Congregations demonstrate against hate graffiti

Members of Ohev Sholom – The National Synagogue gather at the Episcopal Church of Our Savior in Silver Spring to show support following the church being vandalized with the words “Trump Nation Whites Only.” Photo by Reuven Walder

Several religious congregations have condemned the spate of anti-Semitic and racist graffiti across Montgomery County and the country as a whole, since the election of Donald Trump as president.

“Now is the time for families and individuals to stand firmly against intolerance, intimidation and indifference,” read a statement issued by Congregation Beth El of Montgomery County, St. Mark Presbyterian Church, Bethesda Presbyterian Church, Bethesda United Methodist Church, St. John’s Episcopal Church and North Bethesda United Methodist Church. “Symbols of hate and words of bigotry have no place in public discourse and certainly not in our schools.”

The letter follows the Episcopal Church of Our Savior in Silver Spring being vandalized last weekend with the words, “Trump Nation Whites Only.”

“The reason that the churches and synagogues came together on this is to send a very clear message to the broader community that intolerance won’t be tolerated,” said Rabbi Greg Harris of Congregation Beth El of Montgomery County. “Symbols of hate are not acceptable forms of speech. We will stand united with each other and with our schools and wherever these actions take place in our community.”

Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld, Maharat Ruth Balinsky Friedman and 35 members of Ohev Sholom – The National Synagogue, met at the church on Monday in a solidarity gathering.

“This is not right! Regardless, of political affiliation and beliefs, nobody should live in such fear. We must fight these actions,” Reuven Walder, a member of Ohev Sholom who attended the solidarity gathering, posted on Facebook. “Let’s double down on compassionate listening, acceptance of one another and a willingness for people with different opinions to have civil discourse.”

Walder said Ohev Sholom members plan to return to the church this weekend to distribute ice cream to the children after mass as a way to show support.

Also in Silver Spring, a Black Lives Matter banner in front of Christ Congregational Church was repeatedly vandalized this year and on the night of the election, The Washington Post reported.

In Bethesda, images of swastikas were found in a boys’ bathroom at Westland Middle School, according to a letter sent to students and parents Nov. 11, WUSA9 reported. The bathroom was vandalized using an ink pen, pencil and glue sticks; it has since been removed, according to the letter.

An incident of racist graffiti also happened at Sligo Creek Elementary School in Silver Spring on Nov. 11, Walder said.

Montgomery County Council Member George Leventhal on Nov. 13 tweeted, “Will President-elect Trump call for a halt to incidents like these?” The tweet included pictures of the graffiti at the Episcopal church and elsewhere in the community.

When asked by “60 Minutes” in a post-election interview about the fear of harassment circulating in minority communities, Trump looked into the camera and told those harassing people to “stop it.”

Elsewhere, swastikas and other anti-Semitic graffiti have been reported in South Philadelphia, upstate New York and Manhattan, several media outlets have reported.

A Montana synagogue requested police protection after American Nazi fliers were distributed in residential areas of Missoula, JTA reported.

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