Pro-Israel banners outside two Montgomery County synagogues were reportedly vandalized. The signs were slashed last weekend at Congregation Har Shalom in Potomac and Congregation Beth El of Montgomery County in Bethesda.
Har Shalom’s banner read “Har Shalom Supports Israel” and had been out on display for years, according to Rabbi Adam Raskin. But on Monday, a congregant noticed that the sign had been cut out of its frame.
“Whatever people’s criticism of Israel may be, when you act in a way that is meant to intimidate Jews and Jewish institutions, that is not a way of having a public discussion about policy,” Raskin said. “That is an act of antisemitism.”
Congregation Beth El’s pro-Israel banner also had been up for years without incident, according to Henry Feller, the synagogue’s executive director. The sign read “We support Israel in its struggle for peace and security.” Last Friday a congregant discovered a huge gash through the word “Israel” in the sign. Feller said his initial reaction to the damage was a “combination of anger and insult.”
The vandalism at Beth El was caught on surveillance camera and occurred around 11 a.m. on May 26. The footage has been handed over to police, Feller said.
Both incidents have been reported to the Montgomery County Police Department. Feller said the congregation has ordered a replacement banner. Raskin said he also plans to replace his banner.
In the meantime, Har Shalom’s preschool students have drawn their own banners and put them up in place of the missing banner. They will be on display until the new banner arrives.
While the sign is gone, Raskin said his congregation’s support of Israel, which the sign meant to telegraph, remains unchanged.
“Israel doesn’t get a lot of support from the international community. So like many synagogues, we felt like it was important to make that public statement,” Raskin said. “We believe in Israel’s right to exist and the right to defend itself from aggression and attack.”