Mezuzah Removed From Doorpost of Jewish Family’s Home in Philadelphia in Potential Hate Crime
September 29, 2021
A mezuzah was removed from the doorpost of a Jewish family’s home in downtown Philadelphia this summer, in an incident reported to the Combat Antisemitism Movement (CAM) by the residence’s owner.
The incident occurred on a Saturday night in late July at a four-story townhouse in Philadelphia’s Society Hill neighborhood, located just south of the city’s Historic District. The following morning, a visiting out-of-town guest noticed the mezuzah — a case containing a piece of parchment inscribed with the “Shema” prayer from the Torah — was missing.
“It was completely gone, without a trace, although you could see the outline of it clearly on the doorpost,” the homeowner told CAM. “There was no evidence lying around, no wood, no nails, no shards of glass, nothing.”
“I was obviously very agitated,” she added. “This is the first time something like this had ever happened to me, and I’ve lived all around the world, and I’ve traveled to many places. Wherever I’ve lived, I’ve always had a mezuzah on my door.”
“The first thing I did was — I put up another mezuzah,” she emphasized. “I had a spare, because I had a gift I hadn’t given someone, and I said there is no way I’m not living with a mezuzah. Without thought, I put it up.”
She noted there had been a growing sense of insecurity felt in her neighborhood over the past year amid social and political tumult in the U.S.
“Between the rioting and shutdowns, it’s been a little tense,” she said. “We really don’t know what’s going to happen on any given Saturday night. There are lots of people who come into our neighborhood, with car horns blasting, noise at all hours of the night. It’s really a nightmare for residents. To tell you I’m on edge is an understatement.”
The ceramic mezuzah that was taken had been purchased by the homeowner’s father-in-law several decades ago at Philadelphia’s Mikveh Israel Museum (now the National Museum of American Jewish History), and bore the words, “Let freedom ring,” referring to the nearby Liberty Bell.
She credited the Philadelphia Police Department for responding in a timely manner after she reported the incident. Upon learning the details of what took place, the investigating police officer said, “I have to call this in because it could be a hate crime,” the homeowner recalled.
“I was frankly grateful that he did,” she commented.
However, “they said for it to be classified as a hate crime, there had to be indications,” she added. “So they coded it as vandalism.”
When she spoke with CAM, the homeowner was still waiting to hear back from a Community Victims Association representative.
“The police want to do their jobs, but they’re being hamstrung,” she asserted. “We have a district attorney who doesn’t enforce crime. Petty crime is no longer even looked at here. It’s a very, very dire situation we’re in. So it’s causing people to not report.”
“We’re a family not in denial about what’s going on,” she stated. “It’s happening in New York City, Washington, Philadelphia, it’s happening many places. We know Jews are being beat up in New York, in Brooklyn. We’re not in denial about this. But there are many, many Jews who are.”