Anti-Semitism on Vashon: Not on our watch

When members of the Island Jewish community arrived at the Havurat Ee Shalom for their Shabbat Torah study, they found their place of worship desecrated. Graffiti was scrawled on the wall of their small synagogue on the Westside Highway. It was a hateful act — directed towards one of our Island’s minority groups.

But this act doesn’t hurt only Vashon’s Jewish community. It affects all of us who live here. It affects the fabric of our civic life. And how we respond says something about who we are as a community.

Vashon takes pride in its reputation as a friendly and tolerant place, where people of different faiths, backgrounds and politics live peacefully side by side. An act of this nature seems to disrupt the placidity of the population and could lead to bolder actions by the perpetrators of this bias-motivated crime.

But not if we band together and declare our sentiments: Saturday’s act of aggression was wrong and will not be tolerated.

There are historical precedents in other cities: When the public, the media and business establishments turn a blind eye to bias-motivated crimes and organizations, they grow in number and scale. There are also inspiring examples of communities that did just the opposite — joined together in a remarkable show of support and ultimately worked collectively to try to stomp out such intolerance.

In Billings, Mont., in 1993, during Hannukah, a Jewish family placed a menorah in the window of their children’s bedroom. One night, as it was burning bright, a brick was thrown through the window.

The next day, The Billings Gazette published a story chronicling the incident, along with an image of a menorah. The paper urged its readers to display the image in their windows, and within a week more than 6,000 homes and businesses had done so. The situation did not turn around instantly; within a year, however, there was an end to that particular stripe of hate crime.

We at The Beachcomber are determined to play a similar role on Vashon, to do what we can to support our Jewish community and to encourage others to stand up in solidarity with our Jewish friends and neighbors.

We’ve printed the Star of David at right, a symbol of courage in the face of hate if ever there were one. Please clip it out and display it — in the window of your home, business or car. Or find one that you can wear, as Father Tryphon of the All-Merciful Savior Orthodox Monastery has pledged to do.

It’s not clear what motivated someone to scrawl those hateful words on a wall at the Havurat. But it is clear how we as a commmunity can and should respond: with steadfast determination that such an act will not be tolerated on our watch.

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