As parents arrived early Monday morning to drop their kids off for summer camp at the B’Nai Shalom Synagogue in Olney, Md., they were greeted by a derogatory name for Jews spray-painted on the building.
“I started welling up with tears and tried to conceal it from our 3-year-old,” said concerned parent Laurie Blumstein.
But the anti-Semitic vandalism didn’t stop there. Swastikas were spray-painted across the entire building and sidewalk and German references to the Holocaust were found on lampposts even parking spots.
“The words ‘Arbeit Macht Frei,’ which translate to 'work will set you free,'” said Rabbi Ari Sunshine. “Those are the words that are written above the entrance to the Auschwitz concentration camp.”
“The remarks about Jews, the German writing, this was done by someone who knew German or was copying it from something," said synagogue member Elaine Senter. "I don’t think it was done by kids. It just was too perfect.”
Rabbi Sunshine believes the vandalism happened sometime overnight. Montgomery County police are investigating more than a dozen different slogans and symbols as a hate crime, including change found at the door, which Rabbi Sunshine believes insinuates Jews are money hungry.
As hurtful as the images and words are, the rabbi said, he decided not to have them painted over early Monday morning. He wanted his congregation and members of the community to see what happened to try to use the act of hate to bring the community together.
“If we just cover over the words and the symbols and get rid of it in the next hour or two hours, without a chance for people to come together and work at that and symbolically stand together as we remove these words, then a great teaching opportunity will have been lost,” the rabbi said.
The synagogue planned to hold a special service Monday night at 7:30 p.m. where the public is invited to talk about what happened and help with the clean up process.
Also in Olney, mailboxes of two residences in the 18500 block of Rolling Acres Way were spray-painted red. Several swastikas, the symbol “14/88,” and the symbol “SS” were spray-painted on the yards and trees at those residences. The “88” is sometimes a coded reference to Heil Hitler, as each word begins with the eight letter of the alphabet, and the “14” is thought to stand for the number of words in a white supremacist credo.
Anyone with information about the vandalism should contact police at 240-773-5330.
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