The Seattle synagogue Temple De Hirsch Sinai was vandalized with graffiti saying “The Holocaust is fake history.” Its rabbi responded: “We’re not going to allow those who terrorize us to define us.”
A synagogue in the Capitol Hill neighborhood was vandalized overnight Thursday with anti-Semitic, Holocaust-denying graffiti, said Rabbi Daniel Weiner of Temple De Hirsch Sinai.
A Seattle police officer discovered the spray-painted message Friday morning on the old sanctuary’s facade.
“It says, ‘The Holocaust is fake history,’ ” Weiner said. The “s” characters in the graffiti are dollar signs, Weiner said.
“It really is a toxic mix of Holocaust denial, the stereotypical charge that Jews are obsessed with money, and the notion coming from the (President Trump) administration that all facts are fungible … fake facts, fake history,” Weiner said.
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Police also investigated a box deemed suspicious because it was found outside a door at the synagogue where deliveries are not made, said Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole, who went to the scene. The box contained books that someone had donated to the synagogue, police said.
Shortly after the discovery of the graffiti, a neighbor hung a bedsheet saying “Love Wins” over the markings, Weiner said.
“It was a very sweet gesture and touching, but we took it down … I think it’s extremely important that people see this.”
Weiner said the Seattle police are investigating the incident as a hate crime. He said he’d been hearing all morning from people who worship at the temple.
“People are incredibly hurt and upset. But most of the calls I’ve gotten, all of the calls have been supportive, but most have been defiant,” he said.
“We are going to do our due diligence in terms of security,” Weiner said. “At the same time, we’re not going to allow those who terrorize us to define us.”
Rash of threats in U.S.
Federal officials have been investigating more than 120 threats since Jan. 9 against Jewish organizations in three dozen states and a rash of vandalism at Jewish cemeteries.
On Feb. 27, a bomb threat forced evacuation of the Stroum Jewish Community Center on Mercer Island.
Seattle Police Department spokesman Patrick Michaud said officers will be patrolling the area around the temple when they have extra time between 911 calls.
Michaud said police did not have a suspect.
Bias incidents have been rising in Seattle since at least 2012, according to Seattle Police Department statistics. Last year, 255 such incidents were reported to police.
Top police officials had met with temple leaders as recently as Wednesday to discuss concerns over hate crimes.
“With all that’s happening nationally … we want people in all of our communities to feel safe,” O’Toole said. “We’ve been meeting with people of this temple. We’ve been meeting with people in mosques around the city … we take these cases very seriously.”
Weiner said he has been at Temple De Hirsch Sinai for 16 years. He said the synagogue has experienced “minor vandalism” before and received a threatening phone call after the election.
But, “in my time, there’s been nothing like this,” Weiner said.
Since the election, Weiner said he believes people who were “previously marginalized or silenced now feel newly empowered” to express hateful sentiments.
This is “still America”
“The majority of us need to push back against that and convey that America is still America … there’s no place for hate or tolerance of toxic expression.”
Other communities are also being threatened, Weiner said. “This is a considerable and conspicuous upsurge in attacks on all vulnerable minority populations,” he said.
Weiner said he and other faith leaders had already been scheduled to meet with U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell on Friday afternoon to discuss the rise in hate crimes and possible solutions.
“It’s a little more imminent and urgent than I had hoped it would be,” he said.
Weiner never made it to the meeting. It was announced that he was on his way, but he got news of the suspicious package and had to turn back.