The Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia has received a “dramatic outpouring of support” in emails, phone calls, cards and donations totaling $8,000 since it was vandalized with anti-Semitic graffiti.
The good wishes and support in response to the April defacing of the building in Fairfax, and money from 100 donors, came from around the country, said Executive Director Jeff Dannick.
The support “was so much more powerful than the negativity of what happened to us,” he said.
In addition, it showed the importance of supporting other religious organizations locally.
The center was spray-painted with swastikas, lightning bolt symbols associated with Nazi Germany and other anti-Semitic graffiti on April 11, the first day of Passover. Fairfax County police arrested Annandale resident Dylan Mahone, 20, a day later in connection with the incident; he was charged with placing a swastika on religious property with intent to intimidate and related counts.
Schools and other groups including the “Local Love Brigade” — a Vermont-based organization that aims to console targets of hate — sent cards to express support, said Michelle Pearlstein, a development associate at the center.
The cards were “weighted toward the positive. People were writing to offset the negative in a very intentional way,” she said.
“Dear Jewish Community members,” one card began, “I’m writing from Oregon to share my love and support. … Please know that there is love and light in this world, and may the love and light shine on you.”
Another said: “Dear friends, it is heartbreaking to hear of hatred and violence against people of faith, people of color, people of God. Please know I love you and pray for your safety, your peace, your hearts.”
Dannick said he received calls from elected Virginia officials including Democrats Gov. Terry McAuliffe, and Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner and Republican Rep. Barbara Comstock (District 10).
The relationships formed with other faith leaders took on additional significance after the murder of Nabra Hassanen in June.
The 17-year-old Virginia resident was killed June 18 after leaving her mosque, the All Dulles Area Muslim Society, in Sterling. Police charged Darwin Martinez Torres, 22, with murder in connection with her death. The case is pending.
When Nabra was killed, “there was no question in my mind I had to be there for Rizwan [Jaka] and his community,” said Dannick, referring to a lay leader at Nabra’s mosque. An interfaith community vigil was held for Nabra in Reston later that same week.
Dannick also had befriended the Rev. David Lindsey of the Little River United Church of Christ, which was vandalized the same day — and allegedly by the same person — as the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia. The two have forged a new bond.
“We’re neighbors and friends,” Dannick said. “We have much more in common than we have different, and we now understand that.”