A Texas Jewish community was rocked by what law enforcement is investigating as a hate crime. Unmistakable widespread anti-Semitic vandalism defaced a subdivision and the neighboring Orthodox synagogue, tagging property with hateful ethnic slurs, curse words, “KKK,” and worse.
In northwest San Antonio, residents woke up on Wednesday morning to find the widespread anti-Semitic vandalism right at their doorsteps. Approximately 30 homes, city structures, vehicles and Congregation Rodfei Sholom, the Jewish synagogue, were the targets of hateful spray-painting and other acts of vandalism.
KSAT-12, the ABC affiliate, reported that cleaning crews spent all Wednesday morning power-washing gates, fences, walls, and monuments to erase all evidence of the anti-Semitic attack.
Some of the graffiti was so vile, it was too offensive to show online, according to KENS-5. A house gate fence with “KKK” emblazoned on the wood, an SUV with “Jew!” spray painted on the driver side door; a black swastika on a utility box and swastikas on the sides of a commemorative stone in a memorial garden were all images the local CBS outlet felt within reason to post. A sizeable rock smashed through one SUV window and remained in the driver’s seat.
The community discovered the hate messages after morning prayers. It rattled the residents.
“We noticed swastikas and right away we understood,” said the congregation’s senior Rabbi Aryeh Scheinberg to KENS-5.
One gentleman said, “It’s a reminder some things don’t change.”
The damage was extensive. KSAT-12 reported that many community members realized that the perpetrators took their time, potentially spending hours spreading their venomous words. Many suspected the neighborhood was, indeed, targeted not because the street leads to the synagogue but because so many people who live there are Jewish. The San Antonio Express-News reported that the anti-Semitic vandals hit a second neighborhood nearby.
Although Rabbi Scheinberg was in disbelief and heartbroken, he told news crews, “Hate is something that happens in every generation, wherever it happens to be, but so does love. And love will overpower hate and the good will destroy the evil.”
He also received an outpouring of support from local church leaders like San Antonio-based Pastor John Hagee from Cornerstone Church, who came to the synagogue immediately.
“An attack on the synagogue is an attack on every Christian church in this city,” Hagee told news media. He urged San Antonio police and residents to do everything they can to bring those responsible to justice.
Wednesday evening, Hagee alerted Christians United for Israel (CUFI) members of the incident by email blast. He called this “anti-Semitic attack and assault on both Christians and Jews. This act of hatred is an affront on all people of faith. Anti-Semitism is an abomination and we must unequivocally confront it whenever and wherever it is found.”
On Wednesday, Lt. Dan Patrick issued a statement. He said, “Today’s discovery of racially-targeted and anti-Semitic vandalism in a San Antonio Jewish community is unacceptable and will not be tolerated in Texas.”
He added, “This criminal and cowardice act has no place in any Texas community. I denounce the religious persecution that has taken place and I am confident the San Antonio Police Department will find those responsible for the delinquency and hold them accountable.”
KSAT-12 reported that Rep. Joaquin Castro said: “The ugly vandalism targeting San Antonio’s Jewish community is saddening and disgraceful. This intolerance has no place in our city. San Antonio’s diversity is what makes our community so vibrant and special. Our differences should be celebrated, not attacked.”
San Antonio has the third largest Jewish population in the state of Texas. Congregation Rodfei Sholom has about 300 families as members.
An anti-Semitic crime has not been reported in San Antonio in the past two years, according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), a national Jewish organization that tracks anti-Semitism in its many forms including hate crimes.
ADL Associate Director Dena Marks told the San Antonio Express-News that “while anti-Semitic or racist graffiti is not out of the ordinary in the U.S., Wednesday’s neighborhood-wide vandalism seems to be larger in scale than what is normally reported.”
In 2014, the ADL recorded a 21 percent increase in anti-Semitic acts committed in the U.S. from the year before. Of the 912 anti-Semitic incidents last year, five were reported in the ADL’s Southwest Region, the majority which happened in the Houston.
The San Antonio Police Department continues to investigate. No details on potential suspects were released.
Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.