Anti-Semitic Vandalism at Historic Congregation Mikveh Israel in Philadelphia

August 14, 2020

Anti-Semitic scribbles were found on a sign posted outside Philadelphia’s historic Congregation Mikveh Israel on July 31. An employee found the anti-Semitic vandalism and reported the incident to the Philadelphia Police Department, which is investigating, the Jewish Exponent reported.

“Jews are Scum,” “Long Live Hitler” and a swastika were drawn on the sign which asks synagogue members and neighbors to abstain from feeding animals in the congregation’s grove of trees.

The congregation’s leader, Rabbi Albert Gabbai told the Jewish Exponent, “There is still, unfortunately, hatred in the hearts of people. And that hatred is many-faceted, in many ways. Anti-Jewish, anti-Black, anti-white, anti-whatever it is. Anti-somebody else. That’s hatred.”

After contacting the police, Rabbi Gabbai and other synagogue leaders informed congregants about the incident by email. As of last week, there still was no information available regarding a suspect. The synagogue does have its own security service, 24-hour cameras and regular police patrols. Philadelphians who live and work nearby often use of congregation’s wooded area for an outdoor lunch. “Our neighbors are wonderful,” Rabbi Gabbai commented and expressed doubt that the vandal is someone from the neighborhood.

According to Rabbi Gabbai, “In Judaism, we are forbidden to hate. Can you imagine if we are to hate openly? Much worse. That’s No. 1. No. 2, hatred has no color. We can have white people hating Black people, you can have Black people hating white people, you can have Black people hating Jews, white people hating Jews, but Judaism says, no hatred whatsoever. So racism is hatred, and racism against Jews is also hatred. We have to uproot hatred from our hearts. We have to teach love and never teach hatred.”

Known as the “Synagogue of the American Revolution,” Mikveh Israel is the oldest synagogue in Pennsylvania and the oldest continuously operating Jewish congregation in the United States, tracing its roots to 1740. Mikveh Israel counted many revolutionary war patriots among its early membership including Haym Solomon, who largely financed the Revolutionary War. Benjamin Franklin contributed to the building fund for the congregation’s first building.

Pennsylvania, along with several other US states, saw a record number of anti-Semitic hate crimes last year. According to the ADL, there were more than 100 anti-Semitic incidents in the state last year.

Last week, red swastikas were painted on the Kesher Israel orthodox synagogue in Pennsylvania’s capital city of Harrisburg.

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Category:United States