Congregation Har Shalom in Potomac is enhancing security after the second pro-Israel banner in two weeks was stolen from the synagogue’s property over the weekend.
The banner, which read “Har Shalom supports Israel,” was a replacement for an identical banner that was vandalized last week.
“This is an act of ignorance and hatefulness,” said Rabbi Adam Raskin on Monday morning.
Har Shalom is installing additional security cameras, said Raskin. He added that the synagogue is considering increasing outdoor lighting and hanging a third banner in a less accessible location to ensure another incident does not happen.
Both of the incidents were reported to local police. The banners are not visible to the synagogue’s existing cameras, Raskin said.
“We are absolutely changing that situation as we speak,” he said. “We’re not going to hang anything again until all of those cameras are installed and we’re trying to do that very quickly.”
The Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington (JCRC) offered to donate the cost of the third replacement banner.
“We stand with Har Shalom,” said executive director Ron Halber.
Shock was a common response within the Har Shalom community regarding the past two incidents, Raskin said.
“I think this is a wake-up call, frankly, as a reminder that nobody is immune from antisemitism,” he added.
Vandalizing a synagogue and intimidating Jewish people is “the definition of antisemitism,” Raskin said.
“You can’t cloak antisemitism in opposition to Israel. That doesn’t work in civil society,” he said.
Raskin said the incidents gave him a sense of defiance and determination. The rabbi said people from outside the synagogue suggested the congregation not draw attention to the incident. Har Shalom chose the opposite.
“This is an opportunity to stand strong with Israel and also to oppose, publicly and in whatever way we can, this cloaking of antisemitism in anti-Israel sentiment,” he said.