Seattle rabbi didn’t cover anti-Semitic graffiti so we could see the bigger picture | KUOW News and Information

Seattle rabbi didn’t cover anti-Semitic graffiti so we could see the bigger picture

Mar 16, 2017

When Temple De Hirsch Sinai, one of the biggest Jewish congregations in the Pacific Northwest, was vandalized on Capitol Hill on March 11, a neighbor covered the hateful message with a sheet with the words, “Love wins.”

But Rabbi Daniel Weiner took down the sheet. He didn’t want to hide the ugliness.

He emailed the synagogue's neighbor to express “my deepest, deepest appreciation for his intention” and explained his thinking.

“I don't want to just sweep this under the rug,” he said. “I didn't want this just to be seen as the new normal or as just some kind of minor vandalism. I think it's important that people understand this is part of a larger pattern.”

The message sprayed on the synagogue read: “Holocau$t i$ fake hi$tory.”

“It seemed to me to be the work of someone who exercised some deliberation,” Weiner told KUOW’s Bill Radke.

The rabbi believes the vandal was someone with “multiple levels of understanding about some of the tropes of white supremacy.”  

“There was of course Holocaust denial,” he said. “There was the sense of the stereotypical connection of Jews with money because of the dollar sign.

“I saw in that a meme that has been popularized by our president.”

Weiner wasn’t surprised by the graffiti, which has since been painted over. He said he’d been expecting something like this. But to see it in black and white was disturbing.

“I was a bit unprepared for that emotionally,” he said.

Temple De Hirsch Sinai is notable for its large congregation of 1,500 families and for hosting Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1961. A Christian church nearby had rescinded its offer to let King speak, and the synagogue stepped in at the last minute.  

The congregation received more than 1,000 messages of support from around the world, he said. “The people who did this were a small, narrow, toxic minority.”

Rabbi Daniel Weiner of Temple De Hirsch Sinai in Seattle.
Credit KUOW Photo/Isolde Raftery

Still, he emphasized that the vandalism did not happen in a vacuum, but in the context of “America’s renewed image in the world as being not quite as welcoming, as being more tribal and discriminating and nationalistic than it had been before.”

He said it’s been disappointing, too, because it feels like a big step back. He didn’t experience this kind of anti-Semitism growing up in San Francisco.

Now he’s hearing from members of his congregation that children in Seattle schools are questioning the Holocaust and making other anti-Semitic comments to Jewish classmates.

“One of the most heartbreaking things for me is my parents’ and grandparents’ generation experienced institutional anti-Semitism that I really didn't experience growing up,” Weiner said. “But now my children and my children's generation are experiencing it in a way that's akin to what my parents and grandparents experienced.”