Jewish community fears vandals on holy day

Rash of swastika graffiti before previous holiday sparks concern

Posted: Thursday, September 27, 2001

Some people in Juneau's Jewish community are worried this Yom Kippur about a resurgence of anti-Semitic graffiti after it hit Juneau shortly before another Jewish holiday.

Chava Lee, president of the Jewish Community Board, said swastikas painted on nearly a dozen cars downtown Sept. 13, just days before the start of Rosh Hashana, are causing concern.

"These things happened right before Rosh Hashana and that's very disconcerting to me," Lee said. "A swastika is obscene but it is also an incredible symbol of hate. Not just toward Jews but toward freedom. ... People in the Jewish community are more cautious than people who haven't experienced this before."

Lee said her opinions are her own and she is not speaking for the entire Jewish community. Rosh Hashana is the beginning of the Jewish new year. Yom Kippur is the Jewish day of atonement.

Police Capt. Tom Porter said there are no suspects and no leads in the vandalism case, but the investigation is still open. He also said police did not plan special "security or surveillance" efforts because of the holy day.

"Officers are aware of what's taken place," he said. "We are asking people if they see anything suspicious to be a good witness and please let us know so we can look into and do something about it."

The Rev. Greg Lindsay of Northern Light United Church, a union of Methodist and Presbyterian faiths where the Jewish community holds its services, said people from the church would be available at the church today if the community needed them.

"We talked to those who were concerned about the incident and told them we would do anything they deemed necessary," he said. "We told them we'd be here for them if they needed us. But so far it's been business as usual."

Lee said she is concerned primarily because of the apparent coordination of hate graffiti across the Pacific Northwest, including Juneau.

The evening prior to the graffiti, Lee said, Brian Goldberg, regional director for the Anti-Defamation League in the Pacific Northwest, e-mailed people in the Jewish community warning of an anti-Semitic effort on and around Sept. 13. The e-mail also said the league had information the white supremacy group The Church of the Creator was planning a coordinated hate effort, Lee said.

"The next day the graffiti appeared on the cars in Juneau," Lee said. "It showed up in Eugene, in Seattle on a bridge and all through the Pacific Northwest. To me, to my mind these things are related. It's no coincidence this happened right before Rosh Hashana."

Due to the holiday Goldberg was unavailable for comment. But Porter said he is aware of the hate group and there is no evidence of their members in Juneau or their involvement in the vandalism.

Regardless of who is to blame, Lee said the message behind a swastika speaks for itself.

"Whoever it was, the community needs to look at this," Lee said. "If it's kids who did this there are families attached to these kids and schools attached to these kids and a community attached to these kids. The responsibility is ours to educate."

Melanie Plenda can be reached at mplenda@juneauempire.com.



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