every crime they have reported to the police has been staged. They’re doing it themselves,” said Henry Friend, 49, a resident of the area for 22 years.

Mr. Friend says the Barbers are trying to whip up public sympathy with their claims of ethnic intimidation. He contends that the real issue with the Barbers is not their Judaism, but their operation of a noisy kennel that has housed between 40 and 130 dogs.

Fayette County court records show that Dr. Barber’s wife, Paula, was convicted 15 times last year of causing excessive noise. Each case stemmed from complaints about the kennel, situated near the family home. Mrs. Barber is appealing, saying decibel readings show noise created by the dogs is minimal.

Mrs. Barber said many of the attacks on her home and animals seemed to coincide with court hearings. Her neighbors, though, said they have made a point of avoiding her, for fear that any innocent crossing of paths could lead to more allegations.

“She wants to make this an anti-Semitism issue, but the truth is that nobody cares what religion she is,” Mr. Friend said. “I guarantee nobody in this neighborhood has done a thing to them.”

Bruce Rechichar, 51, another neighbor, says he knows the Barbers only from zoning and court hearings about their kennel.

“I didn’t know they were Jewish and it didn’t matter to me,” he said. “I just want some peace and quiet.”

For her part, Mrs. Barber says she fears for her life and the lives of her relatives.

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