A synagogue in Seattle was vandalized with anti-Israel messaging on Sunday, the eve of Holocaust Remembrance day, the Seattle Police said in a release Wednesday.
“This was a coordinated and focused attack,” said Senior Rabbi Daniel Weiner, of Temple De Hirsch Sinai on Capitol Hill, who believes the timing of the attack was no coincidence.
Footage from the Temple De Hirsch Sinai shows two individuals equipped with backpacks and paint vandalizing the façade of the temple’s old sanctuary – which is now gone, leaving an open plaza in its place, Weiner told CNN. Temple leaders are currently working with the FBI and Seattle Police Department to find the suspects.
Seattle Police released the video of the two suspects in a statement and is requesting the public’s help to identify them.
The incident also comes days before Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s independence celebration, and less than a month before Jewish Heritage Month.
Cameras and fences were installed six years ago when another incident of vandalism occurred around the same area of the temple. Vandals spraypainted “Holocaust is Fake History” several months after former President Donald Trump took office, CNN reported.
The antisemitic graffiti from Sunday was kept up for several days before they covered it up, according to Weiner.
“It’s incredibly important that we in the community bear witness to the fact that not only do these things happen, but there are people that – not only do people feel these things and have these views, but they are willing to criminally act upon them,” he said.
Now, it has been covered with paint and primer to make way for a redemptive mural done by local teen artists as an effort to sanctify the space, the same measure that they took six years ago, said Weiner.
“We’re looking to do that again because what we’re hoping to do is really transform what would otherwise just be an act of terror,” he said.
One of the silver linings, Weiner says, is the outpouring of support from civic and community leaders who affirmed that the Jewish community is accepted and supported in Seattle.
Mayor Bruce Harrel tweeted: “We will not tolerate anti-Semitism in Seattle — we must all speak out against this disgusting act of violence.”
While other temples in the area have experienced minor incidents, Temple De Hirsch Sinai says they experienced the brunt of Seattle’s antisemitism.
“We are the largest, most visible, kind of iconic and historic Jewish institution [in Seattle],” Weiner said. “And certainly the most visible Jewish institution to remain in the urban core of the city.”
The community is resilient, he said, but their reaction to the incident is two-fold.
“One is a sense of pride and resistance and not wanting those who are doing these things to achieve their goals, which is to try to silence and intimidate us,” says Weiner. “But the other feeling is that people are feeling that this is an uncomfortable confirmation of what we are learning about and also experiencing in the broader culture, which is a significant rise in antisemitism.”
Antisemitism grows nationally
Last year, Seattle Police reported 33 incidents of bias crimes targeted towards religious groups. Over 75% of those incidents were targeted at the Jewish community.
Nationally, the Anti-Defamation League reported 3,697 antisemitic incidents throughout the United States in 2022, marking a 36% increase from 2021. Of those incidents, 589 occurred at Jewish institutions, the organization said. They also reported that this is the third annual record for hate incidents in five years.
“Unfortunately, [antisemitism] is persisting and I don’t know that [the attack] was met with surprise,” Regina Friedland, Director of the American Jewish Committee in Seattle told CNN. “I think that many in the Jewish community want this event not to go unnoticed and let people see that hatred and how much more work we need to do as a community.”