Scrawled across a white label marking the collection times of a blue United States postal box in Bethesda is the ominous message, “JEWS=WAR + MONEY.”
Spotted by a Washington Jewish Week reader on Thursday, the anti-Semitic graffiti – barely visible to anyone but those who use the mailbox on Chelsea Lane by Wisconsin Avenue – is expected to be removed quickly, as is generally the policy whenever hate words are written in public places.
Neither Montgomery County Police nor the United States Postal Service was aware of the message on the mailbox, and a spokesperson for the county police said that no similar incidents in Bethesda have been reported.
But anti-Semitic graffiti has been seen recently in Washington, D.C. “Five times in the last few weeks,” such graffiti was observed, said Ron Halber, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington. In one case, an anti-Semitic message was written in Arabic on an American flag pole, he said. Another incident involved anti-Semitic words with Jewish stars, Halber said.
Once the JCRC becomes aware, “we alert the police and the department of public works,” he said. The idea is to remove the hate language as quickly as possible, he explained.
“We want the perpetrators to know that it’s not worth it,” he said. “We do fight this very aggressively. Any offense, we handle with strength and honor,” Halber said.
The postal service also takes graffiti seriously and works to remove it quickly, said spokesperson Laura Dvorak.
Once a hate message is noticed, the postal service’s maintenance department is sent out to repair the mailbox, she said. Sometimes it is a simple matter of repainting and other times the collection box has been so disfigured it has to be repaired, she said.
While Halber said each incident is treated seriously, he believes that “most of the time we find it’s just someone wanting attention more than anything else.”
Last spring, two teenagers were arrested and charged with three incidents of anti-Semitic graffiti in Potomac and Rockville.