This morning I discovered a swastika painted on a statue outside the Temple Beth Hatfiloh building. This is the letter I sent out to my congregation community.
This morning I arrived at TBH to find a swastika painted on the statue that graces the entrance to our offices.
Earlier this morning I read an article about how one of the bishops in Greece is blaming the Jews not only for the troubles of the Greek economy but for the increase in support for same-sex marriage, which he vehemently opposes. A recent study documented how Jews are still the number one target of hate crimes in this country. Anti-Semitism is alive and well, and we as Jews need to be mindful and cautious.
We are living in difficult times. These are times when racism is again rearing its ugly head. Islamophobia, both in the form of hateful rhetoric and attacks on Muslims, is entering the mainstream. Talk of immigration devolves into stereotyping and fearmongering. Expressions of exclusion and bias are being normalized.
I do not know who is behind this particular incident, whether this is done with malicious intent related to these trends or mindless pranksterism. We have experienced vandalism recently stretching back a few weeks, primarily our exterior courtyard outlet being broken several times, which we have subsequently removed. Graffiti has adorned our walls in the past. Indeed, the statue also had eyes and teeth drawn on it. But whatever the reason, a swastika is not mere vandalism-it is a symbol of hatred with deep resonance with Jews, and shakes us to our core, especially in a community in which we are constantly reminded of our minority status. (And this is the first instance of a swastika being drawn on the synagogue in recent history.)
I have taken photos of the graffiti and filed a report with the Olympia Police Department, which is rightfully labeling this a hate crime. I have alerted our partners through Interfaith Works and Unity in the Community about the incident. And I have been in touch with the artist, Simon Kogan, for guidance on how to best clean the statue without damaging it.
And I will say again as I have in the past, that in the face of hatred, we must continue to do what we always do: to live our lives as Jews out loud and in meaningful ways, to commit ourselves to our Jewish community and to Jewish continuity, to engage with our greater community, to perform acts of social justice and to stand up for those who are similarly oppressed. It is in this way that those who seek to marginalize us, those who seek to threaten us, those who seek to inspire fear in us will not succeed.
Rabbi Seth Goldstein