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Swastika, ethnic slur painted on door at Chabad on River

For the second time in less than a month, a Jewish synagogue in Tucson has been vandalized
Published: Jun. 8, 2021 at 12:28 PM MST|Updated: Jun. 8, 2021 at 9:19 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Another synagogue in Tucson was hit by vandals over the weekend.

This makes two in the last several weeks and it has left rabbis and the community on edge.

Members at Chabad on River started their week with a very unsettling and antisemitic message spray-painted across their door.

A member found the message that included a swastika and ethnic slur around 8 a.m. Monday when they were headed to a class. Leaders in the Jewish community said they won’t let this scare them.

“Our message to fellow Jews is, don’t be afraid of your Judaism,” said Rabbi Yehuda Ceitlin, of Chabad Tucson. “This is not the time to back down, this is not the time to be afraid, this is not the time to be embarrassed of who you are.”

The center’s director, Rabbi Ram Bigelman, said whoever did this also cut a hole in the fence behind the synagogue.

“It’s very disturbing, we feel unsafe, and we’re really not sure what’s going on here,” Bigelman said.

Bigelman said this is not the first time his synagogue has been targeted, estimating at least 10 other times in the last several years something similar has happened. Just a few weeks ago, a rock was thrown through a glass door at Congregation Chaverim in May.

“Sadly, it’s a new reality we’re living. We’ve seen this rise across America,” said Ceitlin. “We’re one more sadly.”

The Anti-Defamation League reports a sharp rise in antisemitism after tension arose between Hamas and Israel. Between May 7-14, they report 17,000 tweets used variations of the phrase “Hitler was right.” The organization also said antisemitic incidents were up from 131 reports the week before the conflict, to 193 the week after the crisis began.

The Jewish Federation and Jewish Community Foundation of Southern Arizona released a statement together that said in part, “horrendous antisemitic acts will not be tolerated and there is no place for hatred in our community.”

“We call upon our allies, neighbors, and fellow Tucsonans to stand with us in combating heinous acts of intimidation, hatred, and antisemitism. The rights to assemble and worship in peace and safety are cornerstones of American democracy. Engagement with the Southern Arizona community to prevent and eliminate hate in all its manifestations will continue to be a priority for the Federation and Foundation and all of our partners,” said Graham Hoffman, president and CEO of Jewish Community Foundation of Southern Arizona in an email statement.

The Tucson Police Department said the incident was being investigated as vandalism, concerning Ceitlin who said it was clearly a hate crime. TPD is looking for any connections to other crimes in the area and asking for the public’s assistance.

Later Tuesday, Tucson Mayor Regina Romero confirmed that the incident is now being investigated as a hate frim. The synagogue said the FBI has also been in touch.

“The person that did this or the people that do such things are motivated by very strong feelings of hate, obviously ignorance as well, my question is what happens next, and that’s what I’m really concerned about,” Ceitlin said.

The synagogue said it will be increasing security, as will others around town.

Several others tweeted about the incident. Arizona Gov. Goug Ducey tweeted, “This is terrible. Anti-Semitism has NO place in Arizona and this behavior cannot be tolerated. We are ensuring the authorities are aware of this hateful act. Those responsible must be held accountable. Arizona stands with those of the Jewish faith.”

Meghan McCain Retweeted the Governor and Arizona Representative Alma Hernandez (D), who said in part, “When it happens to one, it happens to all of us. The amount of Jewish hate isn’t shocking. The silence is. This is NOT my #Tucson.”

Tucson Mayor Regina Romero also tweeted about the incident, saying, this is an absolutely disgusting display of hate and antisemitism. This will not be tolerated in our diverse and welcoming city. I ask all Tucsonans to join me in standing up and raising awareness on antisemitism in all of its forms.”

You can donate to help with the repairs by going HERE.

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