Mercer Island synagogue vandalized in latest attack on Jewish centers

Nov 22, 2023, 7:25 PM

jewish center graffiti...

Herzel Ner Tamid (MyNorthwest file photo via Alamy)

(MyNorthwest file photo via Alamy)

An investigation is underway after another reported crime against a Jewish center on Mercer Island.

The synagogue Herzel Ner Tamid was vandalized with spray paint words showing words such as “shame” and “cease fire forever” — a reference to the Israel-Hamas war.

More on the Israel-Hamas war: Seattle City Council calls for long-term cease-fire

“Any time I enter a Jewish space today, I am acutely aware that there is a risk that I am taking by doing that,” Max Patashnik of the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle area told KIRO Newsradio. “And if you don’t introduce spaces it’s still something that most people are carrying around with them today.”

Patashnik stated the entire Jewish community is on edge.

“We will continue to be in community and we will have to do so with greater and greater fear for our safety,” Patashnik said.

The FBI sent KIRO 7 a statement saying, “FBI Seattle is aware of the incident and is communicating with Mercer Island Police regarding the details. We have offered assistance should it be necessary.”

“It is terrifying to see,” Will Berkovitz, Rabbi & CEO of Jewish Family Service, said to KIRO 7.

Rabbis, including Berkovitz, say this vandalism is an example of people blaming the Jewish people for the war between Israel and Hamas.

“This is not legitimate criticism of the Israeli government this is attacking Jews for being Jewish,” Berkovitz said.

“The fact that I don’t feel comfortable identifying as Jewish in a public space right now is incredibly scary,” Patashnik added to KIRO Newsradio. “It’s a place I never thought I would be in my life.”

Ursula on the Middle East: ‘I condemn Hamas and agree with the goal of eliminating this terror group’

In a statement released Tuesday, Israel’s Consulate General in San Francisco “vehemently (condemned) the hateful assault” on Temple Herzl Ner Tamid.

“The heinous act of hate against our place of worship is a direct consequence of the alarming surge in physical and online hate speech being spread in our communities,” the statement reads. “Over the past 45 days we have witnessed a drastic surge in hate speech against the Jewish and Israeli communities across the U.S.”

The office also called on Mercer Island, Seattle and all leadership in the state of Washington to “stand in solidarity with their local Jewish and Israeli communities” and to “unequivocally condemn this attack.”

“Silence is not an option. Silence is complicity,” the conclusion of the statement reads. “Unequivocal condemnation is the only moral imperative when faced with these hate crimes. We must all do our part in ensuring that this never happens again.”

Earlier threats to synagogues

Mercer Island Police said the FBI is investigating two more suspicious pieces of mail sent to Jewish organizations in recent days. According to KIRO 7, more than 10 Jewish organizations have either received a suspicious package or a threatening letter since Oct. 7 in King County alone.

Police have not released the names of all the Jewish organizations that have received recent threats.

No injuries have been reported in either of the recent Mercer Island incidents, according to police. Both police and fire crews responded and were assisted by the U.S. Postal Service in the investigation.

Contributing: Sam Campbell, KIRO Newsradio; KIRO 7; Steve Coogan

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