It must have been a shock to walk by Shaare Torah Congregation in Gaithersburg last Tuesday morning and see the outer walls covered by spray-painted swastikas and other offensive graffiti.
But as violated as the building appeared, there were no broken windows and the inside was untouched. By the end of the day, the walls had been largely cleaned. There was other good news.
According to reports, it was the police who noticed the vandalism as a patrol car made a routine swing through the Lakelands neighborhood. They took the act seriously and began an investigation.
The media took the vandalism seriously, too, and broadcast word of the act from inside the synagogue building. When leaders of other faiths heard about the crime, they responded with sympathy and in solidarity.
“Targeting a house of worship with symbols of hatred and violence is a despicable act,” Ibrahim Hooper, national communications director of the Muslim group CAIR, said in a statement.
Sitting in his office the afternoon of the attack, Rabbi Jacob Blumenthal was keeping the incident in proportion. A swastika attack during Passover is the stuff of sermons. But the only larger meaning he permitted himself was to mention that he and the synagogue’s president had been at the Gaithersburg City Council the night before as Mayor Jud Ashman proclaimed Days of Remembrance for the Holocaust to surround Yom Hashoah on April 16.
“This is an isolated person or group,” Blumenthal said of the vandals with spray paint. “The fabric of diversity in the county and the city is strong.”
Ultimately, the takeaway is not that vandals had targeted a synagogue, but that the greater community had chosen to remember the past and act in the present. That’s the way it should be done.