FRAMINGHAM – Rabbi Allison Poirier of Temple Beth Sholom in Framingham said the support for the Conservative congregation through hundreds of texts and emails has been “overwhelming” after the troubling discovery on a temple sign on Sept. 9.
That morning, two swastikas were found etched into the small wooden sign at the entrance to temple property. They were discovered by a woman who regularly walks her two dogs in the neighborhood. A police report said the woman “walked closer to the sign than normal and observed the [swastika] symbols.”
“We are saddened by this incident but overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support from our community,” Poirier said in an email to the Journal. The temple, which has about 150 members, also serves as home to the MetroWest Jewish Day School.
While the symbols were discovered during the High Holiday week between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Framingham police are unsure of exactly when they were scratched there.
A police incident report obtained by the Journal states that officers who responded “concluded that the damage looked like it was not fresh and had been done in the past sometime.”
“It is extremely troubling to discover a symbol of animosity toward the Jewish community in the midst of our high holiday season,” Poirier said in a statement. “The swastika represents a tragic and deadly chapter in our people’s history and is not to be taken lightly. I hope the perpetrator who carved this hateful symbol can understand the horrific images they have conjured for many of our community, including members of Temple Beth Sholom who are themselves survivors of the Holocaust and veterans who served in the U.S. military during the Second World War.”
The discovery comes on the heels of crime data released by the FBI showing a 6 percent increase in reported hate crimes, according to the Anti-Defamation League.
At the end of August, the ADL expressed alarm over the 2020 FBI Hate Crimes Data statistics, which showed “hate crimes targeting the Jewish community made up nearly 60 percent of all religion-based hate crimes.” Incidents reported by law enforcement agencies targeting the Jewish community in the U.S. fell from 953 in 2019 to 676 in 2020. The ADL called it “inexcusable” so many law enforcement agencies did not participate and called for increased reporting of hate crimes.
Lieutenant Rachel Mickens said Framingham police were called about 10 a.m. to the temple at 50 Pamela Road. The log said officers responded to a report of malicious destruction of property.
Mickens said officers found two swastikas had been carved in the sign, which is a small, blue wooden sign with gold trim that sits by the driveway entrance on the edge of woods and a walking trail.
News reports described the hate symbols as being hand-sized. Mickens said they do not have any information on who might have done this and the incident is under investigation. Those who may have information can call Framingham police at 508-872-1212.
Mickens said Framingham is a diverse community. “This is someone’s individual action,” she said, and not a reflection of the community.
Framingham Mayor Yvonne M. Spicer said in a statement: “Of course, this saddens me. Hate has no place in Framingham. Police officers already regularly patrol our Temples, and that effort will continue.”
“I’m saddened to see this demonstration of hate in our community,” Framingham school Superintendent Robert Tremblay said in a statement. “As human beings we should be able to count on one another for love, support, and encouragement and frankly, we should not accept anything less. Actions like this lead us to question our faith in humanity, yet we must use these moments to both denounce these hateful actions while also seizing the educational opportunity that comes when we raise awareness and find restorative ways to heal. This is not who we are in Framingham and we must hold each other accountable to be better human beings.”
“Look at all the people who have said this doesn’t belong here,” Rabbi Poirier said about the outpouring from other temples and members of the community. “They have immediately drowned out this one small voice,” added the rabbi, who has been the congregation’s spiritual leader since July 2019.
Poirier said temple leaders have been in touch with the ADL and the Combined Jewish Philanthropies’ security arm to make sure the temple’s security procedures are in order. She is not planning an event to mark what happened at this time, though she plans to speak about it in shul.
“Why dignify these people with such a response,” she said.