SPOKANE, Wash — Swastikas were painted on a Jewish temple on the South Hill Monday morning and Spokane police are trying to find out who is responsible.
This is the second time in recent years that Temple Beth Shalom has been vandalized. In 2014, a swastika was painted on a concrete wall during a service on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year for the Jewish community.
In a press release, Spokane Police Officer John O’Brien said the Temple Beth Shalom reported the anti-Semitic graffiti around 9:20 a.m. on Monday. When officers arrived on-scene they found one side of the building, along with a Holocaust memorial, damaged. O’Brien said officers spoke to employees, canvased the neighborhood for surveillance cameras and looked for evidence. Officers also collected paint samples from the building for evidence.
The synagogue’s surveillance camera system captured images of a lone white, male suspect. O’Brien said the man was wearing blue jeans, black boots, a dark colored jacket with hood, a dark colored beanie style stocking cap, black gloves, a red mask and sunglasses on his head.
Police are investigating the vandalism as malicious harassment and it falls under Washington’s definition of a hate crime.
"Our community is in shock and in grief, and trying to be strong," said Rabbi Tamar Malino, who has served at Temple Beth Shalom for five years.
"It's very difficult to know that there are people that hate you that much for being Jewish and have intention of expressing that," she added.
Although the attack is hurtful, Rabbi Malino said she wants the Jewish community in Spokane to continue pushing forward.
"It's very important for our community to continue living meaningful strong and Jewish lives and not be afraid continue being who we are," she said.
Leaders in Spokane, including Mayor Nadine Woodward, condemned the crime on Monday.
Spokane Police Chief Craig Meidl said in a statement:
“This action is reprehensible. There is no place for hate-mongering in our community. SPD takes this crime very seriously and is committed to doing everything possible to arrest the person or persons responsible. We will always stand with those who are the target of hate and bigotry.”
Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward's statement is as follows:
“Spokane is a community that welcomes different faiths and protects the ability of people to practice those beliefs safely and freely in their places of worship. The symbols and writings are disgusting and desecrate a place of worship and a memorial to those whose lives were lost during a hateful time in world history. The Spokane Police Department has dedicated numerous resources to the investigation of this hate crime. We speak on behalf of the community when we say this type of hate and divisiveness in our community will never be tolerated.”
Spokane NAACP President Kiantha Duncan also put out a statement on the organization's Facebook page:
"As President of NAACP Spokane I have been in communication with Leadership at Temple Beth Shalom. The Spokane NAACP stands with them now and forever against hate of any kind. We are one family."
Other religious groups in the Spokane area issued statements, including the Catholic Diocese of Spokane.
"The Diocese of Spokane condemns today’s act of anti-Semitic vandalism at Temple Beth Shalom. It is shocking to see our Jewish friends and neighbors targeted by this hateful action. The Church firmly “decries hatred, persecutions, displays of anti-Semitism, directed against Jews at any time and by anyone.”* Our prayers are with the Jewish community of Spokane."
The Dean of St. John's Episcopal Cathedral Heather VanDeventer also issued a statement:
"I am angry about and saddened by the anti-semitic and hateful vandalism spray painted on the walls of Temple Beth Shalom, sometime before Monday morning. We know that they have been attacked and had their building desecrated before. We also know that this attack, as those before it, are antithetical to the ways of Christ.
"We pray for our neighbors at Temple Beth Shalom. We pray for an end to anti-semitism and other expressions of hate which hurt and demean our siblings. We pray for continued strength, focus, and determination as we seek to walk in the Way of Love and to build the Beloved Community."
If you have any information that could help the investigation, you’re asked to call Crime Check at 509-456-2233 and reference incident #2021-20021312.