A Capitol Hill neighbor took things into his own hands after anti-semitic graffiti was found Friday morning near 14th and Union on the property of Temple De Hirsch Sinai.
UPDATE 2:30 PM: SPD’s Arson and Bomb Squad was called to the synagogue around 1 PM after a box was found outside the temple and reported to police. After photographing and investigating the item, police determined it was harmless and reopened the area around the temple’s 16th Ave entrance. The box, it turns out, contained a donation of old history books. Police said they were acting out of an “abundance of caution” following the graffiti found Friday morning and a string of threats against religious and community centers.
“I just met with the leadership of this temple a few days ago,” SPD Chief Kathleen O’Toole said at the scene Friday during the investigation of the package. “With all that is happening nationally and with the graffiti issues here, we want all of the people in our communities to feel safe.”
O’Toole said she was attending the mayor’s proclamation of Irish week in Seattle when she heard about the suspicious package investigation. “I was out and about and said, gee, I’m going to head there myself and try to reassure them that we’re here with them and that we take these cases very seriously.”
Robert Merner, assistant chief in charge of investigations, said his department has been visiting with area groups including Temple De Hirsch Sinai over concerns about national threats. He also had some advice for anybody considering dropping off a box of old books – call ahead.
Original report: CHS arrived to find the neighbor covering the spray painted message with a message of his own painted on a bed sheet and taped to cover the wall. The neighbor told CHS he felt compelled to cover the graffiti because he didn’t want the message of one bad person to take on greater significance and reflect poorly on his new neighborhood.
An official at the scene declined to comment until he had an opportunity to talk with others at the temple about any messages the synagogue wanted to share about the incident.
Reports of threats against religious facilities and community centers have become a major concern across the country bolstered by reporting by mainstream and social media. In addition to threats from hate groups and racists, there are also instances of people taking advantage of the fear to cause a stir. The inspiration can have tragic consequences. In February, the Capitol Hill Community Council hosted a benefit for the Islamic Center of the Eastside after its Bellevue mosque was damaged in a fire started by a man with a history of mental illness.
Seattle and Capitol Hill area schools and facilities have upped security under this environment. Friday morning, two off-duty, uniformed Seattle Police officers lingered in front of the synagogue, working security.
We’re checking with SPD to find out any more details about any investigation around the 14th and Union graffiti. Most tagging doesn’t make SPD’s radar but the most serious — and sometimes, hateful — will get reported. Since October, East Precinct has fielded 50 such reports from the community around Capitol Hill, First Hill, and the Central District. That, for what is worth, is up from 36 during the same period. Across the city, SPD has fielded around 200 reports since fall, around the same number as the year before.
UPDATE: Temple De Hirsch Sinai has posted a message from Rabbi Daniel A. Weiner about the incident.” We immediately contacted law enforcement, who have responded quickly and efficiently in opening an investigation, for which we are profoundly grateful,” he writes. “Temple continues to take vigilant, substantive security measures to insure the safety and well-being of our community. In light of other recent threats and upcoming celebrations, we have further enhanced these measures.”
UPDATE x2: Seattle Police are investigating the vandalism and looking for information to aid detectives to find out who is responsible for the “anti-Semitic, holocaust-denying graffiti.” SPD’s Bias Crimes unit is reviewing the incident. If you have any information about this case, please call (206) 625-5011.
UPDATE x3 1:15 PM: SPD will bring out arson/bomb team to check out suspicious box left outside 16th Ave synagogue.
Report of a suspicious item outside Temple De Hirsch Sinai per #scanner no details yet but SPD checking out
— jseattle (@jseattle) March 10, 2017
UPDATE x4 4:15 PM: A decision was made earlier in the day Friday to remove the sheet and uncover the graffiti. The temple posted a sign at the scene: “Temple De Hirsch Sinai is aware of this graffiti. We are choosing to leave it exposed for the time being.” Carlos, the neighbor who we met earlier today covering up the graffiti, sent us a copy of the message he sent to the temple’s rabbi about his actions to cover the vandalism — and his respect for the synagogue to decide to uncover it:
My name is Carlos and I am a neighbor of the Temple De Hirsch Sinai in Seattle. Early this morning while I was walking with my dog I saw the words that had been sprayed on the building. I was so deeply overwhelmed with emotion that when I arrived home I immediately began bawling. Once I regained my composure I felt that the best thing that could be done is to show the love that exists in this world rather than let one person’s actions receive attention unnecessarily. I respect your decision to take down the sheet I put up and felt it was necessary to share with you why I put it up in the first place.
I believe in the eternal, unending love of God. There are so many who do not agree with the hateful words that were discovered on the Temple De Hirsch Sinai property. I believe that if one person acts in a way that shows hate and intolerance we must not allow our primary focus to lie on that one individual’s act. We must respond with love. One person’s act of hate is like a single lit match, we must acknowledge its existence and inherent danger and we must drench it with love before it has a chance to spread. In modern society the saying goes: “If you see something, say something.” My belief is. If you see something, say something, and if you are able, do something. I wish you and your congregation peace and love.