Swastika Scrawled on Olympia Synagogue

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A Swastika was scrawled on a statue on the grounds of Temple Beth Hatfiloh in Olympia, WA. Photo Credit: Rabbi Seth Goldstein.

“This morning I discovered a swastika painted on a statue outside the Temple Beth Hatfiloh”, these were the words used  by a shaken Rabbi Seth Goldstein to inform his Congregants of what had transpired outside their Olympia synagogue this Tuesday.  While there have been past acts of vandalism at Beth Hatfiloh, this was the first time in the Rabbi’s memory that the vile symbol was scrawled upon their house of prayer. “A swastika is not mere vandalism-it is a symbol of hatred with deep resonance with Jews and shakes us to our core” wrote Rabbi Goldstein in a blog post.

A swastika is not mere vandalism-it is a symbol of hatred.

Olympia, home to Evergreen State College, is notorious for anti-Zionist extremism. Rachel Corrie, a radical activist accidentally killed in Gaza while standing in front of a moving Israeli bulldozer, is considered a hero by many in these parts. The community was ripped apart in recent years after a divisive boycott of Israeli goods was passed by a neighborhood food co-op. Several co-op members claim the boycott was achieved through stealthy parliamentary maneuvering. A lawsuit challenging the boycott continues to wind its way through the courts.

The rhetoric against Israel, here in the South Sound has been morphing into anti-Semitism.

In 2012 the Jewish proprietors of Kitzel’s Deli in Olympia claim they were threatened with a boycott if they continued to host pro-Israel speakers and programs. The Deli has since gone out of business. In 2010 a large outdoor menorah was toppled at the Olympia Chabad House, the words “Die Jew” were scrawled below in spray paint.

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Anti-Israel protesters in Olympia, WA.

Olympia residents Kent and Linda Davis believe that it is impossible to separate the relentless efforts at demonizing the Jewish state with ever increasing incidents of anti-Semitism. Says Kent,  “such heinous acts are not at all surprising, they are a natural product of the anti-Israel and resulting anti-Semitic cloud that hangs over Olympia”. Linda concurs, adding that “the rhetoric and false allegations being made against Israel, here in the South Sound have been morphing into the growing anti-Semitism we’ve been witnessing in Olympia. There is definitely a connection.”

In the face of hatred, we must continue to do what we always do: to live our lives as Jews out loud and in meaningful ways.

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Rabbi Seth Goldstein. Photo Credit: Rabbi S. Goldstein

In online comments, Beth Hatfiloh’s Rabbi Goldstein made an appeal for the community not to be intimidated by this attack. “In the face of hatred, we must continue to do what we always do: to live our lives as Jews out loud and in meaningful ways… It is in this way that those who seek to marginalize us, those who seek to threaten us, those who seek to inspire fear in us will not succeed.”

The Swastika at Beth Hatfiloh was scrawled on a statue located just outside the main entrance to the Olympia shul. “The swastika hasn’t yet been cleaned from the statue”. Rabbi Goldstein told The Olympian “because the statue is a piece of art – it needs to be cleaned carefully.” The newspaper also reported that law enforcement is investigating the incident and are treating it as a hate crime.

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