A Seattle synagogue was tagged with anti-Israel graffiti. It left the vandalism up to make a point.


(JTA) — A Seattle congregation that was vandalized with anti-Israel graffiti the day before Holocaust Remembrance Day left up the message for more than a day as a reminder of the hate that still exists in the world, its rabbi said.

It’s a familiar scene for Temple De Hirsch Sinai, the last major Jewish congregation located in the city’s once-heavily Jewish Capitol Hill neighborhood, just up the hill from its downtown and historic Pike Place Market. The historic Reform synagogue had also been tagged with antisemitic graffiti six years ago. 

The synagogue said the latest vandal spray-painted a number of phrases and imagery on Sunday night. The messages were put up in a fenced-off part of the congregation, meaning the perpetrator had to breach synagogue property to leave them, and security cameras captured the act on video.

Among the messages left on the property: a Star of David, the word “apartheid,” a phrase that appears to read “Israel has lied,” and a face with “Im [sic] still here” written underneath.

“It was with great deliberation, great preparation,” Rabbi Daniel Weiner told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “They were very nonchalant and very deliberate about what they were doing. It was timed to be as hurtful as possible.”

The FBI and the local police department are investigating the incident, but Weiner said the temple didn’t clean up the graffiti right away. They wanted to remind the community about the present dangers of antisemitism.

“With people oftentimes downplaying its significance amongst the various ‘isms’ that are out there, I thought it was important to understand, even in deep-blue Seattle, that these feelings, these perspectives, exist,” Weiner said. “And people are willing to act on them in criminal ways.”

Back in 2017, the congregation had been vandalized with graffiti reading “Holocaust is fake history,” employing the dollar sign instead of an “s” as emblematic of a common antisemitic trope linking Jews to the idea of inventing the Holocaust for financial reasons. 

Then, too, Weiner made the decision to leave the graffiti up for a day before bringing in local “artistic teens” to cover it with colorful, positive murals. The temple erected a plaque commemorating those murals, which this week’s vandal ripped down — though the murals themselves were left untouched.

Weiner said he doubted the two incidents were perpetrated by the same person. He attributed the 2017 incident, with its invoking of the “fake news” phrase used frequently by former President Donald Trump, as “a more direct reflection of the Pandora’s box that the previous president reflected in our society.” He also doesn’t think the people targeting the temple have any connection to it, but are simply choosing “the most identifiably Jewish institution in the city” to reflect a hatred of Jews and Israel.

What has been clear to the congregation both times, Weiner said, is that the level of support they receive from the local community far outweighs the work of “marginalized haters.”

“We yet again are so incredibly grateful for the immense outpouring of support that confirms for us that the vast majority of people in our community stand with us,” he said.

The synagogue wasn’t the only one to be hit with graffiti on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day. The Greater Synagogue of Barcelona was also targeted with anti-Israel messages this week.