(JTA) — Over the course of a week, three synagogues across the United States were tagged with anti-Israel and antisemitic graffiti.
The vandalism follows weeks of similar defacement at a variety of American Jewish sites, including cemeteries, Chabad Jewish centers, and Jewish buildings on university campuses. The incidents occurred more than a month into the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, which has come alongside a reported spike in antisemitism nationwide.
The recent vandalism targeted synagogues affiliated with three different religious denominations. In Washington state, the FBI is investigating anti-Israel vandalism on Nov. 22 at Herzl-Ner Tamid, a Conservative synagogue in the Seattle suburb of Mercer Island. About 20% of the island’s households identify as Jewish, the Seattle Times reported.
The graffiti, which was spray-painted in red and black in several places across the exterior of the synagogue, included phrases such as “Stop killing,” “Shame on Israel” and “You know better.” The incident follows an FBI investigation into the delivery of suspicious packages to at least five Jewish institutions in the Seattle area. Four of the five envelopes contained white powder, and all five have been determined to be non-hazardous, according to the Seattle Times.
Over Thanksgiving weekend, B’nai David-Judea Congregation, an Orthodox synagogue in Los Angeles, was also the site of anti-Israel graffiti reading, “Israel bombs, we pay,” according to a post by Forward reporter Louis Keene on X. A representative of the synagogue did not respond to a Jewish Telegraphic Agency request for comment.
And on Nov. 21 at Romemu, a Jewish Renewal congregation on New York’s Upper West Side, a vandal left antisemitic and white supremacist symbols on the door last Tuesday, including a swastika, a hammer and sickle, a Star of David, and multiple Ks, presumably a reference to the Ku Klux Klan, among other symbols. Law enforcement identified the perpetrator as a person with cognitive impairment who was already known to the police,and said the individual posed no further threat.
The graffiti has already been removed, and in an email sent to community members on Wednesday, Romemu executive director Jeffrey Cahn and Rabbi David Ingber said the incident had already been reported to the NYPD’s hate crimes unit, UJA-Federation’s Community Service Initiative and the ADL.
“These symbols of hate will not deter us from our mission of love, acceptance, and understanding,” Cahn and Ingber wrote in an earlier email Tuesday, alerting the community of the incident. “We are resolute in our commitment to building a world where prejudice has no place, and where the power of compassion and unity prevails.”
This week has seen more vandalism of a Jewish sacred space. On Monday afternoon, a Boston man was charged with multiple counts of destruction of property, destruction of a place of worship, and defacing a burial site for vandalizing the New England Holocaust Memorial in that city as well as the graves of Paul Revere and 19 others.
The acts of vandalism come amid what law enforcement and Jewish security agencies say is a rise in anti-Jewish activity. The Anti-Defamation League reported a 388% rise in antisemitic incidents in the United States between Oct. 7 and Oct. 23 compared with the previous year. Between those dates, 190 out of 312 recorded antisemitic incidents were “directly linked to the war in Israel and Gaza” the ADL’s Center on Extremism reported.