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Personal Story

The Synagogue Where I Grew Up in Harrisburg, PA was Vandalized With Swastikas

August 14, 2020

By Arielle Salkin

The synagogue where I grew up in Harrisburg PA was vandalized this week with swastikas. I learned this from a synagogue newsletter. I opened it, thought, hmm, that’s upsetting. Oh, look, my dad is in the picture. Hi dad!

How insane is it that I was pretty much unfazed by what amounts to threatening vandalism on our place of worship?! THAT realization was more upsetting to me than the graffiti.

The truth is I’m completely used to things like this happening. I remember the synagogue I grew up at in York, PA being vandalized with swastikas and another time a pigs head being nailed to the door. I remember anti-Semitic vandalism at the school I attended. Most Jews I know can easily recount a time when something like this happened to a building they frequent. I spent 11 years living in NYC where I too often sat next to swastikas or other Jew hating comments scratched out into the seats and walls. I had friends I was walking with down the street targeted with anti-Semitic slurs.

Thankfully I’ve never been the target or recipient of anti-Semitic-inspired physical assaults or attacks. But I lived in Crown Heights for two years where those assaults happened daily for a time in the past year. Mass shootings at synagogues across the country, stabbings at Jewish gatherings; we’ve seen it all. Very recently.

Anti-Semitism is largely ignored by most non-Jews (and the media) for a whole host of reasons, which I’m definitely not interested in dissecting right now. But the bottom line is although it’s ignored, it not only exists, but it’s rampant. And it’s getting worse. This past Hanukkah it was SO bad that I was nervous to bring my daughter to a public menorah lighting. And I don’t generally get nervous about things like that, really.

I honestly wasn’t going to post anything because this news didn’t shock me, didn’t make me feel any differently than I already did about how safe/comfortable/proud I am as a Jew. I’m not much of a news sharer. But I know it’s very upsetting to many, and at the same time I know even more people don’t know about it. So I’m using a little bit of my platform here because people SHOULD know about it. We shouldn’t have to be so numbed and used to it. It’s not okay.

If you don’t feel informed and want to know more about anti-Semitism as it stands in this country, feel free to message me and I’ll do my best to guide you to some starter info.

I, for one, will do my best to speak up more. I shared this story on my Instagram account and was surprised at how many people were surprised. So here I am, sharing again.

Talk about these things with your friends and communities. People don’t know about it.

Stay safe, friends.

Arielle Salkin is an embroidery designer and founder of The Materials Design Co. which creates unique jewelry and accessories through the combination of sustainably minded materials and high-end embellishment techniques.